James Hightower: Professor, administrator, world traveler

James “Jim” Kay Hightower, a longtime Claremont resident, died on October 3, 2016 at the age of 79. Causes of death were advanced prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

He was born March 22, 1937 in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Raymond Lee Hightower and Jeanne Matthews Hightower. His father was a professor of sociology at Kalamazoo College and his mother was an elementary school teacher and reading specialist. Academics were central in his family of three boys.

Mr. Hightower graduated from Kalamazoo College, majoring in economics. He met his future wife, Sharon Wiley, the first day of college although they had grown up in the same city. The two married in 1957 and, with their son Matthew, moved to California in 1959. Daughter Elizabeth was soon born while the family lived in Montclair and Mr. Hightower taught at Marshall Junior High in Pomona for two years.

In 1961, they moved to Claremont and both Jim and Sharon studied at the then Claremont Graduate School. During his graduate school years, Mr. Hightower taught part-time at several of the Claremont Colleges as well as at California Polytechnic University, Pomona. The Hightowers interrupted their initial stay in Claremont with a move to Richmond, Virginia where Mr. Hightower taught at the University of Richmond University College from 1964 to 1967.

Returning to Claremont, Mr. Hightower received a master’s degree in 1967 and a PhD in economics in 1970. He began his 34-year career with the California State University system in 1969. He taught at CSU Fullerton in the business school from 1970 to 1973, was associate dean of graduate programs with the university’s school of business administration and economics and then spent 18 years with the CSU Chancellor’s Office, primarily as director of academic computing.

He returned to teaching at CSUF in 1994 in the Department of Management Science and Information Systems, retiring in 2004. He failed retirement, however, and was coaxed back to CSUF for four years to help create and teach in the new online Master of Science in Management Science and Information Systems. Mr.. Hightower later also taught a seminar at CGU.

He loved teaching and was also active and in leadership positions with many national and international professional organizations, including Econometric Society, American Association of Artificial Intelligence, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, NY Academy of Science, Innovative Technology in Computer Science Education and the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group in Computer Uses in Education.

Mr. Hightower liked to travel with Sharon and his family. Over a 30-year period they traveled around the United States and to Asia, Europe, Northern Africa, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean. His favorite trip was a family celebration of the Hightowers’ 50th anniversary where they traveled to Northern Scotland and the land of his family clan, the Mac Kay. During an earlier trip to Scotland, Jim enjoyed visiting whisky distilleries and tasting. His other favorite place was Claremont. The Hightowers moved away twice for career reasons and moved back twice, living together in Claremont a total of 41 years.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Sharon, of Claremont; his son and daughter-in-law, Matthew Wiley Hightower and Kay Gilbraith, of Tom’s Place, California; and his daughter Elizabeth Wiley Hightower, of Claremont. He also leaves his youngest brother Dr. William Lee Hightower and sister-in-law Vicki, of Flower Mound, Texas; sister-in-law Catharine Hightower of Ann Arbor, Michigan; and three nephews, Kenneth Hightower, Karl Hightower and Bryan Hightower and their families. He has two surviving sisters-in-law on Sharon’s side of the family, Marian Wiley Havens of Chelsea, Michigan and Frances Wiley LaMunion of Cary, North Carolina and eight nieces and nephews and their families. He also has extended family in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

He was preceded in death by his parents and his younger brother, Robert Newton Hightower, of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

At Mr. Hightower’s request, there will be no service. A celebration of his life will be held by family and friends in November at Walter’s Restaurant, Jim’s favorite. His ashes will be placed in the Oak Park Columbarium in Claremont.

If you like, you may make a donation in Jim’s memory to the Claremont After-School Programs, Inc. (1111 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont, CA, 91711) or to Claremont Graduate University (165 E. 10th St., Claremont, CA, 91711-6185).


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