Millikin University is facing a challenging controversy over one of its faculty, Professor James St. James. It turns out that James St. James is not his original name which was James Gordon Wolcott. The problem is that Wolcott is a former state mental patient who killed his family in 1967. St. James effectively reinvented himself with remarkable (and commendable) success — ultimately not just teaching but heading the university’s Department of Behavioral Sciences. The university is standing by him as people call for his removal from the faculty.
St. James has been teaching at Millikin since 1986. It does not appear that he revealed his history to the school since the university stated in a release that “Millikin University has only recently been made aware of Dr. St. James’ past.” Such omissions can be used for disciplinary action even termination, but such cases remain rare absent falsification of academic credentials.
St. James is not accused of lying about his credentials or even lying about his past. He just did not tell people about his criminal acts as a teenager. St. James, who is now 61, was only 15 when he shot and killed his father, Gordon Wolcott; his mother Elizabeth Wolcott and his sister, 17-year-old Elizabeth Wolcott. He was high on sniffing glue at the time. St. James was a brilliant but disturbed teenager who grabbed a .22-caliber rifle, walked into the living room and shot his father while he was reading. He then shot his sister and then his mother.
He was found not guilty by reason of insanity in in 1968 and sent to Rusk State Hospital. He was released six years later in 1974 and appears to have put his life together. He was given help by the fact that he could inherit his parents’ estate and even draw a monthly stipend from his father’s pension fund. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a PhD. As a professor, he is given high reviews for his classes.
The university has resisted calls for his resignation or termination: “Given the traumatic experiences of his childhood, Dr. St. James’ efforts to rebuild his life and obtain a successful professional career have been remarkable. The University expects Dr. St. James to teach at Millikin this fall.”
The university’s position shows great sensitivity and understanding. St. James was found not guilty of these crimes. He went on to not only be declared sane but to achieve an extraordinary level of achievement. These killings were truly horrific but they were committed by a child high on airplane glue who had a history of mental illness. His ability to turn around his life is an amazing story. It is not a happy story to be sure. It begins with the killing of a family in a blood-soaked rage. Yet, it is a story of redemption. His decision to study psychology and behavioral science is quite telling. He appears to have worked hard to understand what motivates a person, like himself, to do unspeakable things. Perhaps his academic training was part of his personal recovery.
The university could have used the failure to disclose to discipline St. James but chose to see the man as he is now rather than what he was as a child. In the end, there is no punishment to fit this crime. Yet, St. James has built a worthy and meaningful life from the ashes of tragedy in his youth. That in itself is quite a lesson.
Source: Daily Mail