The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth
Volume 18 • Number 1 • Winter 2001

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Jim Maclear

He had a “monumental
intelligence, possessed
of a quiet (yet often
delightfully wicked) sense of humor”

Teacher, scholar and friend are just a few words that describe Professor James F. Maclear. He began his career at UMD in 1947, after completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Chicago, and retired from full-time teaching in 1993. For many students, especially the most talented, he was the memorable professor of their college career—indeed the very model of what a professor should be.

When Berkeley law Professor Emeritus John “Jack” Coons learned of Maclear’s final illness, he flew from California to Illinois to see his former mentor. Jack’s trip was a real tribute to Maclear’s outstanding teaching and his ability to inspire and encourage students to pursue their dreams.

Another former student, Dr. Susan Nygaard, now an English teacher at the Marshall School in Duluth, knew from the first day of her first course with Maclear that she had found “exactly” what she “was looking for in a history professor: a massive, monumental intelligence, possessed of a quiet (yet often delightfully wicked) sense of humor.” Nygaard carries with her much of what she learned from Maclear, and teaches with the memory of his example. She writes “I am blessed to have had such a model to look up to, for I will never be without a goal to work towards and a sure standard against which to measure my promise.”

Maclear, with his information packed lectures and his wit and humor, sparked the intellectual curiosity of students. In addition to his outstanding performance in the classroom. Maclear served on many important committees and projects and was known for his wisdom and good advice. His teaching and service was recognized (despite his profound reluctance to be a candidate for UMD awards) with the following: Outstanding Faculty Award (1975), the Albert Tezla Scholar-Teacher Award (1988) and the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Service (1993).

Maclear was a distinguished scholar who did research for the sheer joy of discovery. He never made a show of his scholarly accomplishments, but those acquainted with the fields of church and intellectual history realize that his highly original articles appeared in such leading journals as Church History, William and Mary Quarterly, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, the Journal of the History of Ideas, and the New England Quarterly. It must be noted that Maclear’s research on Puritanism was widely respected and that a survey of the historical literature done by Michael McGiffert, a scholar with an international reputation, devoted much attention to Maclear’s significant contributions. In 1995 Oxford University Press published a major reference work that Maclear edited, Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History. At the time of his death, he was completing an ambitious project on British Dissent and The American Churches, 1783-1865. This massive, path-breaking manuscript needs to be completed and made available to the scholarly community. It will add significantly to his already impressive legacy.

Maclear is missed by his many friends and colleagues. Outgoing, with a gift of conversation, he was a wonderful and caring friend. Given his contribution to the intellectual life of the Duluth campus, it is most appropriate to remember and honor this outstanding teacher and scholar with the J.F Maclear Memorial Lecture Series.

by Neil Storch, Professor of History. Storch was Maclear’s longtime colleague and friend.

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