Case Western Reserve University Presidents

Louis A. Toepfer: 1970-1980

 Louis A. Toepfer

Louis Adelbert Toepfer, former president of Case, died March 6, 2000 at his home in Saxtons River, Vermont. He was 80.

Toepfer served as acting president of Case in 1970-71, then was named Case's president in 1971 following a national search. He remained Case's president until 1980, when he joined the national law firm of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue as partner in charge of opening and managing the firm's new office in Columbus. At his retirement from Case in 1980, Toepfer was named president emeritus, as well as dean emeritus and professor emeritus of law.

Toepfer came to Case in 1966 as dean of the School of Law after 19 years as vice dean and faculty member at Harvard University Law School. As the Case law school's dean, he began immediately to work with faculty, alumni, and other supporters of the school toward improving its programs, faculty, and facilities.

His accomplishments as Case's president were exceptional. During a period of strife nationally, much of it occurring on college and university campuses, he succeeded in restoring stability to the University. Faced with large and growing budget deficits when he entered the presidency, he led an effort that combined cost reductions and fund raising to achieve an operating balance. At a time when it was fashionable to relax academic standards, he insisted that they be raised.

"He gave strong leadership to Case during a difficult decade for higher education generally," said President Emeritus Agnar Pytte. "We are all indebted to him."

Toepfer's dedication to both high quality and modest yet timeless undertakings led him to advocate the restoration and renovation of older buildings on campus, such as Adelbert Hall, the University's principal administrative building. The largest meeting room in Adelbert Hall, which was most recently renovated in 1993, is named in Toepfer's honor. The Toepfer Room is used for meetings of the Board of Trustees, Faculty Senate, Staff Advisory Council, visiting committees, and other notable events. The room was originally the chapel of Adelbert College when the building was constructed in 1882 and later served as a classroom.

Toepfer was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in 1919. After graduating from Sheboygan Public Schools, he received the A.B. degree, magna cum laude, from Beloit College in 1940. Toepfer received the LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1947. Upon graduation he was named assistant dean and member of the law school's faculty, and served as the school's vice dean from 1950 to 1966.

During World War II he served in the Navy as a second lieutenant on the U.S.S. Healy, a destroyer in the Pacific theater.

Among Toepfer's interests as a professor of law were maritime law, legal services for the poor, and criminal law. His professional activities included memberships in the American, Ohio, and Cleveland Bar Associations; Maritime Law Association; and National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

Toepfer was a trustee of the Cleveland Legal Aid Society and Cleveland Council on World Affairs. He also served as chair of the managing committee of the American Bar Association's Fund for Legal Education, chair of the accreditation committee of the Association of American Law Schools, and a member of the visiting committees of both the Harvard and Case law schools. In recent years he was a member of the Vermont Labor Relations Board and a trustee of the Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont.

Toepfer was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Beloit College in 1972. He was inducted into the Case School of Law's Society of Benchers in 1988.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Alice Mary (Willy) Toepfer; four sons, Anthony (Keene, New Hampshire), Daniel (Neelyton, Pennsylvania), Andrew (Athens, Vermont), and John (Keene, New Hampshire); and seven grandchildren. A fifth son, Michael (Paintersville, Ohio), died in 1993.

Reprinted from the 3-23-00 Edition of Campus News.

Learn more about President Toepfer.