For Jim McShane, “justice was his middle name,” said his wife, Carol.
He fought for his beliefs while on the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, within the Catholic Church as a member of Call to Action and by marching with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., in 1965.
James A. McShane of Lincoln and Spirit Lake, Iowa, died July 5 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., of complications from a medical procedure, his wife said. He was 74.
A memorial service is planned July 27 in Lincoln. The time and place will be determined later.
McShane began teaching English in 1967 at UNL and retired as professor emeritus in 2005. Through the years, he taught the works of Shakespeare, Milton, Irish literature, children's literature and the Bible as literature.
Said Stephen Buhler, vice chairman of the UNL English Department: “He was someone who contributed mightily to the vitality and personality of the department.”
McShane directed the former University Foundations Programs, sometimes called the freshman foundations program.
“He was passionate about introducing students to the college experience and passionate about helping them to succeed,” Buhler said.
McShane also taught in the Sage Program for senior adult learning.
Carol McShane said her husband spent hours helping professors who had been denied tenure. “He was called by people all around the country because he really was a champion for academic freedom,” she said.
He was a two-term president of the UNL Faculty Senate and an active member and officer of the American Association of University Professors.
He received the James A. Lake Academic Freedom Award from the UNL Faculty Senate in 1983, the Annis Chaiken Sorensen Award for Outstanding Teaching in the Humanities in 1985 and the Nebraska Civil Liberties Union Academic Freedom Award.
McShane was a member of Call to Action, a group that seeks changes in the Roman Catholic Church, including a greater role for women, changes to sexual teachings and revisions in the way the church is governed.
Retired Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz excommunicated members of the group soon after being named to lead the Lincoln Diocese.
To be restored to the sacraments, members would have to renounce Call to Action.
McShane told The World-Herald in a 2012 interview that doing so “would cause me to assert something I do not believe is true. My resolution is to say that one must trust the justice of God. So I do.”
In retirement, he became a certified mediator and did small-claims work at the Lincoln Mediation Center. He also was active in the UNL Emeriti Association.
McShane, who grew up in the Bronx, received a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and a master's degree and doctorate in English literature from Emory University.
He taught at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black college. While there, he took part in the King-led civil rights march in Selma.
Besides his wife of 50 years, McShane is survived by children Michael McShane of Racine, Wis., Brendan McShane of Lee's Summit, Mo., James “Shum” McShane of Durham, N.C., Mary-Eileen McShane Boyden of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., Jeanne McShane of Olympia, Wash., Anne McShane of St. Louis Park, Minn., and Patrice “TC” McShane-Jewell of Lincoln; and seven grandchildren.