Closing out 2021 remembering Professor Jim Corcoran

“I would’ve wanted to say thank you. I don’t think I’ve said enough thank yous to him over the years.”


Isabelle 'Iz' Indelicato

Professor James (Jim) Corcoran, 1953-2021

Olivia Ray, Arts & Entertainment Editor

“The Oxford comma! Nice!”

In Catelyn Kimball’s first semester of college, she’d been told by most of her professors to drop the Oxford comma habit. Professor Jim Corcoran, however, was different.

Kimball, a PR/MarComm major who graduated in 2019, recalls thinking that Corcoran was being sarcastic in the note in the margins of her article for her Writing Across the Media class.

He wasn’t. 

To Kimball’s surprise, Corcoran told her to keep the comma, to keep everything that made her voice shine through in her writing. 

Since Corcoran’s passing on October 27, Kimball and countless other Communications students have reflected on the ways he influenced their writing, careers, and lives.

Hannah Green, class of 2019 also had her first encounter with Corcoran in the classroom. 

Green, a graduate of the PR/MarComm program, recalls feeling intimidated by Corcoran’s staggering journalistic resume.

“He terrified us just a little bit,” said Green. She recalled thinking,“‘How am I going to live up to doing this work?’” 

Green and Kimball noted that Corcoran had a classroom demeanor that made him approachable.

“His reputation was so prolific and well known in his industry, but I always felt so comfortable around him,” said Kimball.

Kimball said that Corcoran motivated students by making them mad, often by referring to social injustices, prompting their input.

“He was so captivating in making students want to participate,” said Kimball. “He would make all of our blood boil,” said Kimball.

In addition to bringing up hot-button topics, Mackenzie Farkus, class of 2020, remembered Corcoran encouraging an inclusive and collaborative environment.

“Now that I’ve worked in a newsroom for a while, I can tell he ran his classroom like a newsroom,” said Farkus, who now works for GBH’s Boston Public Radio.

According to Sarah Carlon, class of 2021, Corcoran was a professor who struck a perfect balance between “giving you encouragement but never letting you fall back on your laurels.”

All four graduates said he was a tough grader, offering plenty of ways to improve. More than that, though, Corcoran was a relentless advocate for his students.

“His preparedness to go into battle for us really stood out to me. I want to be that for my colleagues and for students,” said Farkus.

For Carlon, a History and Journalism double major, Corcoran was the reason she started taking journalism seriously. She is now looking for a job in the field.

Around her sophomore year at Simmons, Carlon confided in Corcoran that she felt out of place as a student who had to work every summer instead of getting unpaid internships.

“He looked at me like I had three heads,” said Carlon. “He said ‘any work is work.’”

The next year, Corcoran invited Carlon and fellow student Annick Sheridan to work serving hors d’oeuvres at a party for Corcoran’s wife, Carolyn. 

Carlon recalled that Corcoran introduced her to his friends and family, not only as someone who was working for him, but as a talented journalism student.

To Carlon, his attitude of grace and kindness to her— especially when dealing with a potentially difficult subject— was entirely unsurprising. 

“That’s what I’ll always remember the most about him. He was always able to see through the bullshit and see what’s really important,” said Carlon.

For Green, this meant writing her recommendation letter for graduate school at Boston University, where she recently completed her Master’s in Journalism. After working in public relations for two years, it was Corcoran’s words that inspired her to follow her heart back to school and to journalism.

“I think his ethos was if you really work at it and really care, you’ll get it,” said Green. “If you love something, the money will follow.”

And Corcoran loved his students. Farkus remembers buying a nice, bright red winter coat while she was in undergrad. She’d walk into the Communications Wing, and without fail, Corcoran would greet her.

“Every single time ‘I could see you from a mile away!’” said Farkus.

She still thinks of Corcoran every time she wears her coat. She wore the coat to his memorial service at Simmons on December 5.  

As for Carlon, she’ll remember the way Corcoran saw her and included her.

“I’ll always remember how he made me feel. How he made me feel seen, validated,” said Carlon.

And for Kimball, and the rest of us, we will be left remembering the profound gratitude we owe to Corcoran, the heart and soul of the Communications department.

“I would’ve wanted to say thank you. I don’t think I’ve said enough thank yous to him over the years,” said Kimball.

So, thank you, Professor Corcoran. From Simmons Communication students and The Voice editors and writers, past, present, and future. Thank you.