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Celebrating Professor Sanford Katz

Professor Sanford Katz’s son Andy summed things up in one sentence: “This is an historic night.” He was speaking at the May 7 retirement party for his father, a BC Law faculty member for forty-seven years. The event drew friends, colleagues, and family from across the country—including about a dozen of Katz’s former research assistants—who came to pay tribute to his prodigious output as a scholar and, more personally, his unflagging commitment to generations of students as both teacher and mentor.

One of those students, US Senator Ed Markey ’72 (pictured), recalled in his remarks having arrived at the Law School as a student on the same day in the same year that Katz arrived as a professor. “He made you love the law the way he loved the law,” Markey said, calling Katz a great teacher and wise advisor. Turning to his former professor, he added, “I’m honored to be here because you are a great man.”

Fellow long-time professor Hugh Ault described how academic careers often take one of two paths: people become revered scholars in their ivory tower or they become deeply invested in their community. “What Sanford has done is both of them,” Ault said.

Former research assistant Phillip Weiner ’80 spoke of coming to law school determined to be a labor lawyer only to have his career path rerouted by Katz, who felt his potential lay elsewhere. “They say that certain teachers do have an impact,” Weiner noted. “That happened to me, all because Sanford Katz said, ‘Try criminal law.’” Weiner became a war crimes tribunal judge who, at Katz’s urging, established an internship program at The Hague to which Katz happily ever after recommended students.

A whole host of speakers also expressed their fondness and admiration for Katz. Professor Ruth-Arlene Howe ’74 said of him: “He was my first teacher, then a colleague, then a promoter, then a supporter.” Both professors John Flackett and James Repetti ’80 credited Katz with being the person who opened the door to their teaching careers at BC Law. Professor Kari Hong said that though she is technically his family law successor on the faculty, “I could never be able to replace him.”

Katz began his remarks with a nod to T. S. Eliot. “It’s the journey not the arrival that matters,” he said. Beaming and characteristically avuncular, Katz relished the moment and reminded the audience that with a book in the works, he was not yet saying goodbye. “I’m not going away,” he said. “So I’ll see you around.”

More: Sanford Katz bio and website

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