Late former Sidekick adviser leaves legacy in students


photo courtesy of Lancaster ISD

James Rich, a former adviser of The Sidekick newspaper, died of a heart attack on Aug. 20. Rich was often described as hard-working, passionate and inspiring; he helped numerous students realize their love for writing and photojournalism.

Pramika Kadari, Executive News and Enterprise Editor

On Aug. 19, former Sidekick adviser James Rich died of a heart attack, shocking and saddening those who knew him.

Rich led The Sidekick in the early 2000s guiding the paper to numerous accomplishments, including a 2002 National Scholastic Press Association Pacemaker finalist distinguishment and awards from The Dallas Morning News

After leaving Coppell High School, Rich was the newspaper adviser of award-winning Panther Prints at Duncanville High School. For the past two years, Rich served as director of communications at Lancaster ISD.

“Mr. Rich was kind, driven and had a passion for inspiring others,” said former Sidekick sports editor Greg Tepper, who kept in touch with Rich after graduating. “[He had] a passion for giving back and a passion for passing along what he knew about journalism and photography. But more importantly, he had a passion for helping other people find their path in life. That’s what he did with me.”

Before joining Rich’s journalism class, Tepper had no idea what he wanted to pursue as a career. Now, as an accomplished reporter with a wide array of experiences in the field, he works at Fox Sports Southwest and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine.

But Tepper learned a lot more than journalism from Rich.

“I remember the conversations we would have that weren’t about the newspaper – the conversations we would have about sports, the conversations we would just have about life,” Tepper said. “And those were the connections that really drove home my relationship with Mr. Rich. And most recently, I would run into him at football games, and we would just chat on the sidelines like old friends. And those are the things I remember. Those great conversations, that warmth from him.”

To former Sidekick editor-in-chief Parker Hevron, who led the staff in both 2000-01 and 2001-002, the best memories with Rich were the smaller ones – the moments between the hectic, stressful aspects of running a newspaper. 

“Whenever we weren’t on deadline and there wasn’t much going on, somebody found this free computer game we could play online,” Hevron said. “So we used to play it once in a while, like five of us, and Mr. Rich used to yell, ‘Are you guys doing this again? We got work to do, we got stories to write.’ And then later, we hear this noise from Mr. Rich’s office, and he had figured out which game we were playing, had downloaded it on his computer and was playing, and he had just beaten one of us, which I thought was funny.”

Hevron and Tepper were not the only ones who shared countless laughs and thoughtful conversations with Rich. The beloved adviser was known for both. 

“[Rich] cared about kids,” Coppell High School principal Laura Springer said. “He knew that relationship piece that I keep talking about. James lived that relationship piece, kind of like [current Sidekick adviser Chase Wofford] does. He was a joyful guy; he came to work and he enjoyed kids so much. And this world is not a better place without James in it, but he left so many beautiful legacies of love and laughter and hard work that he will be sorely missed by those who knew him.”

Follow Pramika on Twitter @pramika_kadari