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Friends, Former Colleagues Remember Larger-Than-Life Jim Fougerousse

By Callie Ewing, BA ’03 MH ’22

Credited with helping begin both the University of Dallas Rome Program and the university’s longstanding tradition of celebrating Groundhog Day, James Fougerousse, Ph.D., BA ’67, had a “larger than life” personality in the words of friends and former colleagues.

Fougerousse passed away on Feb. 22 in Schwarzach am Pongau, Austria, the country that had been his home for the better part of 30 years. In 1989, he transitioned from director of UD’s Rome Program, a position he’d held since 1982, to dean and director of studies for the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein. From there, he became the founding director of the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austrian program, holding that title until 1999, when he established and became director of a Rome program for Duquesne University’s McAnulty College of Liberal Arts. In 2001, he became director of the Redlands University’s Salzburg program. Fougerousse retired in 2010, residing in Bad Gastein, Austria, until his death.

Former Rome Program director Wayne Ambler, Ph.D., recalled his time working with Fougerousse: “He was a very impressive, fun-loving, outspoken man,” he said. “He sat well with the older, wilder UD. He had no concern whatsoever for anything like political correctness.”

Ambler enjoyed the time he spent with Fougerousse even after they no longer worked together, getting together over wine or beer in Irving or Rome, but Fougerousse could be a frustrating interlocutor: “He loved to make claims that he didn’t fully believe just to outrage people,” chuckled Amber. “Like maintaining that the New Testament contains no arguments whatsoever against lying. I don’t believe he believed that, but he was very good at arguing.”

Ambler provided an example of Fougerousse’s quick wit from when the Ambler family and the Frank family (that of Professor of Philosophy Bill Frank, Ph.D.), were both living on the old campus at Via del Pescaccio.

“The problem was rats,” said Ambler. “Jim didn’t live on campus like we did, and we were trying to persuade him while sitting in the rose garden there that there were rats on campus, but he refused to believe it. Then a rat fell out of a pine tree and landed right near him! Without missing a beat, he said, ‘That’s not a rat, that’s an apennine wire-tailed squirrel!’ There was no way you could win. 

“He was a character,” reminisced Ambler. “He loved to party, and he loved Germans.”

Peggy (Fagan) Harkins, one of Fougerousse’s first Rome assistants (along with her husband, Dan), recalled, “Dan and I had the great pleasure and privilege of living with the Fougerousses on the Rome campus from 1981 to 1984. As everyone knows, Jim was larger than life, and we had many a lively conversation at the faculty table each lunch and dinner. But it was only when we went on a trip to Austria with him that we came to know the full gusto of the Tyrollean Texan.”

Each year, as part of his German class, Fougerousse would take a handful of students to Austria to practice their German, and the Harkinses went along that first semester. 

“I will never forget the transformation that came over Jim as we entered Tyrol,” said Peggy. “As luck would have it, a beautiful powdery snow began to fall as the mountains first came into view, and Jim began to yodel, with full-chested and full-throated delight. He was as gleeful as a child on Christmas morning.” 

The group arrived in Innsbruck at Fougerousse’s favorite haunt, the White Horse (Weisses Rössl) Inn, a landmark in the Old Town since the 1500s. They checked in and headed for the underground tavern, where they were served great German beer in pewter steins, seated with the locals at long tables and benches. 

“Before long a large group of men arrived, and seemed to be conducting some kind of meeting until they spontaneously began to sing in four-part harmony,” remembered Peggy. “Jim just beamed with joie de vivre!” 

Jim and Sally Fougerousse had lived in Austria during their early marriage when Jim was a Fulbright scholar. 

“He had been an avid mountain climber in those days, and often spoke of his very last major climb when he had left Sally and their small children behind, with small mirrors to flash signals to him when he made it to the top,” said Peggy. “He very vividly recalled the top-of-the-world realization that hit him like a baseball bat: He shouldn’t be doing such daredevil things, which could make his wife a widow and his children fatherless! So he retired from climbing but nevertheless spent time near the mountains whenever he could. Like Heidi, he couldn’t seem to breathe apart from them.”

Peggy concluded, “No mere words can capture Jim, but he had an ear for languages and humor, a smile made for encouragement, a voice made for booming laughter, strong hands made for lending, feet made for (Zorba-like) dancing, a heart made for friendship, a soul made for wanderlust, and eyes turned ever toward the Beatific Vision. May his soul rest not merely in peace but with a fuller, more boisterous joy than he has ever known!”

Read Jim Fougerousse’s obituary.

Learn about and contribute to the Fougerousse Convivium Fund, established by Lisa (Fougerousse) Mobus, BA ’90, and her husband, Jeff Mobus, BA ’86. You can also learn more about the Fougerousse Salone, named by the Mobuses with the support of John Norris, Ph.D., BA ’84, Lisa (Pelletier), BA ’93, and Randy, BA ’86, Irlbeck, and Sarah (Fougerousse), BA ’91, and Michael, BA ’90, Tiller.

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