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The Wayne Law community remembers Dean Donald H. Gordon

March 28, 2011

Wayne State University Law School's fourth dean, Donald H. Gordon, passed away in Hawaii on March 28, 2011. Gordon served as Wayne Law dean from 1975-1980. During that time, the Law School experienced a tremendous growth in size and quality.

Those interested in making a gift in his memory can contribute to the Donald H. Gordon Award for Excellence in Teaching Fund at Wayne Law or to the Law Library Microform Consortium, P.O. Box 1599, Kaneohe, HI 96744, where a permanent online memorial in his name is being organized. Contact Wayne Law Development Officer Michael Silverstein at silverstein@wayne.edu or (313) 577-9238 for information on how to give, or visit http://cardinal.wayne.edu/wsugiving/give.cfm?deptid=10 and click the "My gift is in honor/memory of someone" box.

The Wayne Law community remembers Dean Donald H. Gordon

"Donald Gordon was a lawyer's lawyer and a scholar and teacher of exceptional talent. He came to Wayne State just as the Law School was shifting from a largely part-time faculty of adjuct professors to a new, younger generation of full-time faculty who, beginning the late 1950s, reshaped the school into a first rate institution. Don was one of the stars of that cohort. He was not only a brilliant Harvard-educated lawyer, but had had practical training in a Boston law firm. He had that rare talent of making complex legal principles come alive in the classrooom, whether he was teaching the common law of restitution or the arcane aspects of federal income taxes. I had him for at least one class in each of my six semesters at the Law School, and each was a wonderful learning experience. As seniors, we were fortunate to have him teach Federal Courts and the Federal System, using the Hart and Wechsler case book. All of us in this fascinating class had our eyes opened to areas of federal practice and jurisprudence that were not only deeply interesting as an intellectual pursuit but proved invaluable to those who went on to litigate in federal courts. It is a fitting tribute to Don's exceptional teaching skills that the Law School has annually granted the Donald H. Gordon Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Don's years as Dean were marked by continued progress for the Law School. Its graduates were for the first time sought after by major firms throughout the state and, in following decades, have become leaders of those firms, respected members of the judiciary, and successful businessmen and women. Don's efforts in raising the intellectual level of the School contributed significantly to this progress.

Those of us who learned from Don Gordon are fortunate indeed. He had an enormous impact on the lives of all he taught and on the entire character of Wayne State University Law School."

- Eugene Driker, '61, WSU Board of Visitor and WSU Foundation Chair


"Don Gordon will always be remembered fondly as a gentleman, outstanding teacher, trusted colleague and good friend. Don was affable, intelligent, warm and with an ever curious mind. He provided an important lesson to others that life is best when lived to the fullest. He was a steady and guiding hand at the Wayne Law School for decades and contributed much to its growth and rise in quality and reputation. Don will be missed."

- Wayne Law Professor John Mogk


"Don was a friend for life, a colleague for decades, and our dean for five years. I was hired in 1966 in part because Don was going to Washington on a special program at the Treasury and I.R.S., and Wayne needed another tax person that year. Don was instrumental in changing the environment at the law school from one where young faculty rarely received tenure to a collegial place where we youngsters wanted to stay and grow with the school. Don was supportive of scholarship and a great role model in the classroom. The Donald Gordon teaching award is a testament to his stature as a teacher. Even after his retirement to Hawaii with his loving and supportive wife Irene, Don remained deeply interested in what was happening at "his" law school, and Wayne was indeed his law school. He made his mark here. We will not forget him."

- Wayne Law Professor Alan Schenk


"In the paleolithic era when I attended WSU Law School at the ramshackle house on Cass, the course in Taxation was a rarity in the drab trade-school curriculum. Who but Don Gordon could segue from definitions of income to Sigmund Freud and Jean Paul Sartre? Who was this dapper Ivy Leaguer who made us provincials realize that law is not static black letter but a fascinating multi-dimensional process? This stranger in a strange midwestern landscape combined sophistication with unpretentiousness, seriousness with charm. He soon was a colleague, briefly my dean, and always a cherished friend."

- Wayne Law Professor Emeritus Maurice Kelman


"Donald Gordon brought rationality to Wayne's deanship after years of fits and starts. He valued faculty governance, even when it made his job more difficult. He mended wounds and promoted collegiality, which was at an all-time high when he retired."

- Wayne Law Professor John Dolan


Please send words of remembrance to kcopenhaver@wayne.edu to be posted on this page.

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