Beloit College Magazine

Beloit College Magazine

Spring 2016 (April 13, 2016)

Les McAllister, professor emeritus of economics and ‘best tennis player in town’

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April 6, 2016

[S16] Les McAllister
Photo by: Dennis Damon Moore

Les McAllister, one of Beloit’s legendary teachers and a valued advisor to scores of Beloit students, died after a brief illness on Oct. 29, 2015, in Michigan. He was 94.

McAllister served on Beloit’s economics faculty from 1953 to 1991 and chaired the department from 1960 to 1974. He was the first to hold the Allen-Bradley Chair in Economics at Beloit. When McAllister received that honor, his faculty colleague Jerry Gustafson remarked that “Les McAllister is possibly the best teacher of undergraduate economics in the country.”

In 1960 and 1977, McAllister was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Beloit. His dedication to the importance of good advising is still evident in one of the faculty reports he filed. “One of the most useful devices I’ve adopted,” he wrote, “has been to set aside one-half hour each week for each advisee as a ‘standing’ appointment.” Whether students kept the appointment or not, McAllister noted that they knew it was their exclusive claim on his time, so they would likely use it. He wrote that it “works beautifully.”

McAllister was a native Chicagoan whose fields of expertise included the economics of national security and arms control and U.S. monetary banking history. He served on the State of Wisconsin Banking Review Board and the North Central Association Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, conducting accreditation visits at colleges from Ohio to New Mexico. In his earlier teaching years, he was a visiting professor at the National War College in Washington, D.C., the country’s top national security college.

McAllister served as a cryptographic security officer in the U.S. Air Force during World War II.
As an undergraduate at Coe College in Iowa, McAllister played tennis all four years and captained the team. When he won the city tennis championship, the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette called him “the best tennis player in town.” Coe College named him to its Athletic Hall of Fame in 1983. He was named an honorary Beloit alumnus in 1986.

McAllister earned his master’s degree from Northwestern University and his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.

An excerpt from McAllister’s emeritus citation, presented when he retired from Beloit, speaks to his legacy:

“You have served Beloit in so many ways: as a fine teacher and attentive advisor, as a supportive and challenging colleague, as an inquiring scholar, and as a person willing to speak his mind and represent the best interests of the faculty.”

He is survived by his wife, Elaine, daughter, Margaret McAllister Jackson, and son-in-law, David Jackson.

Memorial gifts made to Beloit will be directed toward the renewal of Campbell Hall’s façade and entryway, which will be named for Professor McAllister.


  • April 21 2016 at 11:43 am
    Morganna Williams

    So many econ majors had him between the years of 1989-1995.  I never had him but he was very sharp, crisp, and to the point when walking, quick paced.

  • April 27 2016 at 1:25 pm
    Jim Winkates'65

    One of my finest teachers at Beloit - scholarly, open, and quietly demanding. Never knew of his broadly experienced life.

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