Watts Remembered by Friends for Adventurous Spirit
James J. Watts ’10 was always up for an adventure—whether it be climbing mountains or unicycling around Widener Library.
“The man was super excited about life,” said former blockmate Isaac S. Shivvers ’10-’11. “He was always excited to be doing what he was doing.”
Watts—an avid mountaineer, loyal friend, and energetic student—passed away in an avalanche Friday while climbing Mt. Washington. He was 24.
Once president of the Harvard Mountaineering Club, Watts loved sharing his passion for the outdoors with experienced and new climbers alike.
“Jimmy was such a true leader, mentor, and friend to so many of us in the club,” said current HMC president Nick B. Waldo ’13 in an email to The Crimson. “It is hard to imagine what the current HMC would look like without him.”
Watts’ adventurous spirit extended into his everyday life, according to Shivvers. Watts created a bouldering route around his sophomore room and could traverse the suite without ever touching the ground. Friends especially remembered his willingness to take risks on behalf of others.
During his junior year at Harvard, Watts took a semester off to work at a drug rehabilitation clinic in Mexico with patients who could not afford rehabilitative drugs.
“He spent every single waking moment with the guy that was recovering from drug addiction,” said Carson H. Weitnauer, who interacted closely with Watts through the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship. “There was no money for drugs; they could only give love, presence, and prayers.”
Indeed, faith was a central tenet of Watts’ life. He was involved in HRCF for all four years of college.
“He pushed everyone to grow spiritually—to grow personally,” said Weitnauer. “Everyone wanted to become more of a Christian like he was.”
Watts’ faith and his commitment to relationships kept him grounded despite a busy schedule at Harvard.
“If we were going out to get food and take a break somewhere, he would join us whether he was hungry or not,” Shivvers said. “He was always willing to put other people in front of his own workload. I don’t think he ever made an enemy.”
Throughout college, Watts dated his high school sweetheart Cassidy J. Ray, whom he married last spring.
“Anyone who saw him with Cassidy, they knew that there was something tremendously special there,” said former blockmate Sam L. Linden ’10.
Watts was a medical student at Columbia University when he died. As an undergraduate at Harvard, he wrote a thesis in Biochemical Sciences while working in a laboratory during his spare time.
“He was a very eager student,” said biochemistry professor Jack L. Strominger, under whom Watts worked for four years. “Some students come to work in your lab because they think it will help them get into med school. That wasn’t Jimmy. He was really interested in doing research, always pushing to be independent.”
Watts never gave up this excitement for new ideas.
“With him gone, there’s a part of my future that won’t be there anymore,” Shivvers said. “He won’t be a part of these little adventures. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”
—Staff writer John A. Elzinga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.