by Stephanie Bailey
Sporting a vibrant neon-yellow sweater, purple shorts, and sandals without socks on a cold February morning, Jim Hollingsworth walks around the class and greets his math students at Whatcom Community College with a packet on the day’s lesson.
Clothes with bright colors like these are hard to find for men, so Hollingsworth has been known to buy white shorts and dye them assorted colors. His zany appearance has become the well known norm around campus. “Now people get upset if I don’t wear bright colors,” Hollingsworth said.
“Usually I dress up in drag for Halloween,” he said. Not only did he wear this get-up to school, he wore it to his doctor’s office. “Everyone who came in the place wouldn’t sit near me”.
At age 74, Hollingsworth is not spending his “golden years” watching TV or lying around the house. He is instead working as a math teacher at Whatcom. “This is my retirement job,” he said. “As long as I like working, I will.”
The decision to become a teacher “actually came from an ad in a paper,” Hollingsworth said. His wife suggested that he apply for the position, which he did. A few weeks later he had an interview and was then hired.
He started as a support associate at Whatcom, and over the past 15 years he has also taught English 94 and 95, where students learned simple sentence structure.
Hollingsworth has also taught workforce classes at Whatcom. These are only six to seven weeks long and people are sent in by their employers to learn basic English and math skills. Of the various classes he has taught, he prefers math, especially Math 94. “It allows me to teach students the basics,” he said, “the building blocks of basic math.”
He also works with the international students, doing such things as driving the van when they take trips. In the mid 1960s Hollingsworth was vice-president of the international club at Western Washington University.
Before his career in teaching, Hollingsworth held a variety of positions. During 20 years in the seafood industry, Hollingsworth worked his way to the position of Corporate Safety Manager where he learned to teach people how to drive “everything except aircraft.” Working in areas like this was interesting because everything was done in confined spaces. Hollingsworth said, “If you have claustrophobia you will never do the job.”
Hollingsworth’s experience goes far beyond basic math and seafood though; he has worked on a farm, with race car mechanics, been a welder and machinist, worked on an oil expiration crew, and done survey work for government agencies.
He also imported British cars for seven years. “A race car is different than a regular car, meaning how strong things have to be to work,” said Hollingsworth, who drove a TR38 sports car for a few years.
For seven years Hollingsworth was also a safety consultant for attorneys and insurance companies. It was a “great job, but disliked commuting to Seattle for seven years,” he said.
For his major in undergraduate school he was a graduate assistant and taught geography. “I would go to school till 11 a.m., then work till 8 or 9 and go back to school at night,” he said.
At age 22, Hollingsworth was drafted for the U.S. Army at the end of the Vietnam War. He spent 18 months in Hawaii as an operation and personnel clerk where he did morning reports, kept track of orders, filed and typed. It was a “no brainer, just following what’s in the book,” he said.
Hollingsworth and his wife spend their time on trips to kayak, snowshoe, or hike. They have traveled to many places including Peru, Tasmania, and have taken a 15-day trip to the Grand Canyon. They also enjoy white water rafting and kayaking. “I have gone on a lot of trips,” he said, including most of the rivers in both Washington and Idaho.
Over the period of a couple years, Hollingsworth went skydiving over many areas including over water and a night dive.
Reflecting on his life, “One highlight is my wife,” he said. “I’m very fortunate; I have a wonderful, wonderful wife,” Hollingsworth said. He and his wife, Karen, have been married for 16 years as of this past Valentine’s Day.