James Jude Hentz, 62, died peacefully surrounded by loved ones on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

James Jude Hentz, 62, died peacefully surrounded by loved ones on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

He was born June 17, 1955, in Abington, Pa., to Dolores Marie (née Ballantyne) and James Albert Hentz, the second of six children.

Jim was the chair of the department of International Studies and Political Science at Virginia Military Institute, where he taught for 20 years.

Jim spent his early years in a tight-knit community of Jenkintown, Pa., with a large extended family, playing sports, racing friends in his old car, sharing a bedroom with his younger brother Mike, and building a passion for books and learning. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He spent his early adulthood in American Samoa with the Marist Volunteer Teaching Program and later taught secondary school in Zambia with the White Fathers of Great Britain at Saint Charles Lwanga Seminary. In between his teaching overseas, he earned a master’s degree from Georgetown University and worked for a short time as a legislative assistant for U.S. Representative Thomas A. Luken of Ohio. He went on to earn a doctorate in international studies from the University of Pennsylvania and taught briefly at Dartmouth College before joining the faculty of VMI in 1997. While moonlighting as a bartender for a catering company in Philadelphia, he met his future wife, Michele, whom he married in September 1994.

Jim’s experiences in sub-Saharan Africa set the stage for a lifelong interest in the people, politics, and culture of the continent, and he grew to be a respected scholar of security issues. He traveled to Africa regularly and consulted with the U.S. military on issues related to international security. He founded the journal African Security, and was the author of numerous books, including most recently “Routledge Handbook of Africa Security” (2013) and, with Hussein Solomon, “Understanding Boko Haram: Terrorism and Insurgency in Africa.” (2017). At the time of his death, he was revising the manuscript “The Nature of War in Africa” for publication.

He received numerous awards during his career, including the VMI Distinguished Teaching Award, the Matthew Fontaine Maury Research Award, and the Outstanding Faculty award from the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia. He was a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute in 2008.  He received the Adams-Collins Faculty Research Award from the John A. Adams Center for Military History and Strategic Analysis, and the Award for Scholarship in International Studies and Political Science from the Virginia Social Science Association. In 2003, he served as a Fulbright Scholar in Budapest, Hungary, along with his family. He was a visiting lecturer at Rand Afrikaans University in Johannesburg, South Africa at the time of Nelson Mandela’s historic election to the presidency in 1994.  He also was a lecturer for the Naval Postgraduate School aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Harry S. Truman, and in Vicenza, Italy.

Jim loved sports, and was an avid skier, swimmer, cyclist, squash and racquetball player. He was a zealous fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, Sixers, and Phillies, and he was not above trimming cadets’ homework assignments following a major Philly team victory. One of his last moments of joy was being with his family to watch the Eagles finally win their first Super Bowl championship.

Jim was a beloved colleague, teacher, friend, and family member. He relished mentoring cadets and willingly took overnight shifts in the barracks. His great strength was a rare ability to convey complex information in way that anyone could understand. He spoke bluntly but not unkindly, and his commitment to truth was unwavering. He was a voracious reader of presidential biographies and African novels. He cared very little for material possessions, as anyone who saw him driving his duct-taped 1980s-era Jeep Cherokee can attest. He was, however, passionate about books, Sunday morning political talk shows, red wine, his garden, his enormous dog, Jack, and, his family, most of all, his wife and daughters.

Jim is survived by his wife of 23 years, Michele Frascati Hentz, and their daughters Julia Frascati Hentz and Katherine Anne Hentz of Lexington; his mother, Dolores Hentz Smith of Jenkintown, Pa.; his sisters Dr. Patricia Marie Hentz of Lansdale, Pa. and Judith Hentz Meier of Jenkintown, Pa.; and brothers Michael Jude Hentz of Gilbertsville, Pa., Otto John Hentz of Horsham, Pa., and Joseph Albert Hentz of Jenkintown, Pa., along with his uncle, the Rev. Otto H. Hentz, S.J. of Washington, D.C., and aunt, Sister Mary Hentz, RSM, of Marion, Pa., and 13 adoring nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by his father, James A. Hentz, and his stepfather, William D. Smith.

Visitation will take place at Harrison Funeral home at 714 S. Main Street on Thursday, Feb. 22, from 5 to 7 p.m.  A memorial service will be held at Jackson Memorial Hall, 319 Letcher Ave., on the VMI post, Friday, Feb. 23, at 11 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts in Jim’s memory be made to the VMI Foundation in support of the International Studies Department (VMI Foundation, Box 932, Lexington, VA 24450). 

Arrangements are by Harrison Funeral Home and Crematory.


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