The young man aspired to become a criminal attorney because “there will always be criminals.” His father, a businessman, hoped his son would become a tax attorney because “people who hire tax lawyers pay more.” The young man chose a third career path.
James Shellenberger ’69 became a professor of criminal law. With 30 successful, award-winning years at Temple University Beasley School of Law, it’s clear he chose the right path. The recipient of the Great Teacher Award—Temple’s highest honor for teaching excellence—Shellenberger has also been honored with the Murray H. Shusterman Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Temple Law Alumni Association and the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.
The biggest change in teaching that he has noticed during his career, besides technology, is the need to make students practice-ready. “Law firms no longer train new lawyers,”
he says. “We have to be a lawyer-training institution as well as an academic institution.”
He is passionate about helping students succeed. His proudest accomplishment is creating an academic support program for first-year law students. “It challenges students and helps them succeed,” he says. “I want them to do well and feel good about themselves.”
Shellenberger has received the George P. Williams Award a record five times. This honor is bestowed by vote of the graduating class to the law faculty member “who has made the most significant contribution to their law school career.”
A history graduate, Shellenberger says his Lafayette experience influenced his philosophy of mentoring. “I took an Introduction to Law course that inspired me to want to learn more and be more engaged in my studies. The classes were small, so you could really develop a relationship with your professors.” He went on to earn a J.D. at Villanova University School of Law.
Shellenberger is the son of John O.J. Shellenberger ’29. He recalls attending Lafayette football games with his dad. His brother is John O.J. Shellenberger III ’66, who died in 2008. The family established an endowed scholarship in his father’s and brother’s names. His sister, Ann Shellenberger Bell ’76, is long-time reunion chair for her class.
—Robert S. Benchley