Dr. James C. (Jim) Pleasant, age 84, passed away at home on the morning of January 3, 2020, with his wife of almost 64 years, Louise Dickerson Pleasant, by his side. Jim was born on January 9, 1936, in Greenville, North Carolina, where his father owned and ran a small drug store. As a boy, he not only worked in the store but held various other jobs to help his family. Upon graduating from Greenville High School in 1954, he received a scholarship from the Greenville Daily Reflector to East Carolina University, where he studied mathematics. During his time at ECU, he also met and married his wife Louise, and they had their first child, a son named Carroll, in 1957. After completing his bachelor’s degree in 1958, Jim taught high school mathematics for one year before returning to ECU in 1958 to pursue a master’s degree in mathematics, which he completed in 1960.
Jim then moved on to the Ph.D. program in mathematics at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, where his son Gary was born in 1963. Upon completing his doctorate the following year, he returned to Greenville, North Carolina, to teach for two years in the ECU mathematics department before accepting a position in 1966 as a professor at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee, where his son Scott was born later that year. Jim served on the faculty at ETSU for more than three decades, retiring from the Computer Science Department as an emeritus professor in 2003. He then taught at Milligan College for one year before returning to ECU to teach until he fully retired in 2011.
Jim and Louise then began living in Johnson City full time and enjoying their golden years together with family and friends. Free from the demands of teaching, Jim devoted many hours to reading and ongoing learning in subjects he was passionate about: math, science, history, and philosophy. He and Louise were also able to enjoy working together on a series of renovation and home-improvement projects.
Throughout his adult life, Jim was active in a number of areas outside of higher education and academics. A lover of music of all types, he played viola as a founding member of the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra in the 1970s and 80s. A self-taught computer expert, he worked as a programmer on several important research projects at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He also loved traveling and spent much time on the road with his wife and family in a series of recreational vehicles. Often accompanied by their sons, Jim and Louise found time to visit Europe, Hawaii, the Caribbean, California, and other locations during their final years together.
Jim will be remembered as an enthusiastic supporter of both the arts and the sciences but above all as a devoted and beloved head of a close-knit family. In addition to his wife and three sons, Jim leaves behind three daughters-in-law (Janine, Donna, and Rose), three granddaughters (Cheryl, Jenny, and Rachel), two grandsons-in-law (Brian and Austin), and six great-grandchildren (Phoenix, Lex, Soli, Gryphon, Katy, and Paige). He also leaves behind a sister-in-law (Miriam) who was married to his previously deceased brother Lem and a large extended family on his wife’s side. He will be missed by many friends and colleagues who knew and respected him as an accomplished professor and scholar and as a lifelong learner with multiple interests and talents. He will be missed most of all, though, by the family members who knew him as a loving, fair, honest, and hard-working man who showed nothing but love and kindness to all of them.
In keeping with his enduring commitment to learning and service to the academic community, Jim selflessly donated his body to the Medical School at East Tennessee State University. A public service in Jim’s memory will be held for family and friends after the danger of the Covid-19 pandemic has passed. Those wishing to make memorial gifts in his honor are strongly encouraged to consider contributing to the ETSU or ECU general funds, the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra, or the American Cancer Society.
The family wishes to thank the dedicated and tireless home health and hospice workers from the Johnson City area for their invaluable work in making Jim’s final time with us as comfortable as possible.