Jim Lyttle

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William van Druten (affectionately known as "Dr. Bill") is a psychiatrist who was born in San Francisco and raised as an atheist. After stints with the Air Force and the California State Prison for the Mentally Ill he came to Duluth, MN. For 31 years, he worked at the Duluth Clinic and often treated people recovering from various forms of abuse by the church and/or its leaders. In 1997/1998, the Catholic Church took over the clinic and asked him to sign a statement that he would treat all his clients according to the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith. Instead, he founded Lake Superior Freethinkers: a registered Minnesota 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. It is a friendship and educational group for non-theists that has sued to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the City Hall, warned against the establishment by the Salvation Army of a KROC Community Center, and helped block the take-over of Duluth's only other hosptital by the Catholic Church. I currently serve as its Secretary.


Want to make the world a little better each day? RAKtivists like me perform tiny acts of unearned kindness. We might think of RAKtivists as kindness ambassadors who, like all ambassadors, are part of an active global community. You can join too by clicking or tapping the above title and learning how to leave a trail of warm fuzzy feelings in your wake.


In the Spring of 1994, I began teaching at the post-secondary level. In the fall of 2001, I came to America with my newly minted Ph.D. in Organization Studies to teach at Long Island University, than at Penn State, and finally at the University of Minnesota before retiring in 2016. These pages provide comprehensive details of my educational preparation and experience.

Humor Studies

Founded in 1975, the American Humor Studies Association promotes scholarship on all aspects and periods of American humor through conferences, publications, awards, and the general support of a community of dedicated scholars of American humor.  I am a Life Member.

Spiritual Humanism

Carl Sagan wrote, A religion old or new that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge (Pale Blue Dot, 1994, p. 77). When America was attacked by religious zealots on September 11, 2001, Richard Alfred "Rick" Zorger of Wyncote, Pennsylvania (head usher at the Philadelphia Ethical Culture Society and systems administrator for the University of Pennsylvania) established the Church of Spiritual Humanism. Not much has come of it besides "ordaining" tens of thousands of people who can perform weddings and similar rituals in some states. But I still believe in the idea that, while there are no gods or ghosts or demons, there is something beyond strict materialism . . . in the relationships between lovers, for example, or in team spirit.


Founded on October 1, 1946 at Lincoln College, Oxford by English scientist and lawyer Dr. Lance(lot Lionel) Ware (1915 -2000) with Australian barrister Roland (Fabien) Berrill (1897-1962), Mensa is the international high IQ society, providing a forum for intellectual and social exchange among its members. Activities include the exchange of ideas through lectures, discussions, journals, and special-interest groups as well as local, regional, national, and international gatherings (conferences). I am a Life Member of Mensa and currently serve as the Area Coordinator for Northeastern Minnesota.


In order to build communities of public discourse and civility, the Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA) was incorporated in 1983. With members from within and beyond the academy, it brings the skills and techniques of philosophy to the public and the concerns of the public to philosophers. I have a degree in Philosophy from Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, Canada) and am a proud member.


I created and maintain the websites for the Lake Superior Freethinkers and the Clan Little Society. I also maintain their Facebook pages, along with my own. This is only a hobby for me, but it keeps me busy and out of trouble.


I have spoken to many groups and gatherings, often about how to nurture critical thinking with the Harvard Case Method of teaching or about the effective and responsible use of humor for persuasion.

Menden Hill

Our family home, built in 1994, is named in honor of Luther Mendenhall. Born to a Quaker family in Pennsylvania, he served as a quartermaster in the Union Army and then, as a lawyer in the late 1860s, came to Duluth to help with Jay Cooke’s Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad, set up banking houses and hotels, and oversee other Cooke investments. He personally invested in Duluth’s first blast furnace, First Methodist Church, Duluth National Bank, Duluth Street Railway Company, Incorporated Duluth Dry Goods, and the Duluth Shoe Company. When the city lost its charter in 1877, he stepped up as Treasurer to save the day. He was the first president of the Duluth Library Association and the only president of the Duluth Board of Park Commissioners, but he is rarely acknowledged today because of a scandalous divorce in late 1890s.


Heather Victoria Lyttle was born in 2009 and is now firmly at the center of my life. A native speaker of both English and Mandarin, she participates in robotics competitions and Mensa gatherings. She is going into the fourth grade at the Duluth Edison Charter School and is currently raising a kitten named Doug. Clicking on the title above will reveal (far too many) pictures of her at various stages.

Lord, surround me with those
who seek the truth, and deliver
me from those who've found it.

Border Clan

James Crawford Little of Dumfries, Scotland (affectionally referred to as "Dr. Johnnie") was a psychiatrist who, in retirement, conducted extensive research on the history of the surname Little. He prepared and delivered an address to the Scottish Genealogical Society and, in 1988, a transcript was published in its journal The Scottish Genealogist. Sally Little, the wife of accountant Augustine Patterson Little III, noticed the article and encouraged Pat to contact Dr. Johnnie to see about establishing a historical society. On St. Andrew's Day (November 30) of 1991, Dr. Johnnie formed the Clan Little Society He also designed and registered its "Little of Morton Rigg" tartan. Today, I am the Secretary-Treasurer of the latest iteration of that group, Clan Little Society, Inc., which is a State of Georgia 501(c)(7) nonprofit corporation.

Charter Commission

Duluth is one of 107 cities (out of the 853 cities in Minnesota) that operate under a voter-approved home rule charter. This allows local control as the city can change its 'constitution' without lobbying for, and waiting for, the state of Minnesota to change its rules. Duluth is one of only three cities to use the "Strong Mayor-Council" form of governance. The Duluth Charter Commission acts on matters relating to framing and amending that 1878 Charter. It meets at City Hall on the second Wednesday of every third month and whenever needed to address a specific issue. I am one of 15 appointed commissioners.


I have conducted some research into the effective and responsible use of humor for persuasion: such as in teaching, counseling, advertising, or politics. Some of that work has been published in journals and some has been presented at academic conferences. Also, my work continues to be cited occasionally by scholars as they do their own investigations and experiments.


Here is a record of our family history. Most of the genealogical material has been compiled by my uncle Ross Orville Lyttle of Burnaby, British Columbia. Photographs and certificates of marriage or birth have been supplemented with recent DNA analyses. Our DNA turns out to have anomalies that correlate with those found among people in the Borders Region of Scotland (at Ewesdale in the eastern part of Dumfriesshire). This adds some support to the idea that my ancestors might have been the Littles of Meikledale, who held territory in that area since before 1426.


In my youth, I was known as Bruce Lyttle; Jim Lyttle was my dad's name.  I played in travelling showbands, arranging the music and vocals, and even working a little comedy into the act.  When I settled down geographically, I designed and operated lighting for dozens of theatrical productions in Toronto.  Some of those long-gone experiences are documented here.


© 2019, Jim Lyttle