By France Griggs Sloat
As the Xavier men’s basketball season marched into tournament time, Jim Boothe was sitting in his usual spot at the Cintas Center: Row L, Section 110. They’re the same seats the former player and education professor has had since the Cintas Center opened in 2000, and though he retired from Xavier two years ago when he was 80, you can bet he’ll be back next fall, same seats, ready for another season.
The seats mark the last tangible vestige of Boothe’s over 60-year relationship with Xavier that began when he arrived in 1953 from Dayton, Ky., so fresh behind the ears that he “had trouble finding the place,” he says.
It morphed into a lifelong involvement with the University that included being a star player on the men’s basketball team, earning his master’s degree, joining the faculty and chairing the Department of Education, now its own school.
“Xavier’s just been a natural part of my life,” Boothe says. “I can hardly remember not being part of it.”
To honor the long-standing educator whose career began and ended at Xavier—with stints as a local principal and superintendent in between—his children started the James W. Boothe Endowed Scholarship fund. It will support graduate education students pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in Xavier’s School of Education.
“This scholarship will enable a grad student to further their education and be a principal like dad did,” says his daughter, Lisa Boothe Fey. “It’s a way to pay it forward. Dad was fortunate enough to land at Xavier and get this wonderful education, and he wants to give someone else that opportunity.”
When Boothe retired in 2016, education professor Tom Knestrict approached the family with the idea naming the School of Education after him. Instead, they decided to start a scholarship fund to benefit aspiring education leaders who want to become school principals, administrators or superintendents.
The School of Education offers a Master of Education and certification in several tracks, including administrator, as well as a Doctor in Leadership Studies. A scholarship, even a small one, could make the difference for a student who wants their education degree to come from Xavier.
At first, Boothe did not like the idea.
“He didn't want us to pursue this because he doesn't want the attention. But his kids and his wife, Marilyn, convinced him that he deserved some kind of legacy,” Knestrict said.
“I've known Jim for the 14 years I have been here, and I have seen a man who truly lives the mission of the University. It’s in his blood, and his faith guides his practice. He has gone out of his way, multiple times, to help students and faculty. His heart was always with the students first, and he would move hell and high water to support them.”
Boothe demurs when asked about his initial reaction. Now he’s excited to know future students will benefit from the fund.
“It was surprising that they wanted to do it, but you know what, I’m glad they did because any kind of money we can raise (is good), because there are people out there who aspire to get an advanced degree or better training, and sometimes it’s hard to come up with the money for graduate school,” Boothe says. “Sometimes maybe even one course or a small amount of money will make the difference between Xavier and someplace else.”
Boothe never tired of teaching nor of Xavier. He was 80 when he retired, and he continued to play recreational basketball until he was 65—an activity he relished after being named to the Xavier Hall of Fame for his contributions to the team from 1954-1957.
Now 82, he stays active, playing golf and cheering the men’s basketball team from his seats at Cintas. The scholarship fund, he says, gives him yet another connection to his alma mater. He calls the fund “seed money” for future educators.
Lisa Boothe Fey says the fund now has about $12,000 in it. The goal is $50,000, at which point it can be drawn from to provide financial assistance to students.
“We certainly hope it keeps growing,” she says. “We felt like it was a doable thing, that this was the most personal thing associated with Dad that would live forever, and we can tell our kids and grandchildren and people that knew him about it. We don’t want to lose the story. We’re hoping if everybody gives just a little bit, it could help somebody meet their dream and move on.”
Learn more and contribute to the James W. Boothe Endowed Scholarship Fund.