Dickinson School of Law mourns the loss of Emeritus Dean John A. Maher

December 07, 2015

John A. Maher, emeritus dean and professor of law at the Dickinson School of Law, died Dec. 3 at the age of 85.

“Professor Maher was a passionate and gifted member of our faculty and an invaluable asset to the Law School,” said Gary S. Gildin, interim dean and professor of law at Dickinson Law. “We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”

Maher joined the Dickinson School of Law faculty in 1973 following a career in private and corporate practice. After faculty nomination, a unanimous endorsement by the Board of Trustees, and enthusiastic support from students and alumni, he served as the law school’s eighth dean from 1989 to 1994 and worked to build an atmosphere at the school where each and every employee understood its mission and his or her importance to it.

During his more than 30 years of teaching at the law school, he co-founded the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Maritime Law Section and pioneered a politico-commercial course with late Professor Peter Kutulakis. He supervised independent studies ranging from banking to trade regulation, and coached many national and regional champion moot court teams. In 1989, The Dickinson School of Law General Alumni Association’s board of directors voted to confer honorary membership and awarded him its Distinguished Service Award.

Maher was very passionate about increasing the law school’s endowment to allow for significant financial assistance to people who had the capacity to be good law students and great lawyers. In 1997, alumni and peers endowed the John A. Maher Scholarship in Maher’s honor to attract applicants having fluency in a modern language in addition to English.

Professor Maher received an honorary LL.D. from the law school in 1998. In October 2000, he became the first to hold the H. Laddie and Linda P. Montague Professorship. Upon his retirement from the law school in 2002, Maher was conferred the title of emeritus dean and professor. He continued to teach corporate law, securities and other trade regulation, and maritime law until 2004.

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and New York University where he earned LL.B. and LL.M. (trade regulation) degrees, Maher once said that he began his “informal” education at the age of 14 when he acquired “working papers.” While living in Brooklyn, New York, he started as a messenger on Wall Street where, many years later, he returned to work for a law firm. He was employed as a marine insurance clerk, a “checker” on the Brooklyn docks, an usher at Ebbets Field (home of the Brooklyn Dodgers) and other venues, collected tickets at Polo Grounds (New York Giants) and Yankee Stadium, and a temporary mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.

Maher spent nearly 23 years as lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, including approximately four years of active duty mostly at sea aboard aircraft carrier Midway from 1951 to 1955.

During his law career, he served as counsel, chairman of the board, senior attorney and associate attorney at several New York City law firms and corporations. Maher also was a food law fellow at the Food Law Institute at New York University Law Center; a fellow of the Society for Advanced Legal Studies, University of London; and securities commissioner for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He served on the board of governors of Witan Hall in Reading, England; on the board of visitors of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago; and on editorial and advisory boards of various publications headquartered in the United Kingdom.

Maher received numerous national and international awards, honors and recognition from the law school and regional chapters of its alumni association, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, law schools, the U.S. Navy, civic organizations and more. He authored various law review articles and book chapters. For one academic year, Maher was adjunct assistant professor at Rutgers University Graduate School of Business Administration.

A memorial mass will be held at noon Thursday, Dec. 10, at Saint Thomas More Catholic Church, Decatur, Georgia, with visitation at 11:30 a.m.  

John is survived by his wife, Joan, five children and seven grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The John A. Maher Scholarship Endowment at Dickinson Law (Contact: Kelly Rimmer, director of Development and Alumni Affairs, at 717-240-5217 or KRimmer@psu.edu) or The John A. & Joan D. Maher Scholarship at Southern Illinois University School of Law (Contact: Thomas C. Britton, director of Development, at 618-453-8980 or thomasb@foundation.siu.edu). 

  • John A. Maher

    John A. Maher, emeritus dean and professor of law, died Dec. 3 at the age of 85

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated December 07, 2015