James P. Mall, professor of French emeritus, died June 24, 2023. He made lasting contributions to the greater university and to Temple’s global presence during his time at Temple (1968-2000).
Mall’s research interests focused on eighteenth-to twentieth-century French literature and critical theory.
He was director of Temple Rome from 1986 to 1988, director of Temple’s Education Abroad program at the Sorbonne in Paris in the ‘80s and ‘90s, director of the College of Arts and Sciences (the school which became CLA and CST) Honors Program, chair of the French Department, a devoted teacher, editor of The Faculty Herald and of Quid Nunc, the newsletter for the College of Arts and Sciences.
According to Dean Emeritus Kim Strommen (1991-2014), whose tenure at Rome followed soon after Mall’s, then-Provost Barbara Brownstein asked Mall to lead Temple Rome during a difficult time financially.
“I understand that he pulled things together, rallied the faculty and staff, and boosted morale. I heard over and over that he was loved and respected by all and that he stood up for the Rome Campus,” said Strommen.
One of his past Rome colleagues, retired manager of Academic and Faculty Support and longtime Temple Rome staffer Teri Morelli, who remained friends with Mall long after he left Temple Rome, affirmed Strommen’s sentiments. Mall was both “a beloved and great director.”
“Jim was exceptional. I just can’t say enough about him. He was tough in a good way. He wasn’t going to just go along with any program that had been there before, but that was what he was hired to do…to set policies and procedures and he did.”
Morelli and Mall started working together in 1986, the early days of the popularization of computers, and Mall presented Morelli with an Apple computer. “I don’t think I even saw one before,” said Morelli, but he said, ‘Let’s get started’ and we did.”
Mall also made his mark on Temple’s Education Abroad Program in Paris. According to his colleague, French Professor Emeritus Ruth Thomas, initially students participating in Temple’s Education Abroad program at the Sorbonne only had the option to stay in dorms. Mall added the option of family stays.
Thomas went on to explain that in another area of Mall’s work, as department chair, “He was very fair and knew each person’s strengths and weaknesses and always placed people in their areas of strength.”
Thomas added, “I will remember him as a brilliant and original thinker, a good listener, and a very generous reader who was always willing to discuss and to share his ideas. He was someone who refused to settle, whatever it cost.”
James’ impact is still highly visible on campus. As recounted in James Hilty’s book, Temple University: 125 Years of Service to Philadelphia, the Nation, and the World, Mall provided impetus for Temple’s Honors Program, which became one of the first university-wide honors programs in the U.S. Mall chaired a faculty senate committee that in 1987 recommended and approved Temple to begin a university-wide honors program. Thus, Temple’s now-thriving Honors Program began.
Another important legacy of his work was his teaching. “I sat in on some of his classes,” said Thomas. “They were so well executed with a compelling theme from beginning to end. He was brilliant,” she added.
His wife, Laurence Mall, herself an associate professor of French at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said of his teaching and his dedication to Temple, “He was passionate about being part of an innovative public university that served many first-generation college students from working and middle-class backgrounds, many of them local to Philadelphia. He was truly devoted to his students and their education.”
In terms of his personal qualities, she cited his fierce intelligence, his wit and his sense of humor. His sense of humor was also highlighted by Morelli, along with his sense of loyalty.
He was the beloved husband of 41 years to Laurence Mall and beloved father to son Nicholas Mall and daughter-in-law Megan Mall.
By Lisa Z. Meritz, Director of Marketing & Communications, Global Engagement