Southeastern was home to alumnus James “Jim” McClimans (class of ’58) from a very young age, and it remained a place to which he contributed and supported throughout his life.
Jim was the son of Dr. Jay W. McClimans and Martha Orr McClimans, who raised their family in Hammond down the street from Southeastern’s beautiful campus. In 1942, Jay began serving as a mathematics professor at Southeastern. He eventually became the University’s first department head of mathematics.
“Our entire family went to athletic and cultural events at the college,” Jim once said, reflecting on his childhood memories with his sister Mary Lee McClimans Bass.
When he moved to Hammond as a young child, Jim began his journey at Southeastern’s Laboratory School in second grade. He continued his education on Southeastern’s campus, attending Southeastern High School and graduating in 1953. This all happened within the same hallways as what is now McClimans Hall, which was at that time the education building.
After graduating high school, he continued to pursue his education by studying engineering at both Texas A&M and LSU and building his work experience with Chance Vaught Aircraft. In 1956, he returned home to Southeastern and, following his father’s passion, majored in mathematics. In 1958, Jim graduated with a bachelor of science in mathematics and a minor in physics.
After graduating from Southeastern, Jim began his career at Shell Oil Company as a geophysicist, gaining experience with the oil and gas company. He traveled around the world managing projects for Shell Oil Company and became the manager of Geophysics Research at Shell Development Company. This led him back to Louisiana, working as the chief geophysicist of the Southeast region.
Jim had many career achievements, including record Shell Exploration and Production Company profits from the Michigan Play in the 1970s, significant commercial discoveries in Cameroon and Syria, and in 1989 record Shell (U.S.) discoveries in the deep water Gulf.
On July 24, 1981, Jay W. McClimans Hall was dedicated in honor of his father Jay’s commitment to education and support of the mathematics program.
Jim carried on his parents’ love and support of Southeastern throughout his life, making his own mark by giving back to the university that helped set him on a path to lifelong success and breaking down financial barriers for current and future generations. Over the years he positively impacted the lives of countless students through his philanthropy.
Leaving a Legacy
Southeastern named Jim the Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Science and Technology in 2006 in recognition of his success and contributions to the community. He established significant endowments in STEM, including support for the University’s Mathematics Department to continue to honor his father’s legacy.
About his support for Southeastern, Jim previously said, “Marilyn [my wife] and I initiated this gift to Southeastern in the form of retirement fund assets as a way to honor my father. It is a symbol of the love my family has for this fine institution.”
Jim passed away July 15, 2020, but many can learn from his example of hard work, dedication, and giving back to the community that helped shape his future.
“Sharing a friendship with Jim was one of the greatest blessings of my career,” said Vice President of University Advancement Wendy Lauderdale. “His devotion and commitment to Southeastern was evident in every initiative he supported. He will be greatly missed.”
The McClimans’ legacy will live on, especially through the ongoing learning within McClimans Hall across from historic Friendship Circle.