NMU’s James “Daddy Bear” Rapport remember by friends, family, students and faculty

Delaney Lovett

James “Daddy Bear” Rapport, a fixture in the theater and communication and performance studies department at Northern, died Sunday, Aug. 28 of heart failure.

Rapport was a well-known faculty member, beginning his time at Northern in 1958. He was formerly the head of the CAPS department and theater program, and he was a professor at the university for 40 years, teaching various speech and theater courses.

“He really lived for the students,” said Jim Cantrill, current head of the CAPS department. “That kind of epitomizes what he wanted for Northern, what Northern should aspire to be: that it really is about the students.”

The Forest Roberts Theatre was built under his direction. He designed and conceived the space, so it will serve as a lasting testament to Rapport, Cantrill said.

“Buildings get built and taken down,” Cantrill said. “They crumble. Legacies live on, and he is a legacy here.”
Rapport’s memorial service was on Friday, Sept. 2 at the Forest Roberts Theatre. Family, friends, Northern faculty and current and former students attended.

“The theater was full,” said professor Chuck Ganzert. “It was a wonderful tribute, and it was a very literate tribute. He was really very fond of Shakespeare, so a lot of people brought up quotes from different plays.”
Some of Rapport’s former students kept in touch with him for over 50 years, and made the trip up to Marquette for the service.

“He touched the lives of lots of people, young and old alike,” Cantrill said. “The lasting testament to Jim Rapport is his students and faculty. He was dearly loved.”

The reputation of Rapport is expected to live on in the throughout Northern, Ganzert said. Rapport came to Northern to work specifically with the theater program and helped develop it.

“We’re very proud of our theater program here,” Ganzert said. “There have been a lot of successful people, and Jim really put it on its feet.”

Instead of flowers or other gifts, Rapport’s family is requesting donations for the James L. Rapport Scholarship. The scholarship, established in 1998, gives preference to theater majors.

“He was a brilliant guy in terms of his understanding of theater and the broader world, but a guy who had this big, big heart,” Cantrill said. “He would want everyone to laugh, not to cry.”