BETHANY, W.Va. – A Bethany College tradition came to a close during the college’s virtual Homecoming celebration, raising $6,850 in memory of an alumnus and popular professor.

Allison’s Run, a noncompetitive four-mile run/walk, memorialized James “Doc” Allison, a longtime mathematics professor at Bethany and former chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department. Allison died of a cardiovascular ailment in 2000 at age 59.

Even as COVID-19 safety precautions led Bethany to limit visitors on campus and shift Homecoming to a virtual experience, it remained important to continue Allison’s Run.

Traditionally, the four-mile course followed Allison’s favored running route on Castleman Run Road along the banks of Buffalo Creek. This year, however, the college encouraged alumni to honor Allison’s memory by choosing a running route closer to home and donating to the fund. Those who donated will received a commemorative 20th anniversary T-shirt designed by Kenn Morgan, Jennie Steindorf Renner Chair of Fine Arts and professor of fine arts.

Allison’s daughter, Kim Allison Douglass credited the creation of the run to former Bethany College staff member Lisa Wenner Songer and the continued support of Morgan.

“Since his passing, our entire family has been in awe of how much he meant to so many people,” said Allison’s daughter, Kim Allison Douglass. “Rain or shine, the run has been a part of Bethany College’s Homecoming, bringing people together to remember all that my father gave to not only Bethany College but the entire community.”

Bethany College has achievement awards for both faculty and students named in Allison’s honor. Proceeds from the run have funded numerous scholarships over the years.

“Jim was just the sort of person who was so welcoming,” Morgan said. “And he remembered me as a student, and that was good because I never took math classes. But he knew my name from the beginning.”

Last year, those closely involved decided to bring Allison’s Run to a close after its 20th anniversary. At the time, no one could have predicted what Fall 2020 would bring.

The goal, Morgan said, was to make sure that the event went out on a high note.

Allison graduated from Bethany in 1962 with a degree in mathematics. He then received a master’s degree from West Virginia University in 1964 and returned to Bethany as a member of the faculty that same year. The college recognized Allison as its Professor of the Year in 1976, 1987, and 1994-1995.

“I think it is more than just a coincidence that guy who did not have a doctorate was called ‘Doc’ by practically everybody,” said John Hull, professor of psychology and frequent running companion to Allison. “He was such a gentle person, such a caring person, that the honorific applied to him probably more than it did to any one of us.”

Adam Fletcher ’02, a professor of mathematics, said Allison was one of the reasons he attended Bethany. He recalled meeting Allison, wearing his signature three-piece suit, during Scholarship Day. Allison greeted Fletcher, then a high school senior, by name and promised they would sit down and talk.

As Fletcher recalls, the two crossed paths multiple times during that day but were never able to connect. At the end of the day, Fletcher said Allison apologized and said they would chat over a cup of coffee when Fletcher returned as a student in the fall.

Thankfully, Fletcher said, they would share several cups of coffee and plenty of those talks.

“The big thing about Bethany Doc was the epitome of, that someone was the most important person there, that we get to call someone out and say, ‘You are who you are, and we need you here. We need to have that talk.’ Bethany is a home, a family,” Fletcher said.

Allison also taught part-time at Ohio University and at Wheeling Jesuit University and was an elder and pillar at Bethany Memorial Church.

“He was one of the people that so many of us looked to when we had questions, when we had doubts,” Hull said. “He was a rock. He also was an extremely good friend.”

Allison’s death was devastating, Morgan said.

“He was young, healthy, and happy, and he had just run the night before,” Morgan said. “There was no diagnosis … I think that experience taught us how fragile life is, that we can be here today and gone today. I think it changed us, not just me.”


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.