James “Jim” Cameron arrived at Denison in 1975 to help found the college’s computer science program, having finished an exemplary two-decade career as an officer with the U.S. Air Force. After earning his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from The Ohio State University, and his master’s from Stanford University, Jim helped analyze systems at both the Intelligence Data Handling Systems department of the Strategic Air Command Headquarters of Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, and the Fleet Intelligence Center in Norfolk, Va. Among other roles with the military that took Jim and wife Marianne around the globe, he also taught at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School.
At Denison, Jim continued his love for teaching as a member of the mathematics and computer science department from 1975 until his retirement in 1998, earning a reputation as a caring and dedicated professor, while teaching courses in computer science, statistics, calculus, and quantitative reasoning. “He liked the small classes and interaction with the students at Denison,” recalls Marianne. “I have a whole folder of notes the students wrote when he retired.”
One of the Denison students who kept in touch through the years was David Reed-Brown ’89. “Dr. Cameron is one of the greatest people I’ve ever known,” says Reed-Brown. “He did some of the military’s first top-secret programming for our country, and he instilled that level of commitment in us. He showed you what it was like to be a leader.” When David went to him for advice about whether to pursue a career in computer science or go into the ministry, Jim encouraged him to follow his heart. “It changed my life,” says David, who not only followed his heart to the ministry, but in other life decisions as well. “I remember my last course with him was on computer architecture, and I didn’t do well on the final exam. He said, ‘Dave, what does a minister need to know about architecture?’”
Jim was well regarded in his field, serving as Denison’s liaison to the Computer Science Accreditation Association and consulting with organizations around the country. He shared stories with his students about his experiences and passed along his great respect for Dr. Seymour Cray, who built the first supercomputers. Outside of his academic interests, Jim loved playing bridge with his wife and studying history—to the extent that perhaps he should have been a history professor, says Marianne with a laugh.
Jim died December 21, 2021. He is survived by Marianne, his wife of 70 years; daughters Leslie Cameron Hill ’79, Siobhan Cameron ’82, and Laura Spitulski; four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Jim and Marianne’s son, David Drake Cameron ’81, passed away in 2001.