Otago academic 'giant' Jim Flynn dies

Prof Jim Flynn says rising sea levels could make some areas of Dunedin uninhabitable in 17 years....
Professor Jim Flynn has died aged 86. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Internationally renowned academic and University of Otago Emeritus Professor of Political Studies Jim Flynn has died aged 86.

A former long-serving chairman of the politics department, he was most well known internationally for his research involving the ‘Flynn effect’, a substantial and long-sustained rise in intelligence test scores from about 1930 to the present.

Born in the United States in 1934, he spent 1967-2017 at the university, including three decades as head of the politics department.

He also had a raft of books published on a range of topics, from intelligence to American foreign policy.

Prof Flynn received the university’s Medal for Distinguished Career Research, and was an Otago honorary doctorate of science.

He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and a recipient of its Aronui Medal. 

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne praised his impact on the university and the wider world.

"We feel the loss of Professor Flynn very keenly. 

"He was a legendary teacher and a giant amongst scholars", she said.

"His work was highly cited across a number of disciplines, his research made a real difference in the world, and his ideas had an immense reach, from high school classrooms to the frontiers of social science research. 

"He was an iconic figure around our campus and there will never be another like him.”

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins also honoured Prof Flynn as "an absolute giant of teaching, researching, campaigning and both university and civic life, he will be missed."


Sadly missed. Prof Flynn was my philosophy lecturer back in the early 90s. I was lucky enough to have a great set of lecture notes from a friend so was able to give my full attention to his lectures. His style was very engaging and covered both the more subtle value add aspects, but always gave a clear explanation of the heart of each particular theory. I only did the paper as a side interest but it was far and away my favourite and most memorable set of lectures. Not mentioned in the article was his involvement in the 60s civil rights movement. He was one Martin Luther King's inner circle.

Oh gosh, Jim was a pistol! I had him for two years from the early eighties in pysch/philosophy. In my Honors year, I used to invite Jim to our flat parties, in N.E. Valley, and he ALWAYS came-usually in bare feet, in the middle of winter, clutching one of those large old beer bottles. When I saw him, I would think, "Great, now's my opportunity to find out everything I ever wanted to know-about EVERYTHING! Invariably, old Jim would spot me coming and then head for the nearest of my female friends and dazzle them with his unlimited pearls of wisdom. Most students are initially intimidated with their first encounter with Jim-but unlike the stuffy, conceited Law Lecturers, Jim NEVER condescended to ANYONE-he treated everyone as a fellow traveler in the quest for knowledge. And even though I had left school with pretty much every qualification, one minute in Jim's presence and you felt as dumb as a fence post. He was a huge inspiration. R.I.P, my friend







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