James E. McLeod entered Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA) at 16 and graduated in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in German and chemistry. He then spent two years at the University of Vienna focusing on German studies. As a National Defense Education Act Fellow and Woodrow Wilson Fellow, he continued graduate work on turn-of-the-century Vienna and post-war Germany at Rice University (Houston, TX).
McLeod served in academia in a number of capacities over the next thirty-seven years. In 1971, he began his career as an assistant professor of German at Indiana University (Bloomington, IN). He joined the Washington University faculty in 1974 as an assistant professor of German in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Assistant Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He was Assistant to Chancellor William H. Danforth from 1977-1987; and director of the African and Afro-American Studies Program (now known as African and African-American Studies Program) from 1987 until 1992. In 1992, he was appointed Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and in 1995, Vice Chancellor for Students.
Recognized as one of the university’s most effective leaders, Dean McLeod spearheaded many successful undergraduate efforts including developing a residential college approach to dormitory living; strengthening the undergraduate advising system; constructing new small-group housing; advising the new undergraduate curriculum effort in Arts and Sciences; enriching the mix of seminar experiences for freshmen; establishing and building the John B. Ervin Scholars Program; and helping initiate and shape the expanded study-abroad program. Dean McLeod also championed the university’s acquisition of the Henry E. Hampton (AB1961) Film Archive. His personal goal was to have every student at Washington University known by name and story.
Dean McLeod has been recognized for his contributions not only to Washington University, but also to the Saint Louis community. In 1991, he received the Distinguished Faculty Award at Washington University Founders Day. In 2007, he and Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth received the Rosa L. Parks Award for Meritorious Service to the Community. In 2008, he received the Saint Louis American Foundation’s 2008 Lifetime Achiever award at the 2008 Salute to Excellence in Education. In 2010, Dean McLeod was the recipient of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society’s prestigious Search Award. He also received the 2011 CoroLeadership Award.