MAPLA Remembers Don Racheter

In Memoriam Donald P. (“Don”) Racheter, PhD

On this page:

A Letter to MAPLA Members from MAPLA President Larry Hayman

Updated Obituary for Don Racheter

In Lieu of Flowers, Where to Send Memorials

PDF Handout: Full Biography of Don Racheter

See also:

The Racheter Impact Award

The Racheter DEI Scholarship

30 years of Mock Trial- A history of Mock Trial featuring Don Racheter

History of Don’s time in the Army ROTC and United States Army Reserve Forces

The Early Days of Mock Trial: Don Racheter celebrates victory as coach of a Mock Trial team in 1987. Don is in the back row, far left.

A Letter from MAPLA President Larry Hayman:

Monday, February 26th, 2024

Dear MAPLA Community,

It is with heavy heart that I announce the passing of MAPLA’s longtime treasurer, Don Racheter, on Saturday, February 24, 2024. Don first joined MAPLA in 1986, and served at institutions across the Midwest, including in Iowa and Indiana. Throughout his time with our organization, he served in multiple leadership roles, including stints as President-elect, President, Past President, and MAPLA Treasurer from 2012 until his passing. In 2016, Don created the Racheter MAPLA Impact Award that recognizes a MAPLA region pre-law advisor who has demonstrated dedicated advising of pre-law students and who has made valued contributions to the profession of pre-law advising. Additionally, in 2022, Don established the Racheter DEI Membership Scholarship. This scholarship program provides support to pre-law advisors from diverse or underrepresented groups and to advisors providing pre-law advising services at institutions that serve students from diverse and underrepresented populations from within the legal profession. In 2023, PLANC awarded Don the Gerald Lee Wilson Award for Excellence in Pre-Law Advising, bestowed upon an individual who has made significant and sustained contributions to the pre-law advising community at the national or regional level. MAPLA announced this award at our conference at Loyola Chicago last year, where Don received a standing ovation.

Not only was Don active in MAPLA and PLANC (treasurer since 2016), but Don helped found the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) in 1985. AMTA serves as the governing body for intercollegiate mock trial competition across the United States. Over 7,300 undergraduate students, from 700 teams compete from over 450 colleges and universities each year. AMTA recognized Don’s many contributions over the years. Moreover, in 1985 he was awarded the W. Ward Reynoldson Award because of his team making it to the national round. Later, in 1991, he was the Neil Smith Award Winner. This recognition is bestowed on one individual nationwide for their exemplary contributions to “law related education and its mission to promote public understanding of law and the legal process.” More recently, in 2016, as a testament to Don’s impact and involvement, the Dr. Donald P. Racheter Mock Trial Invitational was established at Central College. Each year, this invitational tournament hosts over a dozen schools from across the country to compete at Central College.

Unofficially, Don held many more titles. He served as unofficial MAPLA and PLANC parliamentarian, having an encyclopedic recall of Robert’s Rules of Order. Occasionally he would gently, and sometimes not so gently, nudge an errant or overwhelmed President or Chair with a call of “Point of Order!” if they strayed from proper procedure. With such a rich tenure in our organization and an excellent memory, he also served as our historian.

Personally, he was a friend. Like many of you, I will miss hearing the stories of he and Ellen’s travels across the country. I can say with certainty that I will never know someone who has visited as many law schools and presidential libraries as Don had.

We were all fortunate to have had Don’s service for so long. Thanks to his generosity to the pre-law community, his legacy will live on in generations of pre-law students and pre-law advisors for years to come.  True to his character to the end, Don requested absolutely no flowers be sent in his memory and rather, individuals make donations to MAPLA for the Racheter Impact Award or to Central College’s Mock Trial.  I attach his obituary, and information on how to make a donation in his memory, to this email.

Take good care,


Larry Hayman, J.D. (he/him)

Don with the MAPLA Board over the years

Updated Obituary for Don Racheter:

 Donald P. (“Don”) Racheter, Ph.D., died on February 24, 2024, from cancer at Indiana University Hospital in West Lafayette, IN. Don is survived by his wife Ellen; his daughter Annalese, his daughter Alena Furlong, his son Donald P. B. “Chip”, and their spouses and children; his stepdaughter Kelley Kimm; and his sister Deann Jackson-Flues and her family. He was preceded in death by his father Paul Racheter and his mother Aleatha (Baur) Racheter. 

During his life, Don achieved distinction as a political scientist, mock trial coach, military officer, political activist, “think tank” founder, pre-law advisor, public speaker, Boy Scout, author, and leader of numerous volunteer groups. 

Don was the first recipient of the Iowa Conference of Political Scientists’ Professor Vernon Van Dyke Award for “outstanding service to the Political Science community in Iowa and beyond,” the American Mock Trial Association’s Congressman Neal Smith Award for “outstanding contributions in promoting public understanding of the legal process,” and its Chief Justice W.W. Reynoldson Award for outstanding Coaching. Don received the first Midwest Association of Pre-Law Advisors (MAPLA) Impact Award in 2016, subsequently named in his honor, and the Dean Gerald Lee Wilson Award for Excellence in Pre-Law Advising from the Pre-Law Advisors National Council (PLANC) in 2023. In addition, the annual mock trial tournament at Central College was re-established in his honor in 2016 as the Dr. Donald P. Racheter Mock Trial Invitational. He received 15 awards and decorations from the U.S. Army including the Meritorious Service Medal. He received the Vigil Honor in the Order of the Arrow. 

Don was born on 1 April 1947 in Pigeon, Michigan. He was valedictorian of his high school class, graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, and received an MA and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Iowa. He served as Professor of Political Science for Central College in Pella, Iowa, and Director of its Pre-Law Program. 

Don served in the United States Army and the United States Army Reserve for twenty-six years in assignments of increasing responsibility until his retirement as a Lt. Colonel in 1996. He received his commission from the University of Iowa ROTC Program where he was Cadet Brigade Commander and Distinguished Graduate. He was a life member of the American Legion and the Reserve Officers Association. 

Don helped found and served as the initial Executive Director of the Public Interest Institute (PII) in Mt. Pleasant. He was promoted to President of the Institute in 1999 and continued to develop PII as a free-market, limited-government, and traditional-family-values “think tank” until its closure in 2017. Don wrote or edited many books and articles, the most notable being Iowa Government and Politics and Limiting Leviathan. He was listed in over two dozen biographical reference works such as Who’s Who in America. 

Don earned the God and Country Award and attained the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. Don joined the Free and Accepted Masons, the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, and the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine at age 21, and maintained his membership until his death 

Don’s leadership was recognized throughout his life by his election as President of the Iowa Conference of Political Scientists; Secretary-Treasurer of the American Political Science Association’s Organized Section on Experiential/ Undergraduate Education; Past President of the American Mock Trial Association; the Board of Directors of Iowans for Tax Relief and the National Taxpayers Union Foundation; Chairman of Iowans for Right-to-Work; President of MAPLA; Treasurer for MAPLA and PLANC; President of the Resident Council at Westminster Village; Chairman of numerous Central College Committees; President of the University of Iowa Graduate Student Senate and then Iowa Student Body President; Vice President of the University of Michigan Residence Halls Council; and President of his high school Student Council and National Honor Society. 

Don will be greatly missed not only for his leadership and service to the betterment of all those around him, but for his good nature and friendship. 

A service will be held Saturday, March 2nd at 11 AM at the Champagne Funeral Chapel in Pigeon, MI.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be designated to either the “Racheter Impact Award” of the Midwest Association of Pre-Law Advisors (MAPLA) or the “Don Racheter Mock Trial Invitational” of Central College. Addresses below: 

“Racheter Impact Award” of the Midwest Association of Pre-Law Advisors (MAPLA)
Address your check to “MAPLA” with a memo of “Racheter Impact Award” and mail to:

 Erin Reichelt
 Pre-Law Services, University of Minnesota
511 Bruininks Hall
222 Pleasant St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

“Don Racheter Mock Trial Invitational” at Central College

A gift can be made online at: if you select the “Another Fund” option and type “Don Racheter Mock Trial Invitational” in the gift notes section. 

Or mail a check with “Don Racheter Mock Trial Invitational” in the memo line to: 

Central College
Attn: Development Office
511 Bruininks Hall
812 University
Pella, IA 50219

PDF Handout: Full Biography of Don Racheter