​‘Habits of Achievement’ book is tribute to McLeod and his words of wisdom​

The Washington University community lost a beloved member when James E. “Jim” McLeod died in 2011. McLeod was vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, however, he might best be remembered as a dispenser of wisdom.

Every year, McLeod delivered a talk called “Habits of Achievement” to incoming Ervin Scholars in his role as director of the Ervin Scholars Program. This speech, fondly remembered by alumni of the Ervin program, had never been printed or even written down. Until now.

In preparation for the 25th anniversary of the Ervin Scholars Program in September 2012, several Ervin alumni decided they would like to have the “Habits of Achievement” published. And so began the process that resulted in Habits of Achievement: Lessons for a Life Well-Lived, a book that weaves Ervin alumni recollections of McLeod with his speech. It also includes a short biography of McLeod’s life.

“The book was an 18-month labor of love,” said Ervin alumna Trina (Williams) Shanks, Class of ’92, MSW ’00, PhD ’03.

Shanks used a recording of McLeod’s talk and notes taken by current Ervin Scholars and Ervin alumni to write the “Habits of Achievement” section of the book, which includes quotes from alumni about how much the “Habits” meant to them. These quotes were gathered from the Ervin Facebook page, the Ervin website and from condolences sent after McLeod died. The biography section was written by the book’s editor, Mary Ellen Benson, former assistant vice chancellor for public affairs.

After the Chancellor’s Office agreed to fund the project, the book was readied for the printer, which included getting permissions for all the quotes and perfecting the layout.

“This later effort to perfect final details was less taxing for me but took lots of work by the editor, Mary Ellen Benson, and the designer, Marcy Mamroth,” said Shanks, associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan.

“The ‘Habits of Achievement’ project meant a lot to me because I have seen how Dean McLeod touched so many lives over the years, and I wanted to generate something that would attempt to commemorate all that he has done for individuals through his various roles at Washington University,” Shanks said.

“I have received supportive emails and Facebook messages from dozens of alumni, as well as others affiliated with Washington University who have seen the book,” she said.

Habits of Achievement was unveiled by Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton during a special luncheon May 1 at the Whittemore House. He also mentioned the book in his remarks to graduates at Commencement.

A limited number of copies are available in the Campus Bookstore on the Danforth Campus for a $10 donation to the McLeod Scholars Program. For more information, contact Mary McGinley at marym@bookstore.wustl.edu or (314) 935-5580.