Campus reacts to professor’s unexpected death

Photo courtesy of Facebook | James Riordan first came to Xavier in 2010. He served as an adjunct professor in the philosophy department and as the major gifts officer, working with the Williams College of Business. Riordan passed away on Sept. 6.


James Riordan, an adjunct professor in the philosophy department and a major gifts officer, died on Sept. 6 at age 40.

The next day Father Michael Graham, president, sent an email to faculty and students notifying them of Riordan’s death.

“Losing a colleague is never easy but the timing and sudden nature of this loss makes it feel all the more devastating,” the email said. “As always, during difficult times like this, I remind you that the foundation of our community is in the support we give to one another.”

Graham urged students to reach out to those who were close with Riordan and informed the community of available resources, such as psychological services through the McGrath Health and Wellness Center.

“I was so sad,” sophomore Christina Bellacicco said. “I read the email, and I was shocked because he was really young. It took me by surprise… I feel bad for his family. I definitely think the philosophy department lost someone who was beneficial to them.”

Bellacicco had been a student in Riordan’s Ethics as an Introduction to Philosophy class and thought he was a great professor.

“He was very personable with the students, so I think you learn more when you have more of an interaction with your professor rather than memorizing something or reading something and getting tested on it,” Bellacicco said. “He definitely explained a lot and really went into depth if you had any questions. You felt comfortable asking them.”

Riordan joined the Xavier community in 2010. At the time, he was a member of the Jesuits, although he left the society a short time after and chose to remain at Xavier.
Riordan’s death was unexpected, as he had appeared to be in good health. According to WLWT, Norwood Police was dispatched to his apartment for a welfare check after he did not show up for work. Riordan’s front door was open, and officers found him on the floor. A report from the police department said that “Medics were dispatched and were not able to resuscitate (Riordan).”

According to WLWT, the report also stated that “evidence of illegal drug use was found in the residence, including syringes, a snorting straw, a meth pipe and LSD patches.” Riordan’s car was also missing and has since been reported stolen. Detectives did not comment on whether or not they suspected foul play, and the coroner said that the cause of death was pending.

While Riordan was beloved in his workplace, there is a possibility that the circumstances around his death might change his reputation. Bellacicco says this is not the case for her but notes that it might affect the opinions of people who did not know him.

“I think it may impact people who haven’t had him as a professor because they don’t his personality, how he interacted with people,” Bellacicco said. “They’re not really aware of that, so it might change their view on his legacy and how he is. If you knew him, I don’t think it changes his personality at all.”

Riordan’s family requested donations to St. Juliana Parish in Chicago, where Riordan is from, or to Xavier University instead of sending flowers.


By: Kevin Thomas ~Campus News Editor~

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