James Adams ’15

1 March 2014
James Adams ’15
James Adams ’15

James died on February 28, 2014 in a tragic automobile accident in Northfield, MN. He was a beloved son of Jim and Julia Adams of St. Paul, MN and brother to Jack (Los Angeles) and Jane (New York City).

James was born in St. Paul on March 17, 1993 and attended Adams Spanish Immersion elementary school followed by St. Paul Academy and Carleton College. At SPA, he was an accomplished athlete and scholar, co-captain on the football, hockey and golf teams. He won several academic awards, including the Cum Laude Society, upon graduation in 2011. At Carleton College in Northfield, MN, he was a junior majoring in chemistry and a member of the CUT Ultimate Frisbee team. The team was traveling to Stanford University for an invitational tournament at the time of his death. James participated in canoe trips to the BWCA with Camp Widjiwagan, culminating in a Voyageur trip to northern Canada and Hudson Bay in summer 2011, an experience which affirmed his love for Minnesota and the outdoors.

James had a sparkle in his eye, an ever-present smile, and an infectious laugh. He was always a leader, making and welcoming new friends into his communities. His determination to succeed on the playing field and in the classroom was matched only by the compassion he showed toward others who might have felt left out. His death leaves a huge void in the lives of both his family and his many friends.

James is survived by his mother and father, brother and sister, grandmother Peggy Adams (Toronto) and many loving aunts, uncles and cousins in the United States, Canada and abroad.

A funeral service was held on Saturday, March 8 at 11am at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church, 797 Summit Avenue, St. Paul. Memorials in James’s memory may be made to St. Paul Academy, Carleton College or Camp Widjiwagan (St. Paul YMCA).

A memorial service for James Adams, Michael Goodgame, and Paxton Harvieux was held in Skinner Chapel at Carleton College on April 12, 2014.

Students who lost their lives while enrolled at Carleton are commemorated in the Carleton Student Memorial.

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  • 2014-03-01 19:39:42

    I wish I got to know you better. I will miss you complaining about Sayles giving you a large coffee when you asked for a small coffee every morning at the beginning of our 2a. I will miss your presence in class. I know that when Monday comes I will turn around and not find you behind me, pencil on ear, ready to provide insight. I won't see you around campus anymore, but you'll be here. You will be in my memories. I will remember your smile, and the way you cracked jokes in class. Dear James, we will miss you dearly.

  • 2014-03-02 00:33:37

    James, since day one your smile lit up rooms and I thought about how much I hoped I would get to be your friend. You were the epitome of cool and I was really intimidated by you, but the second I met you I realized you were the nicest, funniest, friendliest guy of all and all you could make me do from that point on was smile. I remember one time early on one of my friends said he mentioned me and you said "aw, ders is chill" and just hearing that made me so happy, knowing we were friends. Everyone will miss you -ders

  • 2014-03-02 11:26:30


    So I want to record a happy memory from last week, two actually. In Chem 302 on Thurs aft, you came in late. It was no big deal, you don't usually come late as far as I recall. But when you arrived, one of your peers was mumbling "Classic Adams". I thought that was funny so I repeated it when you came in. Then we all joked about how I should have said "classic Alberg" because Dave comes late to the chemistry dept. meeting. Your retort was priceless! You got me back with something, I don't now recall the details of your return zinger. There was am audible "ahhhh" in the room from your peers - dare you zing back at a prof! But you did it with affection and humor, and we all knew that. I looked at you with a smile, and you gave me that large smile back, and I said something like "OK James, we are even". Yep.  Good fun.I cherish this memory we shared with the Thurs. Chem 302 lab section.

    Then on Friday about 2pm you came into my office to show me your fabulous complicated "derivation of the term" for the P and R branches of HCl. And even though this was not due until 5pm Sunday, you arrived early. I remarked on the early arrival and how impressed I was. Then of course we talked about CUT. You met your deadline early, in great style, since you were leaving about 3pm for the airport.  Nice James. We had a cool conversation about CUT, the details are private. I have known and admired many frisbee players over the years, and I know how much the team meant to you. You walked out of my office in the glory of successful quantum theory and moving toward your CUT tournament and buddies- with such passion and happiness in your step. This is the last time I saw you. It was the perfect combination of your good humor, academic talent, and love for CUT. I cherish this personal memory.

    I will miss you. Especially your smile and how you lifted up everyone around you, in many different ways.

  • 2014-03-03 13:11:08

    James and I have been going to school together for the past 10 years, this is part of the message the head of school sent out to our high school community. I thought I could share the words from one community James loved so much to another. "James leaves an indelible imprint at SPA. He was a true scholar and a member of the Cum Laude Society which honors the top students in each graduating class. This rather spare description does not capture his intellectual energy and the infectious enthusiasm James brought to class each and every day. He had an unbridled interest in asking challenging questions and discussing complex issues and topics. James was unfailingly generous with his classmates and they enjoyed working with him for all of the right reasons: he was interesting, kind, and consistently outgoing and good-humored. He quite simply loved being part of the school community. An athlete of uncommon ability, James excelled as a three-sport athlete in an age when few students play a varsity sport in each season. He was the quarterback on the football team, a rugged forward on the hockey team and a member of the varsity golf team. His teammates looked to James for leadership and he did not disappoint. James never reveled in his own achievements and he had an acute awareness of the people around him. It was his human touch, along with his intellectual gifts, that heralded such a promising future for him. James’s death is a stark reminder that schools are profoundly human communities. Every day our halls are filled with laughter and exuberance, the qualities exemplified so splendidly by James. His death reminds us of the transitory and unpredictable nature of life. As much as our community grieves, I hope that we will redouble our efforts to take full advantage of our talents and opportunities, both as individuals and as a community."

  • 2014-03-04 08:34:33

    James picked up to play Potlatch (a fun tournament over 4th of July weekend) with the Paideia alumni reunion ultimate frisbee team in 2013.  With his winning smile and high level spirited play, he immediately fit in and we were happy to have such a fun guy join our squad.  As an '04 Carleton Syzygy grad, I was really looking forward to seeing him again at alumni games in the future and am heartbroken that this can no longer be.  Instead, I'll be thinking of him as I coach the next generation of ultimate players and hope to send as many as possible to carry on his tradition of competition, fun and welcoming at Carleton College.

  • 2014-03-04 08:50:31

    I never knew James, but I know Carleton. I graduated fifty-nine years ago. I remember what Larry Gould once said, "Once a part of Carleton, always a part of Carleton." Many years separate James and me, but I share the deep sadness that the Carleton community and James' friends and family are living with.

  • 2014-03-04 12:13:45

    Having never met him, it is evident that he was a truly remarkable young man. Please know that his death has touched many people. More importantly, his life and legacy will clearly live on through the way he loved and led his life here on earth. Peace be with all of his loved ones and those affected by this tragedy.

  • 2014-03-04 12:29:28

    James, I still remember when I first met you through Nick when we were freshman in high school. You were immediately so generous, friendly, and inclusive. You would always greet me with that jolly swagger and infectious energy and enthusiasm. I felt so proud to be able to call such a cool and generous person my friend. Then, after four years of high school, I was ecstatic to find out that we were both going to Carleton together. I remember debating the benefits of requesting a double or triple for our first year at Carleton; I think they put you in that shared quad in Davis because they knew they needed to spread around that uplifting James spirit as much as possible. I remember vividly during freshmen new student week, when you, Keenan, and I sat out on Mai Fete at night talking about how awesome Carleton was going to be for all of us. You truly lived up to that "awesomeness" in every sense—academically, socially, and athletically. Every time I saw you, the people around you were happy, smiling, and laughing. People just gravitated toward you because of that outgoing, fun charisma. Last spring, I remember when we kept running into each other wearing the same outfit, and you would always crack a joke or meet my gaze with a smile, a chuckle, and a remark about how good we both looked. We both know that you rocked those baby blue shorts better than anyone on campus. I will always treasure the memories we made together and the zest for life that you demonstrated each day. My thoughts remain with you, your family, your friends and teammates, and the countless other people who will miss you so passionately. You will forever remain a part of my life. I feel incredibly lucky to have known you, James.

  • 2014-03-06 09:07:57

    I remember freshman year asking you about our chemistry homework. Although we had never really met before, without hesitation you said, "wanna work on it together?" I will always admire your confidence, James. You will be greatly missed.

  • 2014-03-06 13:37:21
    Barbara Allen

    I extend my condolences to all of the family and friends of James. I know that the teachers and classmates of James think of his as the guy who, in class, always and something to say and whatever he said was worth saying--and made a difference. We did not work together as teacher and student, but I know James as a sincere, gracious, person. A leader by example and often by election who touched so many people. James will always be a part of our communities shared memory.

  • 2014-03-07 09:51:44

    I had the priviledge of getting to be one of James' teachers in high school at SPA (10th grade biology). Although I only knew James for a short time, he left a huge imprint on me. He always arrived in class with the biggest smile and an even bigger heart. He was an amazing combination between wonderful friend to his peers and socializer, but a truly dedicated and interested student. He really seemed to enjoy the material we were learning and ask great questions. The thing that struck me the most was that EVERYONE seemed to be friends with James. SPA is a small and close-knit community...as is Carleton (my alma mater as well) and his reach touched all corners of both communities. It's been such a strange week having been a part of both SPA as a teacher and a grad of Carleton. I can only picture all the people on that beloved Northfield campus and in classes that will be forever affected by the events of last Friday. It's still so fresh and hard to imagine that James and his smile are not here anymore on Earth...but I just keep trying to think about who is seeing him smile now and enjoying a good laugh with him. An amazing loss for so many left behind...my thoughts and prayers extend to his friends, family, coaches, teachers, siblings, and both the SPA and Carleton communities. James, you were so very, very loved.

  • 2014-03-08 10:15:21
    Katie Yates

    I am a Carleton graduate as is my husband who is also from the Cities and who played soccer and tennis --- I grew up overseas and ran on the cross country team. We were both Class of '87 and have a son who is 5 years old named Gabriel who Is I think a beautiful soul like you. We grieve your absence deeply and wish to be of any help to your family in the days to come. I admire your compassion and your kindness and will keep you in my heart.

  • 2014-03-08 10:22:29
    Leah Bassoff

    To the family of James Adams, Please know that people far and wide are grieving over the loss of your beautiful son, whose smile shines through in his photos. I graduated from Carleton in '93, and I hope you feel the love and support coming to you from all sides--people who have gone to Carleton, who go to Carleton, and who will go to Carleton. Your son will never be forgotten.