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MSU College of Law

July 3, 2012 (last updated 2:45 p.m, July 9, 2012)

MSU Law Community Mourns the Passing of Professor Jack Apol

East Lansing, MI — With great sorrow, Joan W. Howarth, dean of Michigan State University College of Law, announces the passing of Professor John “Jack” Apol, who died Sunday, July 1, 2012, after battling cancer.

“This is a very sad day for the entire Law College community,” said Dean Howarth. “Jack Apol was a beloved friend and faculty member whose creative teaching methods are fondly remembered by generations of former students. We all will miss him very much.”

Apol was born on March 20, 1941, in Washington, DC, and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 16 and worked for eight years as a communications specialist attached to the Naval Security Group—a special missions organization serving the National Security Agency—before deciding to pursue a college degree.

Apol earned a B.A. in political philosophy from Grand Valley State College in 1969; the school honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004. He earned a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1972. Upon graduating from law school, Apol served as a clerk for the Honorable Charles W. Joiner in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Professor Apol spent two years practicing labor relations law before finding his niche in the field of criminal law. That same year, he was recruited to teach in the Law College’s expanding Research, Writing, and Advocacy Program. He worked as an adjunct legal research instructor for two years before joining the Law College faculty full-time in 1978.

“It’s very satisfying to know you are contributing to the making of what are going to become excellent lawyers,” Apol recently noted. His contributions are incalculable. During his 35 years teaching Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, Apol taught a Michigan Supreme Court justice, a federal judge, many state judges, and several current MSU Law trustees.

“I’ve spoken with countless graduates who talk about Jack and even decades later can chant the elements of crimes that Jack drilled into them,” said Dean Howarth. “His students understood how very much he cared about them. They also knew that everything Jack did in the classroom—no matter how unorthodox—had the same purpose: to enhance their learning.”

When asked to describe his long-time friend and colleague, Professor Clark Johnson replied, “Anyone who knew Jack would be quick, and rightly so, to respond with all the old trite sayings like ‘they broke the mold when he left us.’ True indeed. ‘He was one of the most unforgettable characters I ever met.’ Just as true. ‘He had a heart as big as the country he served.’ Yup, spot on. ‘His students were like his children.’ Now we are getting there.

“But what I saw in my friend—and biased I am—was a man who had mastered his craft and worked hard for the betterment of those for whom he was responsible, both in and out of the classroom. The profession is better because of him, and any student will be quick to say what a positive impact he had on them. Many were helped by him in ways they never knew about soon and long after they graduated. A rare bird indeed. Broke the mold? Looks like it to me. We were all lucky to have him as a friend.”

Professor Apol has authored or co-authored approximately 30 publications. A 2002 article on material witnesses that he co-authored with former student Stacey Studnicki, ’91, became a leading article in the field.

Apol formally retired and achieved emeritus status in 2002. He moved the same year from Farmington Hills to Charlevoix, where he had enjoyed his summer home since 1992.

Professor Apol returned to teach each fall for nearly another decade, until he decided in fall 2011 to devote all of his time and energy to his retirement and health. Earlier this year, Professor Apol was recognized as the inaugural recipient of the Donald Campbell Great Teaching Award. The award—named for another longtime Law College professor, the late Donald F. Campbell—recognizes Apol’s reputation as an effective, generous, and hardworking teacher with legions of grateful students.

Professor Apol is survived by his wife of 46 years, Carol (Buxbaum) Apol; their two daughters, Heidi Apol of Rochester and Andrea Apol and her fiancé, Lou Andreadis, of Grand Haven; his mother, Kathryn Greene; and his brother, Alan Apol.

Those who wish to extend condolences or share memories with the family may send them to The Family of Professor Jack Apol, c/o Michigan State University College of Law, Law College Building, 648 N. Shaw Lane, Room 368, East Lansing, MI 48824-1300.

A memorial service will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11, at Winchester Funeral Home in Charlevoix. Visitation will begin at 3:00 p.m. The funeral home is located at 209 State Street, Charlevoix, MI 49720.

Memorial donations may be made in Professor Apol’s name to the Black Law Students Association Scholarship Fund at MSU College of Law. To make a memorial donation in honor of Professor Apol, visit or call 517-432-6840.

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