Magazine Feature / People

Books inspired Foyle’s career, life

James Foyle in 1986

Photo: James Foyle in 1986. Courtesy of Janet Boss.

James Foyle was a bookworm who inspired many others — including his daughter — to be the same.

“He and mom encouraged all their children to learn. It was always about pleasure reading and the knowledge that would come with the joy of learning all things,” says his daughter, Janet Boss (BA English ’84, MA library and information management ’85), who became a librarian like her father. “They always emphasized the importance of reading, and by default we all figured out that education and learning was an important and good thing.”

Foyle, a professor emeritus of DU’s original Graduate School of Librarianship and Information Management, died Aug. 12. Foyle worked in the school from 1968 until it closed in 1985. He also worked as a reference librarian and acting head of Penrose Library; he retired in March 1995.

“He was so intelligent and well-rounded, he could speak to any subject and he listened to what students and colleagues said and could apply his knowledge to understand and appreciate their experiences,” Boss says. And although he knew all about print resources and found them to be most helpful, he still kept up with new technology — even before it became popular.

When he worked at Indiana University in the late 1960s he helped automate their library’s central technical services department — ordering, processing and cataloguing using online resources. At DU, he taught classes on conducting research with computers.

However, partly due to the prominence of computers, DU’s library science school didn’t last.

“It was a shame that it had to close, and we never could understand the reason for it,” says Maxine Harcrow, who was the school’s admission officer at the time. Harcrow and Foyle stayed on an extra year to help close the school, finish paperwork for student records and connect students with employers.

Closing the school was especially heartbreaking for Foyle because being with students was his passion.

“If you talk to any student when he was there, they would probably say he had a great influence on their life and had so much integrity and believed so strongly in what he was teaching,” Harcrow says. “He did not write a lot of papers, as many professors did or were expected to do, because he believed his job was more about being there for his students — and that’s what he loved.”

Foyle was deliberate about learning the names of every person who walked into a class of his.

“Something that anyone who ever had him as a student will no doubt remember was his ability to go around the room at the end of the first session and recite everyone’s name,” Boss recalls. “These were not small classes, and he almost always nailed it.”

Foyle earned a bachelor’s degree from Penn State and a master’s degree in library science from Indiana University. He met his wife, Helen, while working at the Indianapolis Public Library. The couple took their kids on treks to the public library.

“We would bring home piles of books,” Boss says. “Dad was a prolific reader of all topics. He loved mysteries, adventures and thrillers for fiction. He also read a lot of non-fiction with a special interest in sports and history.”

In addition to Boss, James Foyle is survived by his wife, Helen; children James, John, Shawn and Helenann; and 9 grandchildren. There will be a celebration of his life Nov. 20 — what would have been his 81st birthday — at the south metro Denver location of Horan-McConaty. Time is to be determined. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Denver Rescue Mission or St. Labre Indian School.


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