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In Memoriam: James Arnt Aune, 1953-2013

From Jennifer Mercieca

In Memorium: James Arnt Aune, 1953-2013

Professor James Arnt Aune passed away January 8, 2013 leaving behind his loving wife Miriam, his two sons, Nicola and Daniel, and legions of devoted students and colleagues. Born in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and educated at St. Olaf College (BA summa cum laude, 1975) and Northwestern University (PhD 1980), Jim had been a faculty member of the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University since 1996 and had served as its Department Head since 2011.

Jim was a Life Member of the Rhetoric Society of America and served on its Board of Directors from 2004-2007. He always thought of himself more as a student than as a distinguished scholar, even though his many academic achievements—including the National Communication Association’s Distinguished Scholar Award, Diamond Anniversary Book Award, and the “Teachers on Teaching” Outstanding Educator Award—belied his status as not only an exemplary mentor and teacher, but also a leading scholar of Rhetorical Theory, Freedom of Speech, Economic Rhetoric, Legal Rhetoric, and Political Rhetoric. He is perhaps best known for his books Rhetoric & Marxism and Selling the Free Market as well as his many essays published in The Quarterly Journal of Speech, Philosophy & Rhetoric, and Rhetoric & Public Affairs.

Jim read voraciously and could seemingly discourse about any topic at great length, making us all feel smarter by his own brilliance—we will all miss our conversations with him. Jim believed deeply in public argument and would never shy away from public or private debate—we will all miss our model interlocutor. Jim always championed the causes of those with less power over those with more power—we will all miss our heroic defender. Jim always made the time to chat, email, share a smoke or a story with his many friends, students, and colleagues—we will all miss his witty banter, his kind words of encouragement, and his gentle nudges to believe in ourselves. We will all miss our brilliant, irascible, loving, patient, and generous friend, colleague, and mentor—Jim was a prince among academics and we are all lucky to have learned from him.

Jim loved to bring poetry into his classrooms, his blog posts, and his scholarship, and so it is appropriate to conclude with these few lines from Joseph Rudyard Kipling, which is the last poem he posted to his Facebook:

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

In lieu of flowers Jim’s family asks that donation be made to the Autism Society of America ( and the Texas Gulf Coast Vizsla Club Rescue (

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