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We Are Better for Having Known Him

Friends, colleagues pay tribute to Paul Kane ’70, once a BC Law assistant dean, always a friend to the Law School.

April 6, 2017 -- Boston College Law School's annual Scholarship Dinner, held at the Four Seasons. Photo by Caitlin Cunningham (  Photograph by Caitlin Cunningham

Paul M. Kane ’70 stood out in Boston’s legal community not only because he was a big man with a big heart and ready laugh, but also because he was a pioneering figure in family law, an educator par excellence, and a generous supporter of BC Law in a variety of capacities.

Kane, who passed away on September 13, graduated from Boston College in 1964 and BC Law in 1970. That same year he took on the mantle of assistant dean under Dick Huber and began a forty-year stint as a lecturer on family law at the Law School.

The senior partner at the firm McGrath and Kane, he left behind adoring colleagues and friends like Mary McCabe ’78, whose fond commentary captured many of the qualities that made Kane so memorable.

She wrote: “From the time Paul was my undergraduate teacher at BC, sitting on his desk, leg crossed, revealing holes in the soles of his preppy loafers…; to being my dean at Boston College Law School, where he invited me and other classmates to cocktail parties, Law Day dinners, and trustee events so we could rub shoulders and make connections with important alums; to always taking a phone call to explain a complicated tactical trial issue (even if the call was made from the back of the courtroom in the middle of a trial: mine or his); and even when he was my own attorney and taught me how to keep things in perspective and maintain dignity (“Don’t fight over the Waterford, Mary, they still sell it in stores”), I credit Paul with starting and keeping me on the path to be a good, ethical, honorable, practical, hard-working lawyer and later judge.”

Recently retired Professor George Brown knew Kane well and said that at Kane’s wake and funeral he was “astounded by the breadth and depth of his friendships and the deep respect in which he was held by all whom he touched.”

Brown lauded Kane for being part of the Law School’s transformation in the 1970s. “The challenge that Paul and Dick Huber faced was how to move the Law School forward into the ranks of major national law schools without sacrificing its commitment to social justice and its strong links to the legal world of Boston,” Brown said.

He explained that Kane was close to Dean Robert F. Drinan, SJ (Huber’s immediate predecessor), and helped perpetuate the Drinan legacy. For example, as assistant dean, Kane played an important role in the development of legal assistance at the Law School. Beyond that, Brown added, “perhaps Paul’s greatest strength was his close rapport with the students. He had, after all, been one of them.”

“Paul was an excellent ambassador for BC Law. His intelligence, wit, and kindness would always brighten everyone’s day,” said professor and 1980 Law School graduate James Repetti. “I fondly and thankfully remember meeting Paul at an accepted-student’s event and being persuaded by him to attend BC Law. I have never looked back and, like so many others, have benefited from Paul’s friendship and counsel all these years.”

Donald Monan, SJ, University Professor at Boston College Daniel Coquillette, who succeeded Huber as dean of BC Law in 1985, recalled Kane’s generosity of spirit. “Paul Kane was one of a small group of dedicated alums who literally saw me through my first year as dean,” Coquillette said. “It is hard to recognize today the importance of their generosity and personal encouragement to what then seemed to be a much smaller school with nothing like our new physical plant.”

Coquillette was also impressed by the care that Kane took of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and his support of need-based scholarships, which meant that many outstanding students came to BC Law who otherwise might have gone elsewhere. “His unfailing annual gifts meant the difference between a first-class school and a school that could only hope to be first class,” he said.

Professor Robert Bloom ’71, too, understood Kane’s contribution to BC Law, which bestowed on him the Daniel G. Holland Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. “He was emblematic of the Jesuit tradition, using his education in the service of others,” Bloom observed.

He also noted that Kane’s eminence beyond the halls of the academy was intertwined with his pedagogical pursuits. According to Bloom (and seconded by Professor Emeritus Hugh Ault), “Paul was the most respected probate and family law attorney in Massachusetts. Through his education programs and mentorship, Paul raised the practice of family law.”

Indeed, Kane was involved as a lecturer in Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education where he served on the Family Law and Advocacy Institute and was a member of the Curriculum Policy and Coordinating Committee. He was active in several charitable organizations and served on BC Law’s Board of Overseers and Dean’s Advisory Board. Often recognized as a “super lawyer” or “best lawyer,” Kane was also involved in numerous bar associations and family law organizations.

Perhaps McCabe captured Kane best with these words: “He was generous and funny and sarcastic and self-deprecating but not falsely humble, and he was so very, very smart. He delighted in the successes of others and didn’t suffer fools. He wanted to hear your story more than needing to tell his own. I am the better for having known him.”

Read his full obituary here.