15 Feb 2022

In Loving Memory of Rachel Liechti-McKee (1956-2021)

With a heavy heart, we are bidding farewell to our colleague and friend Rachel Liechti-McKee, whose untimely departure left us all shocked and deeply saddened. We wish to express our sincere condolences to her family and loved ones.

The following obituary was written by Prof. Em. Thomas Cottier:

Universities, faculties, departments and institutes are generally perceived to consist of professors and students. It is often ignored that the life of these institutions largely depends upon the work and support of instructors,  researchers and administrative personnel. They are the backbone of University life, and so it is for the WTI and the Institute of International and European Economic Law (IEW), to which Rachel belonged. Other than assistants and doctoral students on their passage through studies, she was a permanent staff member. She was part of the life and work of WTI and IEW for many years. Her responsibilities included tutoring students, interviewing future assistants, coaching staff, coordinating the work at IEW and to contribute to research, teaching and consulting work. Her passion was European law, and many law students at the Faculty benefitted from her knowledge and pedagogical skills in introductory courses and case discussions. Many of the legal opinions prepared at IEW over the years advising government departments, and sometimes the private sector, were conceived and drafted by her able pen. She organised workshops and conferences, often on troubled Swiss-EU relations. Many of the publications were jointly written or edited, and the case books on European Law, which offered the backbone of advanced teaching, strongly benefitted from her input, coordination and editing work and authorship.

Rachel came to the law after raising a family. Upon completing her studies at the University of Berne she joined the IEW in 2002. Given her life experience, she was destined for the special position which she filled in all these shared years in a combination of friendly modesty, loyalty, perseverance and hard work, openness and knowledge. Students will recall her for always having an open ear to their concerns. Members of staff, often outside the building jointly smoking a cigarette (no longer tolerated in offices much to her dismay) found advice and updates. In staff meetings, she helped navigating and steering the boat. Rachel’s personality, continuity and competence at IEW allowed to build on other fronts, in particular the WTI on whose board she served as a staff representative. She actively participated in the life and research of WTI, in particular during the years of the NCCR in research in the field of biotechnology and nanotechnology regulation. She took an interest in the work of others and regularly attended workshops. She was part of the institution. Upon retirement in September 2020, she dedicated her work and attention again to the family. She was much involved with her beloved grandchildren. Much too short was this new period in her life. She passed away in December 2021 after falling seriously ill.

Whenever visiting the premises of the WTI, Rachel remains present. She has a lasting place, in fond memories and in gratitude. She was a precious colleague and companion. The two institutes owe her much. 

Thomas Cottier
Senior Research Fellow and former Managing Director