‘McLeod’s Way’ cemented
These words, inscribed on walls surrounding a number of semi-circular benches by the Underpass to the South 40, pay tribute to the late James McLeod. McLeod was the former vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. The walkway and gathering place, marked with some of McLeod’s most cherished quotations, was dedicated in the late dean’s honor at a small event Saturday morning.
But Chancellor Mark Wrighton said the recently finished McLeod’s Way is much more than the location marking it.
“McLeod’s Way is not merely a walkway or a place,” Wrighton said. “It’s McLeod’s way—it’s his way of helping all of us, his way of building this institution, his way, most important, [of] helping to build the potential of the great, talented students that we have at Washington University.”
McLeod passed away last September after serving the Washington University community for nearly four decades—first as an assistant professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and later as one of the school’s top administrators.
His many notable contributions to the University include the John B. Ervin Scholars program, the residential college system and his help in developing the basis for the school’s current general education curriculum.
McLeod also had his fair share of quirks. Shaun C. Koiner, a 2004 graduate of the University, talked about the dean’s abundance of green suits, his consistent “mini-fro” and his habit of curling the edges of his papers as he was speaking.
But most speakers at the official dedication Saturday took the occasion to celebrate McLeod’s devotion to the school. In particular, Wrighton spoke of his leadership, commitment to the community and vision.
James’ wife, Clara McLeod, noted how her husband never stopped caring about the University, even as he continued to struggle with lung cancer for the last two years of his life.
She said that he would be up at night, papers scattered all over the bed, “just checking on a few things.” Near the end of his life, she asked him what he still hoped to do, and he answered, “‘I am doing the things I want. I have been.’” Once his wife casually asked about retirement, to which McLeod responded, “‘I don’t believe in retirement. I want to do all the things I can, in all the ways I can, by all the means I can, to help all the people I can.’”
Professor Wayne Fields also praised McLeod’s continued dedication to the job.
“His life achievement was that wide open smile and the warmest handshakes. He wanted to make our lives better. And especially his love of students. His students were his special place,” Fields said.
Fields added that McLeod was one of the most distinct individuals he has ever met, particularly in his physical presence.
“I don’t think I have ever mistaken anyone for Jim McLeod. Even from a while away, the way he walked, the way he held his head, his pace were all like a man, singular. It was either Jim, or not Jim, never someone like Jim,” Fields said.
Of the many students and Ervin Scholars at the event, sophomore Reuben Riggs lauded the dedication and the atmosphere he experienced at the event.
“I think it’s so appropriate that there is a testament to Dean McLeod’s influence on the South 40 because he was so dedicated to the student experience. He would have loved running into every student every day,” Riggs said. “The ceremony was wonderful. It was impossible not to feel the overwhelming amount of love in the room for Dean McLeod.”
Through McLeod’s Way, Chancellor Wrighton said the University will continue to remember McLeod in both physical and spiritual manifestations.
“Jim McLeod was a person that had enormous insight and enormous creativity, enormous sensitivity,” Wrighton said. “He was a great advisor to me; he was a person that built, in many ways, the dream of Washington University.”
With additional reporting by Michael Tabb.