Professor Leigh Frackelton: A Conversation on Retiring


Q: You began teaching at Mary Washington College in 1986.  What made you want to become a professor?

A: I began practicing law in Fredericksburg in 1978 with an emphasis in the areas of tax , wills and estates, and business transactions.  In 1980 I was requested by an acquaintance to teach a tax class at Germanna.  I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and each semester I taught either a tax or business law class.  In the fall of 1985 as a Business Leader I attended the Department of Business Administration’s Annual Business Breakfast and at that event I told the Department Chair that if he ever needed somebody to teach tax I would be happy to do so.  He explained that there was a full time position open to do just that and so I applied.

After being chosen to be the candidate I then had to learn how to divide my time to carry on two equally enjoyable and demanding careers.  What made this such a great combination was that in the mornings I was teaching the students how to learn the subject that they would go on to use to help clients like my clients that I was then helping in the afternoons.  For the first 20 or so years I taught all of my classes in the morning Monday through Friday, had lunch with my college colleagues and then headed to the law office to see the clients in the afternoon.  I have enjoyed both professions equally and would not do anything differently.

Q: In the past thirty-five years, how has the way you’ve taught students changed and evolved? 

A: My teaching philosophy has always been to engage the student in such a way that he or she will do the reading ahead of time and to try the homework on their own and for me to use the time in class to clarify what the students were struggling with. My belief is that by doing and making mistakes you learn to improve yourself and strive for understanding rather than memorization.

During the class I try to make it enjoyable for them telling them some stories that had occurred in my practice in order to make the subject matter come to life. I explain to the students that learning is a lifelong challenge and we all must continue to improve and to build on our knowledge. It is hard to believe that when I first started teaching the administrative assistant for the department would mimeograph tests or quizzes for me to hand out in class and correspondence would be done by letters – we did not have email accounts then.  Another change would be that office hours were better utilized in the early days.

Q: What has been your favorite course to teach, and why?

A: Federal Income Tax has always been my favorite course both because of the subject matter and my students who took it were the cream of the crop and who typically wanted to become CPAs.  Since I had a Masters of Lawin taxation and the CPA Certificate and since I was focusing my law practice in the tax area it brought me the most satisfaction.  I could explain to the students exactly what tax questions and tax techniques that they could use to help their future clients after graduation.

Q: Are there students that have made a lasting impression on you?  If so, how and why?

A: There are countless students who I have helped in all different types of situations that I will always remember and this goes for students 35 years ago as well as current students.  I will give a couple of examples without naming people but there are hundreds of others that I could expand upon if time permitted.  In 1988 Spring Semester I was preparing for the CPA exam.  During this semester I needed a class, Auditing in order to sit for the CPA exam which I took under Professor Metzger.  I was still carrying my Law Practice load including tax return preparation as well as teaching my four classes at MWC.  So, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I was in an auditing class with the same accounting students who were in my tax class on Tuesday-Thursday.

We built a very strong bond and many of us for three days in May took the CPA exam together in Richmond.  We would wait for each other outside the building after we completed that portion of the exam and I remember them trying to get me to drive back to campus on Thursday night for Grad Ball and I said I had to go back and study for Friday’s part of the exam.  Another memory was when two students asked if they could come to my house on a Sunday afternoon to get extra tutoring on accounting.  What I think they really wanted was to watch football on TV with me.  Stories like this are just the tip of the iceberg.

Q: What is one of your fondest memories of working at UMW? 

A: Three  of my most favorite events at Mary Washington are the visit of Warren Buffett under our Executive in Residence program sponsored by the Department of Business Administration, the Centennial  Celebration of Mary Washington with David McCullough as the guest speaker, and my selection to be the faculty speaker at the Junior Ring Ceremony.

All three events shared what a close and caring community was afforded at this institution.  An interesting thing happened at the Warren Buffett visit at a reception following the event.   My godfather was in attendance and he had grown up in Fredericksburg for some time with Warren Buffett.  My godfather called me over and said, “I would like you to meet Warren Buffett”, and then he turned to Warren Buffett and said, “this is my godchild who broke bad”, and we all laughed.

Q: What will you miss most about working at UMW? 

A: I will miss all the wonderful people who are associated with Mary Washington.

Q: What are your plans after you retire from UMW?

A: I hope that my wife and I will be able to travel once restrictions are lifted and I will not be constrained to an academic calendar.  I plan to keep my hand in the law practice for some time in the future.  With a daughter in Texas and a son in Florida, I see those two places a frequent destination.  Another goal is to improve my golf game!



  1. Madison Reiley says

    Congratulations, Frack! Business Law was one of my fav classes.

  2. Brandon Harper says

    Congratulations Frack! Business Law was an awesome class and always enjoyed the personal stories!!

  3. Margaret Mi says

    Love being retired. Just sold our second home in Florida. Back in F’burg for good. Miss seeing you and the old gang like Tom Wittman and Harry Skinner. Both taught accounting and marketing, which I taught. Have a joyous retirement.

  4. Stephanie Myers Michalowicz says

    Congratulations again!!! I enjoyed seeing you and your sweet wife at the alumni event at Hollywood Cemetery (and your all chauffeuring us to the esteemed row of presidents)!! I wish you all the very best in health and life I your retirement!! Enjoy yourself/selves !!! What a blessing yo have 2 children to visit!!! Stay in touch!! 🙂

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