Eller Community Remembers Dr. James (Jim) LaSalle

April 18, 2024

Dr. James (Jim) LaSalle began his life-long academic career at the University of Arizona as a faculty member in the business college in August of 1964. A graduate of Montclair State College and Pennsylvania State University, Jim taught undergraduate classes in management information systems until his retirement in July 2004.

To honor and continue Dr. LaSalle’s legacy at the University of Arizona, the Dr. Jim LaSalle Professor Emeritus Memorial Scholarship has been established. If you would like to contribute to the funding of this Scholarship for students, please follow this link: https://tinyurl.com/39sf9wc5. Your donations are greatly appreciated.

Dr. Jim LaSalle Teaching

During his 40 years as a faculty member, Jim taught more than 50,000 students. He forged a personal relationship with countless students that defined their undergraduate experience at the University of Arizona. Jim received numerous awards and honors as a faculty member, including being named a Distinguished Professor in 1995, receiving the UofA Hall of Fame Award in 1999, and being the recipient of the inaugural Outstanding Contributions to Teaching Award by the UofA Foundation in 2000.

Jim also contributed to the campus community in many roles, from being one of three inaugural faculty members of the University’s Faculty Fellows program to serving as an MIS Faculty Advisor and chairman of the MIS Department Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.  While continuing to maintain his office hours in the College of Business, Dr. LaSalle volunteered even more of his time by holding office hours in the Apache Santa Cruz Dorm and the McKale Center.  This enabled him to connect with even more students across the entire University.  He had an amazing rapport with students, they would come to his office for tutoring, career coaching, mentoring, and even to share personal challenges.  It didn’t matter what the topic was, Dr. LaSalle was there to provide whatever support they needed. To him, it was all about the students and making sure their experience was positive. 

Jim’s many contributions across the University included serving as a member of the University Distinguished Professor Selection Committee and the Administrative Computing Advisory Committee. In the larger Tucson community, Jim served as a Deacon at the Newman Center and on the Amphitheater High School Advisory Board.

Above all else, Jim was a master teacher. As a faculty member in the newly established MIS Department, Jim opened the doors of computing technology to generations of students at UofA campus as the lead instructor for MIS 111. As he taught 2,000 person classes in Centennial Hall, Jim was part educator, part entertainer, and part ambassador. Jim cared deeply about each of his students and would spend countless hours memorizing each student’s name and learning about them as individuals. Despite the large class size, Jim’s passion for teaching allowed his students always to feel like they had a personal connection to “Dr. LaSalle.” 

Dr. Jim LaSalle with Students

While many professors took summers off, Dr. LaSalle was very involved in a summer program that the College of BPA sponsored called LEAD. LEAD was a summer business institute for minority high school students during the month of July.  Jim led the students through a business simulation game and took the time to interact with the participants in every activity.  The feedback from the students was exceptional.  They loved his enthusiasm and the information they learned about business investments. 

“When I meet former business students away from the campus environment, a high percentage of the time the conversation will turn to Professor LaSalle,” says Dave Pingry, Professor Emeritus of MIS and economics and former MIS department head. “They will inquire about him and describe in detail why they like him, or how he helped them. Many of them say, ‘I would never have received my degree if it had not been for Professor LaSalle.’ Jim encourages, listens to, advises, tutors, cheers, congratulates, writes letters for, lobbies for, and mentors’ students—lots of students. He does all these things for all kinds of students—including non-traditional students and minority students (LEAD Program). I cannot imagine that there is any other professor on campus who has as much contact with undergraduate students.”

That Jim is so fondly remembered by his students for years after their short time with him in MIS 111 is a tribute to Jim’s lasting impact on the lives he touched. From their time as students working in the Tucson community to becoming titans of industry, generations of Jim’s students described his kindness and humanity as having an enduring influence on their journey in life. 

“Jim is one of the great professors at the College of Business,” says Pam Perry, senior associate dean of Eller programs. “He is best known by his students and colleagues as a person with a lot of heart and dedication to undergraduate education. Although his course enrolls hundreds of students each semester, he seems to know every one of them personally. Last semester a student ran into my office and said she just had the most remarkable experience, and she proceeded to tell me that while she was waiting for the elevator in McClelland, Jim LaSalle looked at her and said hello actually using her name! While this seems trivial, this kind of attention to personal detail makes Jim LaSalle a great advocate of students and helps personalize what often seems like an impersonal collegiate experience.”

Following his retirement in 2004, Jim was awarded the honorary title of MIS Professor Emeritus in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the university. Jim continued to participate in the life of the university community for many years as a mentor to the next generation of University Faculty Fellows and as an advisor to his beloved undergraduate students.   

Celebrating Jim’s commitment to supporting every student, two awards were established in Jim’s honor. The LaSalle-Chen Scholarship program is awarded to students that have overcome personal challenges to students to fulfill their academic promise. The James F. LaSalle Teaching Excellence Award is awarded every spring to an MIS doctoral student instructor who exemplifies the best of Jim’s tradition of excellence in teaching and engagement with students. 

Jim is survived by his loving wife Regina (married 65 years), four children, nine grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren, and his brother Louie.

A funeral service will be held at 10 AM on April 20 at Most Holy Trinity Church at 8620 N. 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85020. 

If you would like to share any comments or thoughts on the impact that Dr. LaSalle made on you, please send them to greglasalle@outlook.com. Greg is putting together a Family Ledger and would like to include any comments.  Thank you!