Law School's MacRae named professor emeritus with 28 years of service

November 29, 2011

After 28 years at Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, Leslie M. MacRae became professor emeritus of law earlier this year. MacRae, who began his career at the Law School in 1983 and was named professor of law in 1989, influenced generations of lawyers with his passion for the law and sense of humor. During the course of his tenure, MacRae has taught administrative law, agricultural law, animal law, environmental law, land-use law, natural resources law, property law, trusts and estates, and Native American law -- a course he developed and introduced to the law school’s curriculum.

For MacRae, the best part of teaching was being in the classroom. Well-known for his theatrical and creative teaching style, MacRae was known to sing “This Magic Moment” during Trusts and Estates to help students remember the meaning of undue influence. He sometimes asked students to draft wills and promised that he would use the best one as his own -- and then invited a notary in to class to seal the deal.

To students, he was a mentor, an adviser, a friend and a source of encouragement.

“Professor MacRae always went the extra mile to help out his students. After graduation, my first assignment at a law firm involved a tricky trust/estate issue. I contacted Professor MacRae and he pointed me in the right direction. He truly loved teaching law and was always willing to assist whenever he was given the opportunity,” said Christie Hayes, associate of Baker Donelson in Johnson City, Tenn.

"Professor MacRae had a hilarious cowboy quality that we all loved and made his classes unforgettable,” said Phyllis Marquitz, assistant regional director, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “He cared for students as whole people in the context of their lives and always took time to have real conversations about the world.”

An inspiration to James R. Montgomery, a nontraditional student who enrolled in law school at the age of 60, MacRae and Montgomery endowed an award that financially supports and honors outstanding nontraditional students. “I enjoyed my classes with Professor MacRae,” said Montgomery. “In addition to opening my eyes to the opportunities of estate planning, he gave me encouragement as I slogged through law school.”

From 2003 to 2005, MacRae served as director of the Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center, providing outreach education across the Commonwealth about farmland preservation, nutrient management, and the Right to Farm Act. In his capacity as director of the center, he served on the Maurice K. Goddard Chair Advisory Committee and as a mentor to numerous students. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, MacRae served for many years as faculty adviser to the Environmental Law Society, Environmental Law Moot Court Team, the Dickinson Journal of Environmental Law, and the Environmental Law Society.

MacRae earned his juris doctor degree from Baylor in 1973, a master of laws degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 1977, and a master of laws degree from Temple University Beasley School of Law in 1983. He began his legal career in private practice in his hometown of Waco, Texas, and then served as Assistant Attorney General of the Marine Resources Division in Maine and the Natural Resources Division in Texas, where he was hired to specifically to handle issues related to the IXTOC oil spill.

MacRae earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Virginia in 1971, but his love for the past didn’t end with his studies at UVA. After the late Joseph B. Kelly, a fellow professor at the Law School, introduced Les and his wife Linda to “camping” on lands where battles of the Civil War had been fought, the MacRaes took to the battlefields as Civil War reenactors for nearly a decade. The highlight of MacRae’s Civil War “career” took place in 1993 with an appearance in the movie "Gettysburg."

  • Professor Les MacRae before going into 'battle' at Hagerstown, Md. MacRae became professor emeritus earlier this year, after 28 years at the Dickinson School of Law.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated July 22, 2015