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News Posted on September 1, 2017

King Hall Mourns Professor Lesley McAllister

Lesley McAllisterProfessor Lesley McAllister, a distinguished scholar and educator in the fields of environmental, natural resources, and energy law and an advocate for the rights of the terminally ill, died on August 30 following a long and courageous battle with cancer.

“Lesley defied all the odds fueled by her love for her beautiful children, Nathan and Erin, her husband and family, and all the things she cared about in this world so passionately and deeply, especially our beautiful planet,” said Senior Associate Dean Madhavi Sunder. “Our hearts are broken as we mourn our courageous and beautiful Lesley, who left us tragically much too soon.”

Professor McAllister joined the UC Davis School of Law faculty in 2013 as a tenured Professor of Law, arriving from the University of San Diego School of Law, where she served as the Stanley Legro Professor in Environmental Law.  She earned her undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from Princeton University, and after a stint in the Peace Corps working in Costa Rica, she went on to achieve a JD from Stanford Law School and a PhD from UC Berkeley. She clerked for Judge Fern M. Smith of the Northern District of California, then joined the law faculty at the University of San Diego, where she wrote Climate Change Law & Policy (Aspen, Wolter Lluwer, 2012) and Making Law Matter: Environmental Protection and Legal Institutions in Brazil (Stanford University Press, 2008), as well as numerous articles in leading law journals.

Professor McAllister arrived at King Hall just three months prior to her lung cancer diagnosis. She shared many details of her struggle with the disease in an article published in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, including her joy at being able to return to teaching following a 2014 surgery.  Motivated in part by her desire to give her children “an example of a good death,” she advocated for and helped to pass California’s End of Life Option Act, which became law in 2015, allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients.  Despite additional surgery and chemotherapy, Professor McAllister’s cancer became active again in 2016. Although expected to survive no more than six months at the time of her diagnosis, she fought cancer for nearly four years before dying peacefully this week in hospice care, surrounded by family.

“Professor Lesley McAllister was a brilliant teacher and scholar, and a courageous person who used her skills and training for the public good, fighting to protect the environment and for the rights of the terminally ill,” said Dean Kevin R. Johnson. “She was an inspiration to all of us, and the King Hall community mourns her loss.”

Professor McAllister's extended family invites all who wish to attend to join them for “A Celebration of Lesley's Life” on Sunday September 3, 2017, at 4pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis (27074 Patwin Road, Davis, CA.) For information about the event, those interested may contact Sheree (Barnhorn) Gravely ( or Margaret McAllister Buchholz ( 

Professor McAllister’s family suggests that, in lieu of flowers, a charitable contribution in her memory may be made to Camp Kesem, a camp that helps children whose parents have cancer.