Tufts community commemorates life of sociology professor

Professor James G. Ennis's wife speaks at her husband's memorial service on Monday, Sept. 21 in the Granoff Hillel Center. Caroline Ambros / The Tufts Daily

Members of the Tufts community gathered yesterday afternoon to commemorate the life of James G. Ennis, a longtime Tufts sociology professor, at the Granoff Family Hillel Center.

The memorial ceremony was officiated by university Rabbi Jeffrey Summit.

Ennis, who was 62, passed away unexpectedly after a long illness over the summer on July 8, according to an email to the Tufts community from Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences James Glaser.

According to Sociology Department Administrator John LiBassi, the memorial was attended by Ennis’ family, friends, colleagues and students.

“Jim‘s family was in attendance, his wife Gloria, and two sons Noah and Sam,” LiBassi told the Daily in an email. “Sam is a Tufts [alumnus] and sociology major. The service was also attended by faculty and deans from across the University, retired faculty, current students and alumni.”

Those who attended the memorial celebrated Ennis’ life by sharing fond memories of him and listening to various speeches, according to LiBassiProvost and Senior Vice President David Harris, a sociologist himself, opened the remembrance portion of the service and was followed by Glaser, Professor Paul Joseph and Katherine Sadowski (LA ’10).

Ultimately, it was a day of unity for those who knew Jim Ennis to celebrate his devotion to his family, his chosen field and the students he taught,” LiBassi said.

Sociology Professor Pawan Dhingra, current chair of the sociology department, was also in attendance.

“The memorial was both a time to recognize a loss and sadness but also to appreciate how lucky we were to be touched by Jim,” Dhingra told the Daily an in email. “Everyone who spoke, both planned and unplanned, offered insights into his personality, accomplishments and generous spirit.”

Dhingra said that he met Ennis in 2011 when Dhingra interviewed for a position at Tufts.

“Even after one day, you felt like you knew him and could be comfortable around him,” he wrote. “His sincerity and humor were great qualities.”

Senior Claire Eaton said that although she was unable to attend the memorial, she remembers meeting Ennis during her first year at Tufts.

“Professor Ennis was my pre-major advisor and professor during my freshman year,” Eaton said. “He taught the class American Society, which was a fascinating introduction to sociology. Professor Ennis was always willing to take the time to meet with his advisees and was a caring, friendly man who will be missed by his students.”

According to a letter Glaser wrote in memory of Ennis, the sociology professor was well-known and well-liked throughout the university.

“I knew Jim to be a kind and gracious person,” Glaser wrote. “So smart, he was a fount of ideas about American culture and how social and professional networks form and evolve. Jim also absorbed responsibility, particularly when it came to important matters of faculty governance.”

Ennis’ areas of expertise included social networks, sociological theory, research methods and social movements, with his scholarship appearing in journals such as “American Sociological Review,” “Social Forces” and “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” according to Glaser.

“He still had much more to contribute and the Tufts community is diminished by his passing,” he wrote.

According to LiBassi, as the Tufts community celebrates Ennis’s life, donations can be made to the James G. Ennis Memorial Fund through the Giving to Tufts website.