Obituary: James Alexander McMillan (Jim)

Posted at 1:12 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 15:12:31-05

Jim McMillan of Bozeman, MT, died of cancer on September 28, 2020, at the age of 78.

He led a varied life; student, cowboy, professor, musician, avid golfer, and a pretty good wing shot on California quail.

Born to Eben and Gladys (Smith) McMillan, Jim grew up with his two brothers on the family ranch near Shandon, CA. He began his education at the one-room Choice Valley School and later graduated from Shandon High School, travel to which required the luxury of a bus, caught only after a three-quarter mile walk on farm roads to the nearest public road.

Jim continued his education at the University of California, Davis, earning a PhD in Physiology in 1972 under the supervision of Dr. Irving Wagman. After postdoctoral study at the University of Washington School of Medicine, he joined Montana State University in 1973 as a faculty member in the Department of Biology and the new WAMI Medical Education Program. As a dedicated and enthusiastic educator and scholar, he taught medical physiology and conducted re-search in experimental neurophysiology before becoming Associate Dean of the College of Letters & Science in 1991 and Dean in 1995. Returning to teaching in 2003, he retired in 2005 as Professor Emeritus of Cell Biology and Neuroscience.

Alongside his academic career, Jim also became a musician of note. He was an accomplished and much sought after, backup guitarist for fiddle competition contestants and competed in fiddle himself. He often said that the older he got, the more ribbons he won. He also played and recorded, lead and rhythm guitar for a local band, The SaddleBags with Mardeen and Alice Hanks.

He spent his retirement playing music and took up golf, becoming a fanatic. It kept him walking and healthy. A month before his passing, he told his brother that, despite his many infirmities, it was having to give up golf that was the worst.

Jim is survived by his daughter, Catherine McMillan of Bozeman; former wife, Marilyn McMillan of Gloucestershire, England; brother, Greg (Linda) McMillan of Shandon, CA; and five nieces and nephews scattered across the U.S.

Services will be arranged and announced at a later date.

A Music Scholarship Fund has been created in Jim’s memory. Donations may be sent to MSOTF Dist. 3, c/o B. Pearson, 27 W Canyon Rd, Ennis, MT 59729.

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service.