In Their Words

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Four beloved Fordham Law professors retired during the past academic year.

Here Carl Felsenfeld, Gail Hollister, David Schmudde, and Donald Sharpe share some of their memories of the School that they have served with loyalty and grace.


Carl Felsenfeld

I joined the Fordham Law School faculty as a full-time professor in June 1987. Since I already held tenure on the adjunct faculty, I almost automatically was granted permanence on the full-time faculty. I stayed as part of the faculty until my departure was marked, along with three colleagues’, in 2014 and confirmed in 2017—that is to say, now—as part of the Law School phased retirement program.

I taught in the so-called commercial law program, which includes such subjects as secured transactions, commercial paper, bankruptcy, and banking, for 38 years. Banking was new on the curriculum in my early years on the faculty and drew standing-room-only classes.

The growing size and diversity of our faculty created a continuing need for us to expand our perceptions of our jobs and the demands made upon us. There was a period of months when I was called upon to head up the graduate program and another time when courses elected by graduate students required me to analyze cases in constitutional law and explore them in class to a degree I had not approached since my own first year of law school.

It was important during the period that I was in charge of the LL.M. program (and more so later) to cultivate international LL.M. relationships. For this purpose I visited law schools in other countries and occasionally taught classes in American law abroad. Foreign administrators would occasionally visit Fordham Law School in New York and spend time with Fordham faculty in order to cross-pollinate our international faculties.

As often as possible I would contact members of the foreign bar as well as academics in other cities and visit them in their own offices. Lawyers would often have relationships with their local law schools and be agreeable to spending some time with a foreign professor. This would frequently lead to some form of international relationship.

In this brief essay, I have tried to illustrate the variety of demands put upon one member of the Fordham Law faculty in teaching at the School. One may fairly assume that as the School grows in size and adds complexity to the teaching burden, both the difficulty and the fun that derive from being a Fordham Law School professor will continue to expand.


Gail Hollister

Fifty years have passed since good fortune, and a scholarship for which I will ever be grateful, brought me to Fordham Law as a 1L student. Good fortune struck again in 1977, and I returned as a member of the faculty. As I now retire, the School asked that I write a short essay, perhaps focusing on the changes I have seen at Fordham during those years. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, Oh what changes I have seen.

There were seven women in the 1L class in 1967; this year there are 211. My classmates were almost exclusively white; 25 percent of this year’s 1L class are students of color. In classes we sat in alphabetical order so that a person from the Registrar’s Office could take attendance quickly; such regimentation is unthinkable today. In those years the majority of courses were required, and evening students said that, as a practical matter, all courses were required for them because so few were offered at night that they were forced to take every elective offered! Now there are only seven required courses and more than 150 electives, including more than 80 offered in the evening.

In that same time frame our full-time faculty has quadrupled and become quite diverse (in gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation). To the best of my recollection there was no diversity on the 1967 faculty. We were then housed in a rather pedestrian building that, in the early ’80s, morphed into a more interesting structure with an additional floor, an atrium, and an amphitheater. Almost three years ago we left that building for this iconic structure.

Perhaps the most startling change has been in our administration.

In 1967 there was a dean who had a secretary, a registrar’s office, a two-person admissions office, a library and, I believe, two faculty secretaries. Those offices have all been enlarged, and the School has added three associate deans and the following departments: alumni, administration and finance, career planning, clinical education, communications, development, graduate programs, information technology, international and non-J.D. programs, and student affairs, among others.

Although these changes were, in many ways, transformative, the heart of the Law School has not changed, and that is why this is such a special place. Fordham Law always has been dedicated to being a place in which everyone continues to learn and we all thrive in a community that values each of us. Looking back over these years, I know it has succeeded admirably in that endeavor while gracefully adapting to changing times in the legal world. That specialness, and a desire to help it continue, are why there is some sadness in retiring, bringing Dr. Seuss to mind again. How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?


David Schmudde

While I was in law school, one of my best experiences was being involved in a litigation clinic. It brought law school alive for me. Civil procedure is certainly not intuitive, and seemed to exist in some alien world. Now, I was presented with real, honest-to-god people whom I could help by applying my newly acquired skills. Law school was no longer the vacuum it had seemed.

Our clinic program at Fordham was very slow to develop. Many faculty members felt that the small number of students being served did not justify the expense of dedicated faculty members. Jim Cohen was working in his basement office, trying to gain traction any way he could. A small number of students were being served by the clinic.

I had been a litigator in my stint with the Office of the Chief Counsel to the Internal Revenue Service. And I had loved the frequent court appearances and negotiations with litigants. My experience had been that senior attorneys in my office worked very hard to instill a fairness into the younger attorneys just out of law school. We were taught to place fairness at a higher level than simply winning the case. This was the kind of experience that people in law firms rarely received.

As a tax professor, I was teaching Federal Tax Procedure, not the sexiest course for law students. While attending a tax conference with other tax professors from around the country, I became aware of newly developed tax clinics. In these clinics, students would represent taxpayers against the IRS, when the taxpayers could not afford their own representation. It intrigued me because it brought together my love for tax and my belief in live-client clinics in law schools. It would be difficult, however, to obtain proper funding from the Law School.

At some point, Congress enacted a provision that could provide funding of up to $100,000 per year for a law school to operate a live-client tax clinic for low-income taxpayers. I thought this would be perfect for Fordham. I approached Jim Cohen and John Feerick with the idea, and they were very enthusiastic, promising me any support I needed. Jim teamed me with Marcella Silverman to write a proposal for the grant. With the help of the University grant department we submitted our request. We received a full $100,000 grant, and have received the same amount every year thereafter.

I set about hiring a director of the clinic. After numerous applications and interviews, the search committee decided upon Elizabeth Maresca. She also had experience as a litigator in the office of the chief counsel to the IRS. She has run the clinic from its beginning, with an enthusiasm and warmth that highly motivates her students. Numerous students have had a wonderful and exciting experience in both state and federal courts. The clinic has been a resounding success.

Fordham’s clinical program has come a long way and is now one of the prides of the School. Jim Cohen, Ian Weinstein, and Mike W. Martin have been the directors of the clinics and have always been enthusiastic supporters of new ideas and new clinics. In my 36 years at the Law School, my experience with the low-income tax clinic is one of the things that I am most proud of.


Donald Sharpe

In September 1972, The Advocate, the student newspaper of Fordham Law School, reported that Dean Joseph McLaughlin had hired eight new faculty members, “a twenty five percent increase in the faculty thereby permitting a sixty percent increase in the number of elective courses given.” I was one of the new faculty members, along with former Dean Michael M. Martin, Frank Chiang, and Sheila Birnbaum, the first woman to be granted tenure in the history of the School. Thus I was given the opportunity to commence a 45-year career at the Law School teaching federal taxation that will come to a close with the end of this spring semester.

What is striking about my early days at the Law School was the extraordinary talent of colleagues who had preceded me in joining the faculty, going back as early as 1948. Professors such as Joseph McLaughlin, Robert Byrn, John Calamari, Joseph Crowley, Martin Fogelman, Gus Katsoris, Leonard Manning, Joseph Perillo, Earl Phillips, Thomas Quinn, Joseph Sweeney, and Charles Whelan, S.J., will forever walk the halls of Fordham Law School as giants of its professorial history.

Among the many of Joseph McLaughlin’s achievements during his decade of service as dean of the Law School was the establishment of the Fordham-Stein Prize, first awarded in 1976 through the generosity of Louis Stein, Class of 1926, and now carried on by his granddaughter, Sally Bellet, Class of 1976. The prize is given to honor a member of the profession “whose work exemplifies outstanding standards of professional conduct, promotes the advancement of justice, and brings credit to the profession.” Recipients have included justices of the Supreme Court, U.S. attorneys general, and former secretaries of state. Another of Dean McLaughlin’s achievements was the creation in 1973 of the Fordham Corporate Law Institute, for many years under the leadership of former Professor Barry Hawk.

Fortunately for all of us, John Feerick served as dean of the Law School from 1982 to 2002. The name John Feerick is synonymous with the creation of Law School programs in legal ethics, social justice for underprivileged citizens, public interest law, international human rights, arbitration skills, dispute resolution, and clinical programs. He served on a task force to draft the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, as the chair of numerous New York state commissions on government integrity, ethics, law revision, judicial elections, and arbitration, and as president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He is widely known for his arbitration skills. Under Dean Feerick’s leadership the Law School made substantial gains in curriculum development, student diversity, and national reputation.

In 2002 William Treanor became the ninth dean of the Law School, and for the next eight years the School continued to thrive under his exceptional stewardship, a period marked by outstanding legal scholarship, improved quality of student life, and vastly increased new gifts and pledges—surpassing $20 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006.

Now to look forward. The challenges are there, what with the dramatic changes in the practice of law, the increasing cost of legal education, and rapidly evolving technology. I am totally confident that under the leadership and extraordinary vision of Dean Matthew Diller the challenges will be more than met and Fordham Law School will continue to excel in teaching practical wisdom and skills, promoting diversity, faculty scholarship, and pursuing social justice and strong values. If only I could do another 45 years.

 

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