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Department of communication chair retiring

Dr. James Aucoin has been employed at the
University of South Alabama for 24 years.
Photo by Sara Boone

Dr. James Aucoin has been employed at the University of South Alabama for 24 years. Photo by Sara Boone

Dr. James Aucoin has been employed at the University of South Alabama for 24 years. Photo by Sara Boone

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After 35 years of studying and practicing journalism, department of communication chair Dr. James “Jim” Aucoin plans to retire after this semester.

Aucoin’s road to department chair is a winding one.

Aucoin was born into a working class family hailing from Missouri. His father, a World War II Bronze Star veteran, managed a dry cleaners and his mother ironed clothes and baby sat for money. As the only boy of six children, Aucoin was told from an early age he would attend college.

“I was told you’re going to go to college, you’re going to go to college, you’re going to go to college, because at that point in the 1960’s, college was seen as a way to better yourself and improve your life beyond what your parents had,” Aucoin said.

Aucoin went on to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and majored in English, something he considers a depressive reaction from the loss of his father in his freshman year.

It was the summer before his senior year of college that Aucoin considered pursuing journalism.

“I was sitting on the balcony of my apartment reading Nation magazine,” Aucoin said. “I thought to myself ‘I could probably do this’ – publish articles. So I started thinking about becoming a journalist. I met a friend who was going to college with me who also wanted to be a journalist and we hung out and talked about how we want to do that.”

Young, in love and engaged to his first wife, Aucoin had pondered the future he could provide his fiance with only an English degree in hand.

“By the time I was in my senior year it was pretty clear there was not many jobs for literary critics unless you had a master’s and or a Ph. D.,” Aucoin said.

Nevertheless, Aucoin pushed ahead to get his Master of English, as a means of sticking around while his wife finished college.

Aucoin never received his Master of English due to time constraints and foreign language requirements. After his finace finished, the two decided to move.

“What we were planning to do, because we wanted to move, when she finished I was going to go to graduate school in journalism and get a master’s in journalism,” Aucoin said. “I applied to the University of Colorado and the University of Missouri because Missouri was a good school, but Colorado was a more interesting place to go. She really wanted Colorado.”

So the two moved two moved to Colorado and Aucoin completed his master of journalism. He then landed a job at the Lincoln Nebraska Journal in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Eventually, Aucoin and his wife had moved back to Missouri so she could take care of her grandparents and a year and half later they divorced.

It was one year later Aucoin met Peggy “Peg” Hansen while covering a story about a new clinic in the area. Aucoin fell in love again.

When Hansen left Missouri to go Denver, Colorado to become a nurse practitioner, Aucoin followed.

“I decided to follow her there,” Aucoin said. “So I quit the job at the newspaper and couldn’t find a job in Columbia because Columbia has a lot more journalist than there are jobs.”

Since he couldn’t find work, Aucoin decided to continue his education and get his doctorate in journalism.

In 1990, while in the middle of his doctorate, Hansen and Aucoin married and then moved to Mobile.

Hansen was reluctant to move to Alabama at first, but Aucoin was able to convince her after pointing out Mobile’s warm climate and proximity to the beach.

Fast forward 12 years and Aucoin became chair of the department of communication at the behest of his fellow employees.

Over the course of his time as chair, Aucoin developed student media at USA into the pogram it is today. He created Due South and helped secure funds to establish 97.1 The Prowl, a student ran radio.

“I am just one of many chairs that do a good job on this campus,” Aucoin said.

Aucoin said he plans to continue to dabble in journalism and continue to write after he retires. Aucoin will leave behind a legacy of supporting student media and promoting journalism by creating the Peggy Hansen and Jim Aucoin Journalism Scholarship.

Aucoin founded the scholarship with money he inherited after his wife’s death.

“This has been my life for the past 24 years,” Aucoin said. “This department has been and the students who have been here have been a big part of my life for 24 years. I really wanted to do something that would continue to help students get an education and encourage students to get an education in journalism. I think it’s important.”

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Department of communication chair retiring