A jungle boy pays tribute to a great teacher

04 Nov


Doc Hodges watching and listening to birds. Photo courtesy of Halligan McCabe DeVries Funeral Home.

He was a unique individual, and I’m glad our paths crossed.
Lots of folks have made a big difference in various aspects of my life. One of them was Jim Hodges, who died Nov. 1.

As a college kid seeking a major in speech and drama and a minor in business administration at St. Ambrose in Davenport, I took a personnel management class taught by Dr. Herbert J. “Jim” Hodges in the late ‘60s. At that time, Ambrose was a college, not yet a university. And it was a boys’ school, not yet coed.

Jim did, indeed, teach the young men in his class about personnel management, now called human resources. But that’s not all.

He also taught us about people and life, in general, and he did it with a variety of stories, many of which were sprinkled with humor but delivered with a straight face.

Doc Hodges, as we called him, was eccentric and some of his stories dealt with his outlandish behavior and experiences. He studied birds and told us how he had once devised a plan to get a close look at some egrets at Credit Island. He said he created and put on a large, white, feathery bird outfit and was able to walk quite close to the flock. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been nearby with a camera?

Doc even claimed some of the male egrets were sexually attracted to him.

“I made the grade three times,” he proudly proclaimed to roars of laughter.

We enjoyed being around Doc Hodges so much that some of us talked him into inviting us over to his Davenport house high on a hill overlooking River Drive and the Mississippi to eat pizza and socialize one Saturday afternoon. Not many college teachers are that highly thought of by their students.

There was no textbook in the class I took from Doc Hodges because he covered so much material beyond personnel. And he taught us many lessons you won’t find in a textbook.

“Don’t dip your pen in the company ink,” he warned, referring to the dangers of dating a co-worker.

Another lesson I remember well dealt with a choice he said we’d all have to make in the working world. He said each of us had to decide if we wanted to be an “image man” or a “jungle boy.”

Were we willing, he asked, to work for a company (he used IBM for an example) that would dictate how we dressed, what kind of woman we married, where we lived and what organizations we belonged to? Or did we want to work for an employer who, within reason, let us be ourselves and do our own thing? In other words, did we want to be image men or jungle boys.

I’m a jungle boy, not an image man, I decided. And I thank Doc Hodges for helping me come to that conclusion early in my working years. Knowing where I stand on that has been helpful.

I’m also appreciative of Doc Hodges for encouraging me to pass up a job offer with a nationally known company not long after I had graduated from college.

I needed work and had applied for a sales rep position with the firm and sailed through a local interview. The company then flew me to Kansas City for some testing and another interview. That second interview was, frankly, very stressful and left a bad taste in my mouth.

As I recall, two or three people fired questions — like “What makes you think you can do the job?” — at me in quick succession. It was like a police interrogation you see on TV shows.

I know what they wanted to accomplish. They wanted me to spurt out quick, honest answers before I had the time to carefully choose the right words.

It was a highly uncomfortable situation and lowered my opinion of the company. I flew back home thinking I’d performed poorly and would not be hired.

But a few days later, the phone rang and I was offered the sales job. I said yes but had a lingering gut feeling that I was making a mistake.

So I called Doc Hodges, who happened to own an employment agency, and told him what had gone on.

When I mentioned the name of the company involved, Doc asked me the name of its local contact, the person I’d been dealing with. Doc then swore me to secrecy and confided he knew that individual, that the man was looking for another job because the company was a poor place to work, and he wanted out.

Thanks to Doc Hodges, I didn’t take that job. And a better opportunity soon came along.


Following is Dr. Herbert “Jim” Hodges’ interesting obituary, which he wrote himself, courtesy of Halligan McCabe DeVries Funeral Home:

Funeral services to Celebrate the Life of Dr. Herbert J. “Jim” Hodges, 80, a resident of Davenport will be 10:30 a.m. Thursday, November 4th, 2009 in the All Faith Chapel of the Halligan McCabe DeVries Funeral Home, 614 Main Street, Davenport. Burial will be in Fairmount Cemetery, Davenport.

Visitation will be Wednesday, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the funeral home. Memorials may be made to either the Rare Book Room, at Augustana College, or Petersen Lecture Fund, Unitarian Church of Davenport.

He made his final fieldtrip to enter eternity on Sunday, November 1st from his home, in Davenport.

Professor Hodges died a contented, scholarly, but toothless celibate. He saw himself as a perpetual student from whom life was an endless and delightful fieldtrip. He was a formidably learned man. He lived the deeper questions of life and recognized the spiritual being that he was. He was a labyrinthine man, an octagon personality, an aficionado of life, but also had a certain indifference to the more practical aspects of daily life.

He was dropped on the doorsteps of Davenport Mercy Hospital in swaddling clothes in January 1929. He was later adopted by Bert and Inez Hodges who gave him a loving home. He married Beverly A. Cassilly in July 1954, at St. Henry’s Catholic Church in LeClaire, Iowa. She died December 8, 1995.

He graduated from St. Ambrose College in 1954 and earned his Doctorate degrees in Labor and Management, Industrial Engineering, Industrial Psychology and Law.

He served on the faculty of St. Ambrose for 35 years and taught at Palmer Jr. College, Blackhawk College, and all three campuses of Eastern Iowa Community College. While a graduate student he taught at the University of Iowa.

He attracted students to his classes in large numbers with his broad knowledge of the business world, served up in a humorous, if at times a harsh style. He was known as a riveting lecturer and storyteller. His classes started on time and students soon learned to never come late. It was his teaching mission to be a pioneer in the training of women to become managers and executives long before the Feminist Movement.

In addition to his teaching he was active in the business world owning a group of manufacturing and service business. He also maintained a large labor law practice representing employers as well as unions. In the late 1990’s he came out of retirement to manage factories such as he did in his youth.

Other than his family, his great passions in life were books, birds, and photography. These studies resulted in 50 papers published in scientific journals. He photographed the migration of polar bears and harp seals in the Arctic, and the nesting of Flamingos in the Virgin Islands. He was an international authority on bird courtship display and behavior. Jim’s research established the nesting of three new nesting birds in Iowa: The Mississippi Kite, Black Billed Magpie, and the Osprey.

In 1950 he published the booklet on the bird life of the Quad City area. He trained many in bird identification as a leader of the annual, May Dawn Bird Concert at Credit Island. He, along with Rodney Hart, Norwood Hazard, and Richard Schaefer, and Jeanette Graham were founders of the Tri-City Bird Club (now Quad City Audubon Society).

He was a founding member of the Mississippi Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Industrial Engineers. Other memberships include: Iowa Academy of Science-Fellow, Society for the History of Natural History, Illinois Ornithological Society, Iowa Ornithologist Union- Life Member, Wilson Ornithologist Club- Life Member, American Ornithologists Union-Life Member, Association of Field Ornithologists-Life Member, Contemporary Club, The Round Table, Putnam Museum-Life Member, History of Science Society, Mensa International, International Society for Cryptozoology, Sacred Heart Cathedral, and the Unitarian Church in Davenport.
He is survived by his children and their spouses; daughters; Gail (LeRoy) Levis, Davenport, Elizabeth Hodges, (Joe VenHorst) Davenport, Catherine Rech, Maderia Beach, FL, Judith (Rich) Fristick, of Virginia and, and Suzanne (Rob) Schwartz, Westmont. IL; a son, Jimmy Hodges, Jr., Davenport; eight grandchildren and three great granddaughters.

After the death of his wife he aspired to become an ordained permanent deacon in the Catholic Church. However, Rome decided he was too old. He regarded that decision to be on the same level as Rome’s decision on Galileo Galilei. He served at the Cathedral as Altar Boy, lector, and Eucharistic Minister. During the course of his faith journey, in his later years, he became a member of the Davenport Unitarian Church, and immediately enjoyed the companionship of that faith community.

If he knew that he was going to die tomorrow, he would think, so soon? Still if a man spent his life doing what he wanted to do, he ought to be able to say goodbye without regrets. It is not a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled. However, it is a calamity not to dream.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 42 years, Beverly, and his adoptive parents. May they rest in peace.

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

1 Comment

Posted by on November 4, 2009 in Uncategorized


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One response to “A jungle boy pays tribute to a great teacher

  1. Dan-O

    November 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    A very moving tribute, even if he did write it himself! I think everyone should do that with room, of course, for comments!
    -Another Jungle Boy.


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