Since 1984, James has been involved almost exclusively in the field of alumni relations. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from California State University, he earned a master’s degree in college student personnel and completed an internship at Central Connecticut State University in 1973. His early career focused in student affairs before transitioning to alumni relations in 1984 at California State University. James moved to the University of California, Irvine, in 1986 where he opened the Phineas Banning Alumni House and oversaw the operation of the UCI Alumni Association. After 13 years with UCI, James became assistant vice president of Alumni Relations and Protocol at the UC Office of the President. There, he facilitated systemwide alumni programs, working with 10 campus alumni associations representing more than 1.5 million alumni. He also developed the first-ever systemwide strategic plan for alumni relations and also established a number of international alumni chapters for the University of California. In 2009, James joined Vanderbilt University as the associate vice chancellor of Alumni Relations.
James currently serves on the board of directors for the Strauss Foundation, the California State University Alumni Association and Nashville CARES.