James “Jim” Killough III ’57, P’85, ’88

James “Jim” Killough III ’57, P’85, ’88 passed away on December 2, 2021. Evan M. Drutman ’86 provided this memory.

James Killough, III


            It stands as a monument to his dedication, perseverance, and philanthropy.  The landmarked structure at 242 High Street, Middletown, Connecticut, built in 1893 on the campus of Wesleyan University and home to the Xi (pronounced “z’EYE”) Chapter of the Psi Upsilon Fraternity, has housed student members for over 125 years.  That grand dame of the campus, centrally located across from the office of the University president, has served daily meals, hosted meetings, seminars, musical and theatrical performances, educational events, and social gatherings for the Wesleyan campus at-large.  And it did so in recent years due to the indefatigable efforts of its de facto chairman, Jim Killough, who died on December 2, 2021, in the Renaissance Care Center in Gainesville, TX, a hospice facility outside of Dallas/Ft. Worth.

That a fraternity would even exist today on the politically “progressive” campus of Wesleyan University is no mean feat.  Much of the credit for its longevity and enduring popularity over the previous 30 years can be attributed to Jim Killough.  He provided the undergraduate members with advice and guidance, sometimes on a daily basis; he helped navigate the organization through the occasional adolescent misconduct of a member; he provided the diplomacy needed for the indulgence of a recalcitrant school Administration; and he had the intuition to admit women members, and to persuade a resistant membership, long before the University mandated co-education in 2014.

Most of all, he had the vision to sustain a traditionalist organization with values largely resembling his own.   Those values were articulated in four broad maxims expressing indisputable virtues which would define the organization and its mission:

  • Service before Self
  • Pursuit of Wisdom
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Virtuous Character 

Those phrases, which Jim labeled collectively as “The Credo”, would become his guiding principles for the fraternity.  In his typical modesty, Jim credited The Credo to someone else: the fraternity’s beloved former faculty advisor and university provost William Kerr; however, few ever doubted its true origin.

James Killough III was born in Albany, NY, on November 18, 1935, to James Killough, Jr. and the former Mary Ann Hunting.  Jim spent his childhood summers in the Thousand Islands, scooping ice cream at the legendary Guzzle on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, a venue to which he would return throughout his life. Like his uncle, he attended Wesleyan, graduating in 1957, and then received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1959.

He briefly served in the U.S. Army, at Fort Dix, NJ, in Army intelligence, from May to November of 1959.

His early career was spent in advertising:  first, with Proctor and Gamble; then with Dupuy-Compton (now Saatchi & Saatchi) in Italy, resulting in the occasional Italian language expression which would inflect his communications.  While in Italy, he became involved in politics, supporting Republican candidates in the United States, including the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan, for which he worked upon his return to this country.

He had a second career later in life, improbably as an internet company executive, bringing his business acumen to RunTime Technologies, a New York City-based website creator and internet provider, which was suffering from the .com implosion.

Jim’s first marriage, to the former Sandra Davis, ended in divorce.  It produced three children:  James Killough IV, of Los Angeles, and Sarah K. Dhar, of New Canaan, CT, both of whom similarly attended Wesleyan, and John Hunting (“Hunt”) Killough, of Denver, CO.

He married his second wife, the late Donna Simpkins, in 1984, describing her as the “love of his life”, and moving with her from New York to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to be closer to her children.  She predeceased him in 2018, following which Jim spoke for the rest of his life of marking time until he could rejoin her in Heaven.  Jim is survived by his three children, his son-in-law, Vishal Dhar, his daughter-in-law, Angela Killough, four grandchildren, two stepchildren, and a step granddaughter.

Until the end of his life, Jim remained committed to the welfare of “The Xi”, as the fraternity chapter is known by its members, reviewing correspondence, and offering the occasional recommendation.  As the fraternity continues its mission and its search for Jim’s successor—someone with his vision and commitment, someone putting Service before Self, someone betraying his Virtuous Character—it will have one advantage Jim never had:

It will have his example. 


Evan M. Drutman 

Wesleyan University, B.A. 1986 

Member, Xi Chapter of Psi Upsilon