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James Rathburn McIntosh

June 17, 1936 ~ November 11, 2020 (age 84)



James Rathburn McIntosh, 84, of Bethlehem passed away peacefully on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 in his home surrounded by his loving family. He was survived by his wife Sarah Phelan McIntosh (Sally). They celebrated 60 years of marriage on September 3, 2020. Born in Springfield, Massachusetts on June 17, 1936, he was the son of the late Merwin Keller McIntosh and Margaret Royce McIntosh and brother Frank E. McIntosh. 


Dr. Jim McIntosh received his undergraduate degree from Colby College, 1960, his masters from The New School for Social Research, 1963, and his PhD in Sociology from Syracuse University, 1970. He was a Professor of Sociology at Lehigh University for 50 years until retiring in 2016. Jim’s academic expertise was in the field of alcohol and drug use particularly among college students; one of Jim’s beloved courses “Alcohol, Science and Society” was born out of his research. In addition to being a member of the American Sociological Association, he was a scholarly editor and contributor of articles and reviews in his field throughout his tenure. In 1974 his book "Perspectives on Marginality" was published; at the time of his death, Jim was working to complete a monograph "Society, Science and Alcohol" as an overview of his career research, knowledge and teaching on the subject.


Jim spent his sabbaticals researching drinking habits at Kent University, Canterbury in 1990 and Goodenough College, London in 2004 and 2015. He served as Chair of the Department of Social Relations (later Department of Sociology and Anthropology) for 14 years. Jim received the prestigious Hillman Faculty Award in 1994, rewarded for excellence in teaching or research work, or for advancing the interests of the University. He was granted the Outstanding Faculty Award for the 1989-90 year as well.


Jim also served as the Mace Bearer for Lehigh’s graduations and formal functions from 1996 to 2018. In addition, he was Lehigh University’s Faculty Athletic Representative to the NCAA from 2003 to 2016. Upon his retirement, he was honored to receive the Asa Packer Walking Stick given in gratitude for his service to Lehigh University. Jim had a great passion for mentoring students and faculty alike and a demonstrative respect for student athletes. He loved being a professor and was enthusiastically active in campus life. Jim was also a mainstay and regular presence at Taylor and Goodman Stadium football games, Grace Hall wrestling matches or men and women’s basketball games at Stabler Arena.


Jim was a lifelong advocate for social justice and a dedicated civil servant. In 1965, Jim marched in Selma, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement and participated in public protests for equality in Syracuse, New York during the same period. Throughout his 50 years of living in eastern Pennsylvania, he worked and served his community in a variety of capacities. In the late 1970s and 80s he volunteered and co-chaired Pennsylvania's State Senator Jeanette Reibman's reelection campaign in the 18th District. From the 1980s through the 2010s, Jim also served and chaired Northampton County Drug and Alcohol Commission and Family Counseling Service; sat on the Advisory Board of Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Unit of Northampton County; and also the Northampton County Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board. 


Survivors: In addition to his wife Sarah P. McIntosh, Bethlehem; son James G. McIntosh of Philadelphia; daughter Susan G. McIntosh of Newton, MA; son Andrew R. McIntosh and daughter-in-law Ellyn Siftar of Bethlehem; and grandchildren Anna Siftar of Tivoli, NY, Philip McIntosh, Margaret Siftar and Katherine McIntosh of Bethlehem. 


Services: A Memorial Service will be announced at a future date at Packer Memorial Chapel at Lehigh University. James’s arrangements have been entrusted to the Cantelmi Long Funeral Home, Bethlehem. A memory tribute may be placed at 


Contributions: In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to "Athletics Partnership Annual Fund" in honor/memory of Dr. Jim McIntosh, c/o Lehigh Athletics, 641 Taylor Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015.


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A Memorial Service will be announced at a later date.

Packer Memorial Chapel at Lehigh University
18 University Drive
Bethlehem, PA 18015

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