Jim died Jan. 9, 2022, of a heart attack in Chesterfield, Mass.

Born March 22, 1945, in Ann Arbor, Mich., Jim graduated from Harvard in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature. He earned a Ph.D. in Romance languages and literatures from Princeton in 1975. 

Jim worked for Wisconsin Gov. Patrick Lucey on Native American and migrant-worker issues before being hired by Amherst in 1972. He taught Spanish and European studies at Amherst until he retired in 2015.

With composer Lewis Spratlan, Jim wrote the libretto for an opera based on Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s early 17th-century drama La Vida es sueño (Life Is a Dream). Jim took elaborate 17th-century Spanish and rendered it into modern English that preserved all the grandeur of Golden Age Spanish. Finished in 1978, the opera won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000, but was not fully staged until 2010 at the Santa Fe Opera. The piece won the 2016 Charles Ives Opera Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Jim is survived by his wife, Gigi Kaeser; his daughter, Lucia; his sons, Ben and Elliott; his stepson, Michael Kelly; and his siblings David and Jean.

Graduate memorials are prepared by the APGA.

Graduate Class of 1975