Aggies are mourning the loss of a beloved Texas A&M University professor who apparently jumped to his death from a campus parking garage Tuesday morning.
Dr. James Aune — a Minnesota native who joined the faculty in 1996 and chaired the university's department of communication since 2011 — was an award-winning expert in rhetoric and known as a caring intellectual leader among students and colleagues.
According to College Station's KBTX, the body of the 59-year-old professor was reported around 10:30 a.m. near a six-story parking facility. A spokesperson with the university police said that foul play is not suspected, although more information is being collected.
"He was by far my favorite professor," recalled a former student. "[H]e was the one who inspired me the most to look at it as an opportunity to learn, not to get the best grade."
"I respected him enormously," Kurt Ritter, a retired A&M communications professor and close friend to Aune, told the Bryan-College Station Eagle.
"I'm deeply saddened by his passing. It's just tragic to me because he was such an asset to the university and those who knew him. He was a rare person who combined in one person a very impressive intellect, and at the same time was a wonderful human being. It's a terrible loss for our community and our university, and for our field."
Former student Joshua Weatherl said he found Aune's apparent suicide "drastically surprising," remembering him as a happy and delightfully offbeat instructor.
"He was by far my favorite professor," Weatherl told the Eagle. "I didn't know him super well but he was the one who inspired me the most to look at it as an opportunity to learn, not to get the best grade."
"A kind word from Jim was something many of us enjoyed," A&M writing professor Valerie M. Balester noted on a memorial website for Aune. "Thinking with him, just talking with him, was intellectually stimulating, never a contest, always a journey. Jim, I know you had your own way of seeing the world. It will be a lesser world without you."
Aune leaves behind his wife and two sons, both reported to be in their 20s.