Monday, August 20, 2012

The First Day of Class - Now Entering the Fifth Decade

I walked into class at 10:15 this morning, nervous as usual on the first day. It was beautiful. The palm trees were softly swaying outside in a breeze. The beaches are 10 miles away. The air conditioning cooled the room. I was well prepared, having taught the class dozens of times.

Did I say it was a beautiful day?

Today was very different from early September 1972 for this is the first day of my fifth decade of teaching law.

I walked into the non-air conditioned Brown 105 on the Ohio Northern campus 40 years ago on one of those miserable, hot and humid summer days in the Midwest. I was really nervous and barely prepared. I thought classes started a week later.

What was I doing in Ada, Ohio, a town of 3,200 permanent residents, surrounded by wheat, corn and soybeans on the flatlands of Liberty Township, Hardin, County, Ohio? I graduated from law school in San Francisco two years earlier. How did I get from San Francisco to Ada?

Through Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Of course, a graduate of Lowell High School in 1964 had Berkeley, then ranked the number one university in the world, as the safety school. Finances, or the lack thereof, dictated college and law school at the University of San Francisco, and graduate school at Michigan. Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan, and the state of Michigan are magnificent.

The lesson for young students. Follow your life, follow your career where it takes you. Life is a wonderful ride. Take it where it leads you.

I thank President Samuel L. Meyer, Dean Gene Hanson, Associate Dean Dan Guy, and ONU’s faculty for giving me the chance to enter the Academy and complete my dissertation at Michigan.

What do I think of Ada?

Of all the places I have lived, Ada was the most insightful. I learned the values of the Heartland of America, the qualities of the Midwest, the salt of the earth, and the farm belt: trust, loyalty, friendship, assistance. The people would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it. I recognize the Midwest is not “flyover country.” If you think it is, then you do not understand America.

We headed to the big city, Lima, 15 miles away for shopping and services.. Who would have thought 40 years later that Lima, Ohio would be the situs of Glee?

Ohio, Puget Sound, Western Massachusetts, Orange County, it’s been quite a ride – a wide swath of America, a witness to the grandeur of America.

As for the students – so many incredible students over the years. I still remember a few from the first class. Whether you go to Harvard Law School or Ohio Northern, the top students will be the top students anywhere else. Students with the lawyering skills, personality, and drive to succeed will succeed in life. Every school has diamonds in the rough.

What do they think of me? Some think I can walk on water while others want me to slip off the rocks and drown.

I stopped teaching out of Paper Chase within five years. Any law professor who teaches that way today will probably be run out of the school.

The student body is now about 50-50 male/female versus about 95% male then.

They are still on the first day of class the same young, enthusiastic, radiant students as 40 years ago. It remains a pleasure to give back, to edificate them. The law I teach today is very different from 40 years ago, but the students are the same.

They remain young; I remain young. Retirement is not in the cards. Teaching law would be the greatest job in the world, except it is not a job when you love what you're doing.

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