James McLeod
James McLeod

James Earl McLeod was born in Dothan, Alabama on July 29, 1944 and was the second of five children of James Clarence (JC) and H. Earline Jackson McLeod.McLeod was educated at Carver High School in the Dothan City School System and entered Morehouse College at age 16.

While at Morehouse, he soared academically and for two years was able to study abroad in Vienna, Austria with the Institute of European Studies at the University of Vienna. During that time, and shortly after graduating from Morehouse in 1966 with a degree in German and chemistry, he took German studies and did his graduate work as a National Defense Education Act Fellow and Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Rice University, Houston, Texas.


In Habits of Achievement: Lessons for a Life Well-Lived, Wayne Fields, PhD, a close friend of McLeod wrote: “Remember that James Earl McLeod was born into an apartheid America, born at a time when efforts to dehumanize on the basis of skin color were everywhere visible. No opportunity for diminishment was too small, whether the issue was a drinking fountain or a public toilet; no person, no matter how young, was too innocent to brutalize…” James and his family, as well as others – both Black and white – were aware of the injustices and racism faced in education and otherwise. Though he did not speak of it often, as a student at Morehouse, James participated in sit-ins and marches as he played his small part in struggling for equality for all.

James McLeod

Newspaper clippings from James McLeod’s hometown paper, The Dothan Eagle, early 1960’s.

McLeod was soft-spoken and infrequently raised his voice. He concentrated on individuals, and he sought to know people well. After leaving Rice University, he began his teaching career as assistant professor of German at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. He was considered extraordinary in that he was an African-American who had studied German, lived for a time as the local Austrians, and came to Indiana to teach in his “adopted” language.  
James McLeod

In 1974, McLeod joined the faculty of Washington University St. Louis as an assistant professor of German and Assistant Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Three years later, he became the assistant to Dr. William H. Danforth, Washington University’s 13th chancellor.

During his tenure at Washington University St. Louis, McLeod focused on the tasks at hand and he never lost sight of the students. “When people speak about the late James E. “Jim” McLeod, they call him ‘humble,’ “caring,’ ‘warm,’ ‘humane,’ ‘a good listener,’ ‘a moral compass’ and a ‘genius.’ They knew him as a mentor, colleague, teacher, husband, father, trusted adviser and friend. Many Washington University students whose lives he touched – and often changed – during his 37-year career at the university have said, ‘I hope that I can grow up to be more like him.”

James McLeod

In 2009 Washington University established a scholarship program to honor then-Dean James E. McLeod for his more than 30 years of service to students. Above left, he met with the first cohort of McLeod Scholars: (from left) Ana Solorio, (also a Rodriquez Scholar), Michele Hall (also an Ervin Scholar) and Dylan Simonsen (also a Danforth Scholar).  Photo:  Mary Butkus

Among his most noteworthy awards was the McLeod Scholars Program at Washington University, established in McLeod’s honor in 2010. McLeod inspired nearly 800 gifts to endow the James E. McLeod Scholarship. In addition, the class of 2010 donated all funds raised through the senior class gift drive to the McLeod Scholars Program. The first class of McLeod Scholars entered Washington University in 2010 and graduated in 2014.


A commemorative plaque decorates “McLeod’s Way” an area dedicated to the late dean on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis.

Habits of Achievement

Copies of the book Habits of Achievement: Lessons for a Life Well-Lived can be purchased by calling the Washington University in St. Louis Bookstore at (314) 935-5500.  A portion of the purchase price will be donated to the McLeod Scholarship fund.

In 2009, James was diagnosed with cancer. After treatment, he continued his work at Washington University and hardly deviated from his schedule. Though his illness returned, he even greeted the incoming class of 2011 and their parents. He died on September 6, 2011.

As a result of the annual orientation speeches James McLeod delivered to the Ervin Scholars students, a “little” book was compiled by students who attended the speeches and kept notes. Habits of Achievement: Lessons for a Life Well-Lived is about James’ life and his approach to living life well.



Record (WU Paper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2011/09/james-e-mcleod-67/

JEM Honors & Award:   https://mcleodawards.wustl.edu/james-e-mcleod/ 

Ervin Program (JEM founding director):   https://scholarsnetwork.wustl.edu/page/McLeod

St. Louis Post Dispatch (local newspaper):   https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/obituaries/james-mcleod-dies-praised-for-his-gentle-courage-at-wash-u/article_179270f6-5882-5631-9612-57b279c12f84.html

National Public Radio:   https://news.stlpublicradio.org/education/2011-09-07/james-earl-mcleod-obituary-revered-washington-university-dean

St. Louis American:   http://www.stlamerican.com/news/local_news/jim-mcleod-pioneering-washington-university-dean-passes-at-67/article_99096b4c-d9ad-11e0-b287-001cc4c03286.html

WU Student Newspaper:   https://www.studlife.com/news/campus-events/2012/09/06/wash-u-to-honor-the-late-james-mcleod-one-year-after-his-passing/

St. Louis American:   http://www.stlamerican.com/news/local_news/dr-james-mcleod-named-2008-salute-to-excellence-in-education-lifetime-achiever/article_fdcbf818-36d7-5cf4-8c72-a65f61193cd2.html

St. Louis American:   http://www.stlamerican.com/news/local_news/jim-mcleod-honored-with-namesake-place/article_5649ddc2-f7d0-11e1-82c1-001a4bcf887a.html

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2016/09/mcleod-writing-prize-winners-named/

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2012/12/special-place-honors-jim-mcleods-special-way/

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2012/09/massey-to-deliver-the-inaugural-james-e-mcleod-memorial-lecture-in-higher-education/

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2011/09/a-letter-from-the-chancellor-on-the-death-of-dean-james-e-mcleod/

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2012/02/a-guiding-hand/

Record (WU newspaper):  https://source.wustl.edu/2011/06/mcleod-scholar-aims-to-contribute-to-society/

Record (WU newspaper):  https://source.wustl.edu/2007/09/mcleod-named-an-influential-minority-business-leader/

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2010/05/eliot-society-search-award-given-to-mcleod/

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2011/09/jazz-at-holmes-series-to-honor-mcleod/

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2012/10/ervin-scholars-25-years-of-excellence/

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2013/05/chancellor-wrightons-message-to-the-graduates/

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2013/07/habits-of-achievement-book-is-tribute-to-mcleod-and-hiswords-of-wisdom/

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2019/04/a-chat-with-the-chancellor/

Record (WU newspaper):   https://source.wustl.edu/2013/09/mcleod-memorial-lecture-features-ruth-simmons-on-the-power-of-the-liberal-arts-in-higher-education/

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