James C. Duffus, a member and past chairman of RIT’s Institute of Fellows and the husband of Trustee Emeritus Ada Frances “Dancy” Duffy, died Saturday, June 28. He was 87.
Mr. Duffus had a long and illustrious career as an international insurance broker, including 40 years with Sedgwick James Inc. Prior to that, he had another unique career — that of a baseball player. A native of Rochester and a graduate of the former West High School in Rochester, he went to Yale University, where he was the starting pitcher in the inaugural and second NCAA Collegiate World Series. His teammate was classmate George Herbert Walker Bush, a friendship Mr. Duffus chronicled in a 2008 book Thank You Baseball.
After returning from serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Mr. Duffus signed with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball franchise, working his way up to the AAA Allentown Cardinals after stints with the Durham Bulls and Rochester Red Wings.
After he and his wife married, the young couple moved to Rochester where Mr. Duffus joined his father’s insurance brokerage firm. His return to Rochester also marked the beginning of a long career of community service. He was appointed to the board of the former Rochester Savings Bank, and later wrote a book on the history of that institution – The Old Bank – published by RIT Press in 2010. It was one of four books he wrote or co-wrote.
Mr. Duffus also served as chairman of the board of the YMCA of Greater Rochester in the 1970, maintaining a strong relationship with that agency for the rest of his life. He joined RIT’s Institute of Fellows in 1989, and later served a stint as chairman.
“He had an enormous admiration for RIT and an appreciation for its mission and its success, which was the reason he was active in the institute,” said Fred W. Smith, retired assistant to the university president and secretary of the Institute. “He was a great ambassador for RIT and spoke enthusiastically and positively about the university in all his connections and interactions with the community.”
Barry Culhane, current executive assistant to the president of RIT, said Mr. Duffus “epitomized the generosity and spirit of Rochester.”
“He served his country, ran a successful business and he and Dancy raised a beautiful family,” Culhane said. “They shared their success and service with RIT and so many community organizations. Jim was an outstanding member of the RIT Institute of Fellows and we will miss his warm and congenial presence.”
The couple shared a commitment to community service. In addition to her long service as a trustee, Dancy Duffus was a strong advocate for staff at RIT, and in 2006, the Dancy Duffus Outstanding Citizenship Award was named in her honor.
The award recognizes a staff member who consistently demonstrates a high degree of excellence, professionalism and integrity in the performance of his/her duties and who has proven willingness to help other members of the RIT community.
“The staff of RIT extends our deepest sympathies to Mrs. Duffus and her children on the loss of their husband and father,” said Lauren Shields, chair of RIT’s Staff Council, which presents the annual award.
In addition to his wife of 65 years, Mr. Duffus is survived by two daughters, a son and eight grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 8, at Christ Episcopal Church, 36 S. Main St., Pittsford. Gifts may be made in his memory to YMCA of Greater Rochester, 444 Main St., Rochester, 14604.