When Professor Emeritus Leigh Frackelton retired from the University of Mary Washington’s College of Business (COB) in 2021, the pandemic left little room for fanfare.
Rob Strassheim ’96 wanted something more for his former professor, who taught business law and accounting at the University for 35 years.
“Leigh is an institution here at Mary Washington,” said Rob, who now serves as vice rector of UMW’s Board of Visitors. He helped raise tens of thousands of dollars to name a classroom for Frackelton. “I felt this would be a fantastic endeavor to thank someone who has been so impactful in the classroom and in the community.”
Former students and colleagues, family, and friends finally had the chance to fête the longtime faculty member, dedicating the Leigh Frackelton Classroom, as well as the Gibbons Team Room, in Woodard Hall on Thursday, April 20.
Gathered in the airy, technology-rich space, COB Interim Dean Ken Machande ’94 and guests swapped stories about “Frack,” known for using his own career experiences – and golf games – to illustrate key business concepts. The dean also announced a scholarship for accounting students that Frackelton was instrumental in creating, before giving the professor himself an opportunity to share more tales.
“I always enjoyed hearing his real-world examples,” said Michelle Gibbons ’16, who majored in business administration. “He helped ignite my desire to pursue a career in accounting.”
Michelle attended with her parents, Bill, a member of COB’s Executive Advisory Board, and Susie, a former certified public accountant (CPA), who named a team room in their daughter’s honor. Machande thanked the Gibbons family for their generous gift, which will benefit business students for years to come.
Frackelton, who grew up in a neighborhood next to UMW, majored in history at Washington and Lee University. He later earned a law degree at the University of Richmond School of Law and a Master of Law in Taxation from the College of William and Mary. He also became a CPA, studying for the exam with several of his students.
Hired by Mary Washington in 1986, he spent over three decades in the classroom. He now serves as counsel at Parrish Snead Franklin Simpson, PLC, while supporting numerous area community organizations.
At UMW, he developed a reputation for being a tough grader. “He had high expectations of his students,” said Rob Whitt ’93, who attended the dedication. Both he and his daughter, Emily Whitt ’23, took classes with Frackelton and enjoyed comparing notes. “He was always enthusiastic and loved the material and teaching,” Rob said.
But beyond his gruff exterior, “you’ll find someone who truly has a passion for helping his students,” said Machande, sharing an anecdote about a time when Frackelton paid a semester’s tuition for a senior who was struggling financially.
“I heard from alums who said Leigh was singlehandedly the reason they made it through accounting,” Rob Strassheim said. “He once opened his home in Richmond to a student who needed a place to stay for his internship.”
And Frackelton was always focused on concerns of others, Rob said. In return, David and Nancy Honeywell, of the Honeywell Charitable Fund, issued a generous challenge grant, which motivated others to give toward Mary Washington’s goal of raising $100,000 for the COB Endowment.
Finally, it was Frackelton’s turn to speak.
“If I had a classroom like this, I might have taught for 55 years,” he joked, before thanking those who cheered him on throughout his career, calling them his “balcony people.”
He acknowledged many of those individuals, including his wife and children, his father-in-law, and his favorite professor, who encouraged him to practice tax law instead of teaching. Years later, the man was pleased that Frackelton was able to do both.
“That’s what I always told my students,” Frackelton said. “Do what you enjoy and enjoy what you do.”
– Article written by Assistant Director of Advancement Communications Jill Graziano Laiacona ’04