Jim McComb ’61: Michigan and Delta Chi Prepared Me for the Future

“I entered the University of Michigan in the fall of 1957 after graduating from Elkton High School located in Elkton, Michigan—a small town about 100 miles north of Detroit. There were 39 folks in my graduating class, so it was a big change for me in going to the big “M”.

I was a total study nerd my first semester at Michigan and achieved acceptable grades.  At the prodding of my freshman year roommate, I decided to rush in the spring semester. He loaned me a tie and sport coat (so I wouldn’t look like a geek) and off I went. I was looking at small fraternities and had the good fortune to pledge Delta Chi.

I was an experienced beer drinker when I arrived at Michigan. There was a beer blast at the house the semester I pledged, where there were three or four kegs of beer, if I recall correctly. It was kind of an open party and a non-Delta Chi got into some trouble in downtown Ann Arbor later that night. The source of the beer was traced back to Delta Chi, so hello social probation.

I fondly remember the many parties, pre-parties and formals that were part of the Delta Chi experience. I also enjoyed the Sunday afternoon bull sessions in the TV room. One year, the house had an Irish Setter for a mascot. I took it home to the farm for the summer. I don’t recall what ever happened to the dog.

I got my worst GPA the semester I learned to play bridge. I played regularly with Jerry MacDonald ’60, Ray Navarra ’60, Barry Wood ’61 and, at times, Mike McGuire ’58. After dinner, there would be a rush for the card table located under the stairs. I hope there is a similar location in the new house. The longest game I recall ended when the cook arrived in the morning to cook breakfast.

I lived in the house my sophomore and junior years. I had a single study room and slept in the cold dorm. I had the upper bunk just inside the door and next to the window that was always open. I would brush a little snow off the blankets now and then. My senior year, I shared an apartment with Scott Townsend ’62.

My record of keeping up with the brothers has been very spotty at best since I graduated. Over the years, I managed to catch up with Jerry MacDonald and Dave Falconer ’62 a couple of times, Ray Navarra once and Barry Wood numerous times since he used to live in CA. When Barry and I got together, we would have a few beers, and around midnight, call Ray Navarra in Michigan to see how he was doing. Of course it was 3:00 a.m. in Michigan, but Ray was always a good sport about the call. I did attend a Delta Chi Reunion back in 2006 and got to see a lot of folks I hadn’t seen since I graduated such as Bill Ament ’60, George Robertson ’59, John Broad ’60, Howard Wiarda ’61 and Bill Fors ’59. In recent years, I kept in contact by e-mail (mostly trading info and bad humor) with Keith Hellems ’62, Barry Wood, Bill Fors, Scott Townsend and the late Ray Navarra. Too many of the brothers have “the late” in front of their names.  I really envy the “new” brothers who now have the benefit of social media and digital photography to keep in touch and record memories.

I majored in Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering and received a BSAE in the fall of 1962 and a MSAE in the spring of 1963. Upon graduation, I joined the Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, California.  I remained with Douglas through the merger process with McDonnell and finally with Boeing. I retired from Boeing in 2007. In 2008 I joined Northrup as a contract engineer working about 24 hours a week. That six-year gig ended in the fall of 2014.

Throughout my career, my specialty was engine performance and propulsion installation aerodynamics. The Douglas Aircraft Company had a functional engineering department, which meant that I supported all military and commercial transport aircraft programs and advanced design projects and studies, as well as research activities. In the later years, the company moved to a project organization, but specialized work was still performed in the home group where I chose to remain.  It was great fun and a lifelong learning process.

At Northrop-Grumman, I provided propulsion installation support in the Northrop-Grumman certification effort for the Euro Hawk unmanned aircraft with the German Government. I wrote documents that showed how each propulsion installation component complied with existing regulations.

I’m on my second marriage. My first wife was Jane Heinicke, Mich. ’61, and we parted ways after about 17 years of marriage. Brothers from the 1958-1962 time periods may remember Jane.  We had three children together; Jennifer, Julie and James.  Jennifer graduated from the UC Davis School of Veterinarian Medicine and lives in Boulder, Co. Julie graduated from Cal State at Long Beach, CA and works in the legal department of the Irvine Co. James has a PhD in history from Arizona State University and teaches at junior colleges in the San Luis Obispo, CA area. I remarried 35 years ago to Meg, the love of my life, who graduated from, get ready…Ohio State! We have a daughter, Megan, who recently graduated from Pepperdine University and is currently searching for the meaning of life in Portland, OR.

Meg and I live in Huntington Beach, CA. I’m retired from Aerospace, but serve as the IT manager and presentations department for Meg’s insurance business. I still play a little golf and enjoy reading in my spare time. I can be contacted at (714) 337-2053 and [email protected].”