Dr. Jim Minn: Renaissance Man
University of Southern Mississippi
If you ask Dr. Jim Minn what he has planned on any given day, you better pull
up a chair and get ready for the list. At the age of 78, Minn is far from being
ready to go home and enjoy retirement. But what makes Minn unique is not his
age; rather, it is how much he has enjoyed his 78 years.
Minn is quick to note that he starts everyday with exercise. "I do stretching,
14 pushups, 40 jumping jacks, and then walk briskly for three miles," Minn said.
"It keeps me feeling good." Then he is off to USM where he serves as a full-time
volunteer in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. As a research scientist
within the department, he guides interested students in research with antioxidants.
This involvement with the department is natural for him: he received his bachelor's
degree in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1948 and his Ph.D. in
organic chemistry in 1953. For the bulk of his career, Minn worked for the Hercules
Research Center in Wilmington, Delaware, and was sent to the Hattiesburg plant on
occasion for problem solving. In 1978, he moved to Hattiesburg citing "I kind of
liked the milder weather and I ended up marrying a gal from Georgia."
Minn and his late wife, writer Elizabeth Bowne, traveled around the world extensively.
During these travels, Minn made guest presentations at various institutions in such
cities and countries as Budapest, Japan, Prague, and the Philippines. "I just worked
it in with our travelling," he said. While in the states, Minn conducted visiting
scientist seminars at many schools, including Alcorn State University, the University
of Arkansas, the University of West Florida and Mississippi University for Women.
Minn's interests are not limited to chemistry. Although he has not received any formal
training in art, Minn has an obvious gift for sketching. His work includes images of
Winston Churchill, his grandson (Geordan) and Grace Kelly. His art work is clear,
realistic, detailed, and emotion-filled. In addition to sketching, Minn enjoys writing
and is currently working on a science fiction novel that he hopes to complete this year.
"I set goals for myself each year that I will accomplish. One that I have completed this
year is creating an audio tape of my WWII experiences based on a diary that I kept," he
said. Stationed in Germany and France, Minn served in the 14th Armored Division; he
recalls spending Christmas in a foxhole in Germany. He also vividly remembers an incident
in April 1945 when, surrounded by the German army, he thought he was going to be captured.
"Some of the soldiers were bringing out their rosary beads. There was a Jewish lad from
Chicago - that was the first time I ever saw rosary beads, and I didn't know what they were,"
Minn said laughing. "We were rescued when some of our troops plus a black tank battalion
Minn remains humble. When discussing his research and career, he smiles as tears come to
his eyes. "Everything I have done in my career is low key compared to my wife's accomplishments
- she was a great lady," Minn says. When asked about going home and acting like a retiree,
Minn laughs and replies, "I really enjoy coming out here and maintaining contact with the
people in the department. I will be here until they throw me out."