James “Jim” Peckham, former Emerson athletic director and professional wrestling coach who had an impact on countless Emerson student-athletes, died August 23 at age 81 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
During his 27-year tenure (1967-1994) at the helm of Emerson Athletics, Peckham brought the Lions to a new level of athletic achievement, leading the program to its NCAA Division III program standing.
Known on campus as Coach Peckham, he was also an accomplished athlete in his own right, competing for years in both freestyle and Greco-Roman style wrestling. He competed with the 1956 Olympic Greco-Roman team, was a 14-time New England Champion, and was a U.S. National Champion.
Peckham also coached two Olympic wrestling teams, more than 19 world and Olympic champions, numerous national champions, and served as head wrestling coach at Harvard University. His career culminated in his induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2000.
Emerson Dean of Students Ronald Ludman said he was honored to work with Peckham. “The Coach was a mighty man with a beautiful soul and a very generous heart,” he said. “He always had time for you, no matter your station in life. He cared deeply about people, especially students, and over the years he touched the lives of hundreds of Emersonians in meaningful and substantive ways.”
Peckham was known to tell his student-athletes that he would provide them with the knowledge to win, but that victory must be earned by the student themselves through training, preparation, and dedication.
“Emerson continues learning from the legacy of Jim Peckham,” said Emerson Athletic Director Kristin Parnell. “He serves as an inspiration for us to continue to drive the athletic department to higher levels, while remembering that student success, not only on the field, but also in life, is what’s most important.”
Peckham is survived by his wife Jean Peckham, his daughter, Diana Peckham, and her husband, Barry Sullivan, and his son, Matthew A. Peckham, and his wife Carolyn Charny. He also leaves a sister, Janet E. Stitt, as well as his three nieces and nephews and their families.
Services will be held Saturday (August 27) at 9:30 am at the McDonald Funeral Home, 40 Sea Street, North Weymouth, Massachusetts. Visiting hours will be Friday (August 26) from 2-5 pm and from 7-9 pm.
Donations in memory of Peckham may be made to the Emerson College Athletic Trust Fund, Institutional Advancement, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116-4624, Attn: Diana Chevignard, or to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.