James McLean, former LSI at Parsons scientist, administrator, dies at 86 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

James McLean, former LSI at Parsons scientist, administrator, dies at 86 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

James E. McLean, PhD, died on Dec. 10, 2012 at his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His rich life spanned 86 years. He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Lee Kelsey McLean, PhD., associate dean of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and chair of the Department of Allied Health Sciences.

A child of the Great Depression, Jim grew up in South Bend, Indiana, where he and his younger sister, Janice, shared hardships that created a mutual caretaking bond that they maintained until her death two years ago.

Jim’s service in the Army Air Corps during World War II stamped his membership card in what has come to be known as the “greatest generation” and provided the GI Bill benefits that afforded him an opportunity to be the first in his immediate family to go to college. Jim took full advantage, earning an undergraduate degree from Indiana University and graduate degrees from the University of Kansas in the discipline of speech- language pathology. After obtaining his doctorate, Jim embarked on a teaching and research career at KU’s pioneering Bureau of Child Research that produced breakthroughs in the way that speech and language therapists provided evidence-based services to developmentally disabled children. Much of this work was done in partnership with his wife, Lee, at a state hospital for the developmentally disabled in Parsons, Kansas.

His teaching and research career might never have materialized if not for a serendipitous encounter. Jim and a friend were hitchhiking shortly after their release from the Army when an admissions officer Park College offered them a ride. By the time they reached their destination, Jim was enrolled at the small Kansas City, Mo. liberal arts college where he met his first wife, Barbara Malan McLean, the mother of his two sons. The couple married in 1950 and transferred to Indiana University to complete their degrees. They divorced in 1971 but remained close until her death in 1989.

Jim was a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the recipient of its highest recognition, The Honors of ASHA. Only months before his death from congestive heart failure, he was nominated for ASHA’s most prestigious lifetime clinical award. His nomination by his friend of 50 years, David Yoder, chair and professor emeritus, Department of Allied Health Sciences at UNC, and the many letters of support that flooded in from colleagues across the country greatly enriched the final weeks of his life.

Jim was a self-anointed “charming curmudgeon” who enjoyed hosting family gatherings, jazz, beach vacations, lingering conversations at the dinner table and being among the best-dressed men wherever he happened to be living. In a letter he wrote to Lee in 1989 with instructions not to open until his death, Jim provided options for how he would like to be dressed if family members desired a viewing. The letter specified details down to the color and pattern of the tie he preferred, evoking knowing chuckles from family members who traveled to be at his side in his final days. The letter went on to discuss the specific traits that he loved and admired in his two sons, James M. McLean, Topeka, Kansas and Thomas A. McLean, Parsons, Kansas, who continue the family tradition of rooting on Jim’s beloved Kansas Jayhawks.

Other Kansas survivors include daughters-in-law Teresa McLean and Deb Miller; grandchildren, Andrew, Katy, Ian, Neil and Ben McLean; and great grandson, Kendal McLean. Jim also leaves his beloved niece Peggy Maracinni and her children Stephanie and Michael, and his aunt Leah Scheid and her husband, Tom, all in California; and his brother-in-law Ward Kelsey and his wife Mary Ruth of Pittsburgh.

A celebration of Jim’s life for family and friends is being planned for next month. Charitable contributions may be made in Jim’s name to Southern Poverty Law Center, UNC Hospice or Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.