Remembering Professor Robert Art
Bill Long 11/10/06
A Tribute to a Colleague
I am posting this in November 2006, even though Bob Art, a professor for 23 years at Willamette University College of Law, died early in January 2004. I wrote the following remarks commending his life an work as a teacher, and as my law school professor, at that time but I never posted it to this site. Indeed, I was just learning the basics of this web technology when Bob died. It wasn't until March 2004 that I really felt I knew what I was doing in posting essays and by that time I was onto other subjects. But I thought it would be good to post my thoughts here about Bob and put it at the head of all my essays, both as a tribute to his memory as well as an indication that Bob's life, and death, will forever be tied in my mind to the unleashing of my creativity through this site. In that way, Bob's memory will forever be alive for me.
Bob began teaching at Willamette in 1981. When I arrived as a student in 1996, his focus was primarily on 1st year Property Law and then a series of courses on securities regulation, mergers & acquisitions and business finance. Bob was an active member of the Oregon State Bar, helping in the drafting of model legislation--especially an updated model business corporation act, and often was called upon to chair modifications of that statute. He was the best kind of law professor--one who was fully aware of the importance of scholarship in legal issues but one who also had a practical sense of what business lawyers needed to do their jobs better. Here follow my comments, entitled "A Tribute to the Memory of Professor Robert Art."
"Professor Art was one of the first professors I met upon arriving at WUCL as a student in 1996. Our Property Law class met four times per week at 1:00 p.m. I was so engaged by Professor Art's lucidity, insight, thoroughness and humor that I ended up taking more courses with him than any other professor during my Willamette days.
"I recognized immediately that he was a careful reader and clear expositor of cases and statutes. But even more than that, I began to recognize in him a highly-developed skepticism, a skepticism that matured into gentle (and sometimes wicked) humor and ironic statement. He was fascinating, in Corporate Finance, as he explained to us how Ponzi schemes emerged or how various hapless individuals have helped American courts define the contours of financial fraud because of their clumsy attempts to gull the American public. He was not above playing on names in cases as he presented them. Who can forget his description of the Mallard case in Corporate Finance, when he showed how Mallard's opponent so contrived things that Mallard became not a pawn but a sitting duck?
"Behind his skepticism and irony, however, lurked a powerful and thorough mind. This was evident in his careful delineation of the welter of merger and acquisition strategies that developed in the 1980s or in several conversations I had with him on the Model Business Corporation Act. I will never forget the admiration I felt for his scholarship when I read his article on the Revised Act in the Willamette Law Review. I, who had a twenty-year career in biblical studies before coming to law school, marveled at his ability to clarify the meaning of a statute with such care and conciseness. When all is said and done, I would say that he exemplified not only those qualities that were admirable in themselves but also those worthy of imitation. On more than one occasion since I joined the Willamette faculty last year (2003) and was preparing my classes, I thought of Bob's care and thoroughness and told myself that no less was required of me.
"In the history of American law there has been a raging debate over whether or not law is a science. Neutral principles, black-letter rules, systematic exposition would give us as much predictability as any science, some have argued. But Bob's life belied that. His personality, skill, and humor as he did his work will forever convince me that law is not a science but an ART."
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long