The Fordham Law School community celebrated the careers of law professors Gail Hollister ’70 and David Schmudde, whose teaching and administrative contributions helped shape the School’s growth over the past four decades, during a special reception held on November 28. Both Holllister and Schmudde will be retiring from full-time teaching at the end of the current semester after nearly 75 years of combined service to Fordham Law.
Hollister, a torts expert who joined the Fordham Law faculty in 1977, served as the Law School’s inaugural dean of students and director of legal writing under Dean John Feerick in 1982, and later served as associate dean of administration in the early 2000s.
Schmudde, a tax law expert who joined the Fordham Law faculty in 1982, started the School’s Federal Tax Clinic with a government endowment and ran the program for 16 years. He also served as the primary faculty recruiter for spring break service trips with Habitat for Humanity and directed the Fordham Belfast/Dublin Summer Program.
“Among students, Dave is known for creating a classroom environment that fosters discussion,” said Dean Matthew Diller. “He’s also renowned for his ability to listen and to be a true student advocate.”
In separate interviews prior to the retirement celebration, Hollister and Schmudde praised the Fordham Law family’s adherence to its motto, “In the service of others,” and marveled at how much the Law School had blossomed since they started teaching.
“How wonderful it is to work in a place that values community and relationships between faculty, students, and staff,” Hollister said. “That’s what makes this place so special to me and a lot of other people.”
After clerking for Judge Inzer Wyatt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and practicing as an attorney at Webster & Sheffield and Merrill Lynch, Hollister returned to her alma mater to teach Torts and Legal Process, among other subjects. Her greatest joy as a professor came from helping students develop their legal skills, she said. As the longtime Archibald R. Murray Professor of Law, she also dedicated a significant amount of time to helping people in the community.
Schmudde worked as an attorney for the Office of Chief Counsel to the Internal Revenue Service and in private practice before applying for a professor opening at Fordham Law. He later founded the Federal Tax Clinic with the goal of providing students the same hands-on experience via tax court attendance and legal representation for taxpayers that he had received in law school.
“It’s pretty rare to work at a place where people are fair and decent and trying to do the right thing,” Schmudde said, crediting the five deans he worked under for encouraging everyone associated with the Law School to give more of themselves.
While Fordham Law’s ethos has steadfastly remained the same across generations, Schmudde observed that other aspects have changed for the better.
“We were a small faculty, there was no technology, and our building was old,” Schmudde said, describing the environment when Dean Joseph M. McLaughlin hired him almost four decades earlier. “Now we have the highest technology, a large, capable faculty, and a beautiful new building. The Law School has improved constantly since I got here.”
Hollister noted that when she started teaching at the Law School it had fewer than 25 full-time faculty members, and that the administrative staff consisted of three people: the dean, assistant dean, and registrar.
“Gail has earned accolades from students over the years for her brilliance, for knowing tort law inside and out, and for her ability to respond to students’ questions with clear examples,” said Dean Diller. “She is a consummate teacher of law and a wonderful colleague.”
Though their full-time Fordham Law teaching careers have concluded, Hollister and Schmudde each raised the possibility of continuing to use their legal knowledge and expertise to help others. Schmudde, who splits time between Florida and New Jersey, is a member of the Florida Bar Association and is considering using his talents there. Meanwhile, Hollister is a hearing officer for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and hopes to continue to contribute to Fordham Law by working part-time in an administrative capacity.
“Fordham has been a special place for me, mostly because of the people, and the caring community they created. That community feeling has existed here for as long as I can remember,” Hollister said.