At his retirement dinner in 1988, Bernard (Jim) Haxby said good-bye to colleagues at the University, but not for the last time.
Haxby, 76, continued his relationship with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering for several more years, serving the department as a professor emeritus. He died Dec. 28 of lung cancer.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Haxby never relocated. All told, he studied and taught at the University for more than 40 years.
For much of his life, Haxby spent time hammering away at electrical engineering projects and quietly supporting fellow faculty members with a smile, said friend of more than 50 years, Robert Lambert.
His wife reiterated his fondness for the department by reading Haxby’s notes from the retirement party.
“It has been very stimulating to associate with so many bright, creative people over the years,” Mary Haxby said. Faculty and staff members in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department returned the compliment.
Mostafa Kaveh, current director of the department, worked with Haxby for 14 years. Kaveh called him a man with an “amazing smile and wonderful sense of humor.”
Haxby primarily worked in the department’s administration, serving as associate head for 29 years and acting head for two years. Kaveh said Haxby was a “constant stabilizing factor for the department.”
Very committed to the undergraduates, Kaveh said faculty members often used Haxby as a resource for information on curriculum and graduation requirements for the students.
Lambert said Haxby was a strong student advocate and had a special talent for convincing colleagues to support his plans.
Haxby had a “rare knack for convincing you to do something,” and a “disarming smile” that enabled him to push forth his plans for the department, Lambert said.
Despite their lighthearted academic rivalry while undergraduates at the University, Haxby and Lambert collaborated on many research projects.
Lambert recalled one of his favorites: As graduate students they worked together on a proton project used for nuclear research on the Mississippi River bank.
“We designed and built an atom smasher,” Lambert said. “At that time, it was one of the largest in the world.”
In addition to smashing atoms, Haxby also served in World War II and came home a decorated soldier for saving the life of a fellow comrade in the Battle of the Bulge.
The war and his commitments to the University did not drain Haxby. Mary said her husband’s first priority was always his family.
He is survived by Mary and their four children.
“He loved to read to the grandchildren during our camping trips,” said Mary Haxby, also a graduate of the University. They traveled in Northern Minnesota and throughout the western half of the country.
Mary said Haxby couldn’t get enough of their lake place near Leech Lake. He even dragged his co-workers up to the cabin for faculty retreats.
Haxby refused to slow down in retirement, instead he went llama trekking in the Tetons, white water rafting in Colorado and hiking in the North Woods.
“His days were always full,” Mary Haxby said.