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Pepperdine University Mourns the Passing of Professor James M. McGoldrick

May 16, 2020  | 3 min read

James M. McGoldrick - Pepperdine University School of LawPepperdine University is saddened to announce the passing of Jim McGoldrick (’66), professor of law at the Caruso School of Law, who died today, May 16, 2020, following complications related to COVID-19. He was 76.

“The passing of Professor Jim McGoldrick is a profound loss to our community,” says President Jim Gash, long-time associate and former student of McGoldrick. “Jim was one of my favorite professors when I was a law student at Pepperdine and was a beloved colleague during my 20 years of teaching alongside him. His dry wit and easy laugh will be greatly missed.”  

Prior to his nearly 50-year career at Pepperdine, McGoldrick spent his first few years as an attorney working for the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice and as a trial lawyer with California’s Tulare County Legal Services. Ron Phillips, the senior vice chancellor and Caruso School of Law Dean Emeritus, reflects, “Jim McGoldrick was the third full-time professor ever hired by Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, and the longest serving by a wide margin, beginning in 1971. He likely taught more of our students than anyone else. Jim entertained his students as he taught them. He made friends easily, including me. Jim was one of a kind, and will be sorely missed—and fondly remembered.”

McGoldrick graduated from Pepperdine College in 1966 with a degree in history and earned a JD from the University of Chicago. He was a member of the California bar and the American Bar Association and was admitted to practice before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. McGoldrick’s legal interests leaned toward issues of a sweeping nature that had important practical application, as evidenced by his scholarly work in the field of constitutional law, particularly the interpretation of the commerce clause. In addition to a variety of courses in those fields, he taught civil procedure, federal courts, torts, and professional responsibility at the law school. He was also interested in the intersection of law and religion; McGoldrick led a religion clauses seminar and much of his early writing appeared in the Christian Legal Society Quarterly

In addition to his academic work, McGoldrick served as the law school’s associate dean for academics from 1979 to 1987 and the director of international programs from 2012 to 2013. As an administrator, some of his proudest achievements included launching the law school’s London program and attracting several Supreme Court justices to speak at Pepperdine.

“Professor McGoldrick was a larger than life figure in his 50 years on the Pepperdine Caruso Law faculty, beloved by generations of students, staff, and faculty,” says Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean Paul Caron. “He leaves a lasting legacy at the law school and in the lives of all who passed through here.” 

In December 2018 McGoldrick received the Waves of Excellence Award for Teaching, and during his career he was recognized five times with the law school’s Outstanding Teacher Award. McGoldrick was a known scholar in the legal community, and he was invited to serve at several law schools around the country as a distinguished visiting professor. 

McGoldrick is survived by his wife, Jan; his daughter, Julie M. McGoldrick (’92, JD ’04); his son, John T. McGoldrick (JD ’00); and his granddaughter, Sadie B. White.

Pepperdine mourns the loss of our beloved professor whose life modeled purpose, service, and leadership. He will be missed. Because our loss is especially difficult to bear without the opportunity to gather together to lean on each other in our grief, the University has created a tribute website to allow Professor McGoldrick's colleagues, friends, students, and former students to publicly share their cherished memories of Jim and messages of condolence to his family and loved ones. For those who wish to show respect, you may leave a comment to make a gift to the Jim McGoldrick Memorial Law Scholarship in his memory.