When Professor James McIntosh first arrived at Lehigh 50 years ago, it was still an all-male university. One-third of Lehigh’s history later, women have also had the opportunity to learn from the long-standing teacher, but, after this year, no more students will have McIntosh in the classroom as he is retiring at the end of this year.
After 50 years at Lehigh, McIntosh boasts numerous awards, honors, grants and a long list of publications.
In addition to these accomplishments, he has been the Sociology & Anthropology Department Chair for 15 years and Lehigh’s representative to the NCAA. McIntosh also created two of the most popular courses among students — Alcohol, Science and Society and Drugging of America.
Many of his publications are on the topic of drug and alcohol issues in young adults and college students. This interest came from growing up with a father and brother who were both alcoholics.
“They were two different types,” McIntosh said. “My father was a happy drunk. My brother was an episodic drunk who would get in fights.”
As he grew up, McIntosh began to think on their differences. He asked himself how much of it was based on dependence to alcohol and how much was nature versus the home setting.
When studying this concept, he says he never approached this as judgment towards young adults. Instead, he attests alcohol issues in youths to an increase in the amount of disposable income that many students have.
While teaching here for 50 years he has been observant in the change in Lehigh and the students here. He has seen a change in the competitiveness surrounding jobs and plans for the future.
“There is a period right now where kids are more nervous than ever about what will happen to them after Lehigh,” McIntosh said. “Academia has changed in a dramatic way across the country. It is now more and more important to have a college degree.”
McIntosh stresses the importance of getting a well-rounded education through social science and humanities courses. He thinks that all students should take economics.
Being a well-rounded student is something that McIntosh has always been passionate about. Asthe university’s representative to the NCAA and an avid Lehigh athletics supporter, he has taught many student-athletes.
Football standout Keith Sherman, ’14, who is presently working at an investment research firm in Manhattan, remembers meeting Professor McIntosh on his recruiting visit with his parents. Sherman, a social psychology major, took at least one class with him every year.
“Professor McIntosh is such a wise man and I always tried to take every bit of advice that I could learn from him,” Sherman said. “As a professor and an adviser, he taught me a lot about what is actually out there in the real world.”
Creating these close bonds with students is nothing new to McIntosh, as he had the same impact about 40 years ago on another former Lehigh football player — Joe Sterrett, who is also Lehigh’s current dean of athletics.
Sterrett, a finance and social psychology major, took some of McIntosh’s courses as an undergraduate. Sterrett met his wife, who was a psychology major, at Lehigh, and all of his children attended the university as well, with one of his daughters majoring in sociology and social psychology. Sterrett and McIntosh have become great friends over the years.
“He cares deeply about his students,” Sterrett said. “He taught (us) something about responsibility and I have always respected that.”
McIntosh has inspired his students to push themselves in the classroom as well as involve themselves in activities outside of class. Personal growth of students and seeing them develop into leaders is just as important as success in the classroom.
“He really pushed me as a student because he thought I could do better,” Sterrett said. “I appreciated it because he had confidence in me.”
McIntosh, who is currently on sabbatical, will be leaving for London for six weeks to conduct research. He plans to continue coming to Lehigh sporting events to support the teams that he has cheered on for 50 years.