Wayne Law remembers Peter Henning
Dean Richard A. Bierschbach
Today we are mourning the loss of Professor Peter Henning who passed away on Sunday after a battle with an aggressive form of frontotemporal dementia. Professor Henning joined the Wayne Law family as a faculty member in 1994 and was an inspirational mentor, teacher, and friend. He helped train generations of lawyers, and the entire legal community suffers a loss with his passing.
He was a beloved and brilliant legal scholar, teaching and writing about corporations, white-collar crime, and criminal law. Before taking on the title of professor at Wayne Law, he had a notable career as a federal prosecutor. He worked as a senior attorney in the Division of Enforcement at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission and later moved to the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked in the Fraud Section on the investigation and prosecution of bank fraud.
Over the last 28 years, Professor Henning made an impact on students and colleagues near and far that will last a lifetime. He will be remembered as wise, curious, enthusiastic, and fair. Wherever one went, it seemed there was someone who knew, and loved, Peter. He was tirelessly and joyfully devoted to his profession, and we will miss him greatly.
Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus at Wayne Law
Hard working, razor sharp, a nationally recognized, unparalleled scholar, and all with a sense of humor that charmed. His office was next to mine. He was there mornings with the door open when I arrived at the Law School. As I unlocked my door, I greeted him each day in courtly French: "Bon jour, Pierre." He responded in the argo he had learned working in Boston putting dishonest bankers in jail a few years before: "Hi ya Johnny." I will never forget him.
Senior Director, Undergraduate Admissions, Wayne State University, Wayne Law alum
Peter was one of my favorite law school professors. He was smart, funny, fair and highly entertaining! When I returned to the law school to work in Development and Law School Admissions, Peter was always willing to help when we needed faculty volunteers. Whether it was teaching the Mock Class for the Law School Open House for prospective students, engaging with donors and alums at the Annual Golf Outing (where he would always donate a foursome so current students could attend) or hosting admitted students for lunch, he was an enthusiastic supporter. Peter, you will be greatly missed! Rest in peace.
Special Assistant to the Solicitor General, West Virginia Attorney General's Office, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was a legend. I had him for several courses at Wayne Law and learned a great deal from his winsome instruction in the classroom. But it's the friendship we developed after I graduated that I'll miss the most, whether it was watching the Lions lift our hopes only to dash them, or grabbing a coney at Lafayette or American. He was a warm and generous man and mentor, always funny, and never—and I mean never—too busy to offer a word of advice or encouragement to a young attorney trying desperately to get his sea legs in the turbulent world of the law. I will miss him dearly. Indeed, I already do.
Attorney, Wayne Law alum
I have such great memories of his class. He was so personable and intelligent. I had a blast and learned so much. A talented professor that will be greatly missed.
Senior Attorney, Birth Justice Law Firm, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was one of my favorite law school professors. The real world experience he brought to his instruction of criminal law was invaluable. He was one of the few professors who actually taught me information useful for the bar exam and to my real life. I am grateful to him. He will be dearly missed. My condolences to his colleagues, friends and family.
Partner, Warner Norcross + Judd LLP, Wayne Law alum
I started law school wanting to become a prosecutor. So naturally I looked forward to my criminal law class. I didn’t realize then how lucky I was to have Professor Henning for Criminal Law as a 1L. The day I was up in his class, he asked how to pronounce my name. After a few tries, already nervous for my turn, I offered my crutch of “you can call me Dave.” Some professors took this offer and went with it. But Professor Henning, after joking about a classic movie scene where a character named Dave responds “Dave - Dave’s not here,” insisted on calling me by my name. I appreciated his efforts. Soon after, I expressed to him my interest in a career in criminal law and within days he helped find a research job for me that would start the next semester. When I realized criminal law wasn’t for me, Professor Henning was gracious in accepting my decision despite his efforts to help me get the job. After my required 1L classes, I took all but one class offered by Professor Henning. He made every subject enjoyable. And as most of us joke about, he had us looking for the “bad guy” in every class, even Corporations. We stayed in touch after graduation, with him sending me emails whenever I appeared in a firm announcement and me seeking his sage advice at every turn in my career. He was a mentor I trusted and respected. And I know I’m not the only one. The professor that had us looking for the “bad guy,” was himself so kind and such a great teacher. Always funny. Always able to explain any legal concept in an easy, understandable manner. Gone way too soon, but his legacy will live on through so many of us whose lives and careers he helped make better.
Partner, Johnsen Wikander PC, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning taught me two of the most important things I learned in law school: 1) You can't change the facts; and 2) "Your client goes to jail. You go to lunch." I am so sad for his wife, daughters and family/friends, who lost him too soon. He certainly did his part in life to make the justice system better by passing his wisdom on to others. Rest in peace, Professor Henning.
Circuit Judge, Berrien County Trial Court, Wayne Law alum
Literally, one of my favorite professors at WSU Law ('95-'97). I found him to be not only knowledgeable but interesting and approachable, which are some of the greatest gifts to share in education. May he rest in peace.
Attorney & Counselor-at-Law, Law Office of Lawrence LaBrew, Wayne Law alum
I am deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Peter Henning, and my heart and condolences go out to his family. My first year at Wayne’s Law School was in 1995: I think Professor Henning joined the faculty at about the same time. He was a giant in the classroom – definitely one of my top Professors. He was the perfect professor if you wanted to be a trial lawyer: a scholar, and a skilled practitioner. At that early stage in my legal career, he had a profound impact – and what’s interesting is that he probably never knew the full extent of the impact that he had on me. The man had a true passion for teaching. He will be sorely missed, but he will not be forgotten. Professor Peter Henning was the epitome of the standard that all lawyers should aspire to attain. I will miss you: a great lawyer and teacher has moved on to a better place. God bless.
Assistant U.S. Attorney, Wayne Law alum
More than his obvious intellect, it is his infectious personality that will be missed the most. Always a kind man, and great ambassador for our legal community.
Wayne Law alum
I was so saddened to hear of Professor Henning’s passing. He was a rare combination - so brilliant and yet so kind, caring and approachable. I had several classes with him at Wayne Law, and he always managed to inject even the driest subject matter with humor and discussions that were easy to follow and learn from. Even after graduation, through membership in various organizations I was able to stay in touch with him and he was always so welcoming and gracious, offering me career advice and guidance. He was an amazing professor and person and will be missed.
Attorney, David A. Kotwicki PLC, Wayne Law class of 1996
Professor Henning was an outstanding professor with a true gift of making learning truly entertaining and memorable. Condolences to his family.
Kevin Jean McKinley
Attorney, Kevin Jean McKinley, P.A., Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was such a kind person. He was my instructor and my advisor when I attended Wayne Law in 2001–02. It took me a few years to finish my LLM, and all during that time Professor Henning was there with thoughtful questions and observations. He made the world a better place. He will be missed.
Hon. Cori Barkman
Circuit Court Judge, 29th Circuit Clinton and Gratiot Counties, Wayne Law class of 2003
My law school study partner and I spent hours discussing the intricacies of the “business judgment rule” and were happy to do it because Prof. Henning’s lectures on the topic were so lively. He made Corporations class fun. A bright spot in our law school careers. He will be missed.
Wayne Law alum
I never had any interest in criminal law until I took his Criminal Procedure class. He wove humor into a topic that comes off as dry and mundane that made me want to know more. He also took an interest in me as a person and it was special to know that he wanted to know more about me outside of the classroom. Rest well Prof Henning…You will always hold a special place with me and will be missed. And prayers of strength and peace lifted for your family, friends, and all in the legal community that respected you as a scholar and friend. Side note: I will always remember you talking to us about Department of Agriculture agents carrying guns.
Wayne Law alum
There are people we look up to in all of our life's journey. Professor Henning was one such legal scholar and legal mind I looked up to. Perhaps, I'm not alone in this remark. It's a great loss to the legal community in Michigan and may be elsewhere. He will truly be missed.
Attorney, The Menna Law Firm, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was one of my favorite professors' during my attendance at Wayne Law. He consistently made his classes fun and entertaining while at the same time challenging your thinking on the topic we were addressing. He was always accessible after class and he made you feel as if you really mattered. He will be sorely missed by the school and the legal community.
Wayne Law alum
I had Professor Henning for several classes in law school, and I enjoyed every one of them. I appreciated his little quips and stories that made things interesting. Corporate law can be so stodgy, but stories about "Slower Delaware" and "Better Call Saul" livened things up. I even adopted his pronunciation of the word "futile" and say it to this day. I was fortunate to have had him as a Professor, and am very saddened by his passing.
Principal, Miller Canfield, Wayne Law alum
I am truly sad to hear of Professor Henning's passing. His course on criminal procedure was a highlight of law school for me. More than simply knowing the subject matter backwards and forwards (which he did), he brought such energy, good humor, and just general joie de vivre to every lecture. I remember laughing out loud—in at least one instance to the point that I had to try to stifle my own uncontrollable laughter—at the funny illustrative stories he told. He will be sorely missed by his students and colleagues, and my heart goes out to his family.
Director of Global Operations, EY Law, EY LLP, Wayne Law alum
I was saddened to learn of Professor Henning's passing. While i did not have a close relationship with him either during my time at WSU (1994–97) or afterwards, I remember him as an engaging and knowledgeable scholar who will be surely missed in the legal community.
Staff Counsel and Compliance Manager, US Sailing, Wayne Law class of 2016
I had Professor Henning for Professional Responsibility in the fall of 2015. It didn't take long to realize that he would be one of my favorite professors at Wayne Law. I will always remember Professor Henning's enthusiasm, humor, and informal/laid back demeanor throughout the semester. I always looked forward to class discussions knowing that his take on the subject matter would be extremely entertaining, funny, and informative. My thoughts are with Professor Henning's family and friends.
Partner, Dickinson Wright PLLC, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was one of the most impactful professors in my time at Wayne Law. I remember him saying that the standard for his exams was easy: “You have to know everything, and you have to be right.” Setting the bar high for his students inspired their best work. I have repeated this goal (albeit a lofty one) to many young attorneys since then, and will continue to do so with appreciation and gratitude for such a great professor.
Owner/Attorney, Roberson Law, PLLC, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was phenomenal at teaching his students about how the law works in the real world. To do the right thing always. To stay on the path of a most ethical attorney. As a former student of his professional responsibility class, Professor Henning made himself available before, during, after class, and after graduation if we “every” was wondering if we were doing the ethical thing. A wonderful person and such a loss to the Wayne Law community.
Attorney, Dickinson Wright PLLC, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was a caring and kind professor who clearly wanted the best for his students. I routinely looked forward to his lectures and truly believe his teachings impact my law practice today. I always think of Professor Henning when, in my practice, a client or colleague will ask me a question and the first words out of my mouth are 'it depends'. This is a tremendous loss for the Wayne Law Community and he will be missed.
Amy Carson Schlussel
Director of Advancement, Hillel Day School, Wayne Law class of 1996
I am absolutely devastated to learn of the passing of Professor Henning. I graduated from Wayne Law School in 1996 and was lucky enough to have Professor Henning for two classes. He was an incredible professor—interesting, engaging, animated, and easy to relate to. He will be forever missed.
Attorney, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was an amazing person and mentor. I had PR class with him back in 2014. He was very patient with his students and I learnt a lot from him. Very sad and socking loosing such an amazing person. I pray that his soul be in peace and I send my prayers to his loved ones. Rest In Peace.
Managing Attorney, Zayid Law P.C., Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning had a profound impact on not only my experience as a law student, but as a human being. He and I worked together on the 2015 Wayne Law Symposium. I was afforded the opportunity to get to know Professor Henning as an academic, a family man, and a mentor. One of his most distinguishing qualities was his ability to relate on a personal level and explain what are otherwise difficult concepts in a way that you understand. He had a passion for motivating and developing his students. He made me want to be the best version of myself. I will forever hold dear the memories we had together and the lasting lessons he taught me while at Wayne State University Law School.
Staff Attorney, CHASS Center/LA VIDA Partnership, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was my Professional Responsibility professor. One day after class, after one of our usual verbal sparring sessions, I popped by his office to apologize for being mouthy and hard-headed; I was shocked when he told me he liked my boldness and offered me a job as his research assistant. Even though the research I did for him had nothing to do with the law I wished to practice, it was an utter pleasure working for him. I don't think I'll ever have a kinder, funnier "boss" ever again, though working for him felt more like working for your kindly uncle. After graduation, I pestered him with ethics questions I encountered in practice, and occasionally ran into him at Kroger and enjoyed our chats in the aisles. I was meaning to reach out to him just last week, and I will forever regret that I didn't. He was one of a kind, and I will miss him dearly.
Attorney, Meisner Law Group, P.C., Wayne Law alum
I often emailed Peter following his contribution to a news story in the Detroit newspapers or TV stations. I was always amazed at the breadth of his expertise from criminal to civil cases. Sometimes I challenged him on some aspect about his commentary, which led to emailings that I so enjoyed. His knowledge and ability to explain complex legal issues in convenient ways will be missed. His sense of humor will certainly be missed by this writer. God bless him and his family.
City Attorney, Cities of Lincoln Park and Southgate, Slovak Republic, Wayne Law alum
There are many passings that go unnoticed; this one will be felt, absorbed, shared and mourned by the thousands of lives touched and charmed by an incredible man. Peter Henning was the ready guest for a radio broadcast or press interview, always cogent, friendly, unpredictably eloquent and savvy. His patient understanding of the need to communicate and educate in terms that were understandable and rational is his legacy. The rule of law in the eyes of Professor Peter Henning is best perpetuated by the ethical civility of lawyers and leaders of society.
Corporate Counsel, CheckAlt, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning's lectures were engaging. He injected energy with just the right amount of humor and humanism, into the Socratic method. His Criminal Law and Corporations classes were among the best during my time at Wayne Law.
Attorney, Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith PC, Wayne Law alum
I took Criminal Procedure with Professor Henning in 2016. He was an astounding teacher whose passion and enthusiasm for the law was always on display. He will be missed!
Conflicts Manager, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Wayne Law alum
Sorry to hear Pete Henning died this weekend. He taught both criminal law and professional responsibility, both of which comprised a large part of my practice since 2007. I was a terrible student, head like a stone; however, Dr Henning was the kind of educator who took pains to help dummies like me "get it." So sad to hear about this.
Litigation Counsel, ZF North America, Inc., Wayne Law alum
I fondly remember Prof. Henning's unique charisma. A powerful, expert presence at the lectern who taught with flair. The most impactful memory for me is perhaps one he would regret. Prof. Henning's bombastic style once led to a back-and-forth with a fellow 1L that bordered on confrontational. The next session, Professor Henning opened the class with a candid and heartfelt apology to my classmate. I was moved by his humility and self-awareness. Rare and valuable qualities—even more so today—for such an accomplished professional. I am sad future lawyers will not be able to learn and benefit from his gifts. I am grateful to be one who did.
Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was such an amazing teacher and advisor. He taught me so much about criminal procedure. He will be greatly missed at Wayne Law.
Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was a very knowledgeable and kind professor. He has a very positive impact in the law school. It’s a big lost for the university and students. He will be remembered.
Senior Legal Manager, Walbridge Aldinger LLC, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was one of the best professors I had while studying for my LLM at Wayne State University Law School. His Corporation class was always interesting and exciting. Professor Henning loved his job and his students, so I will always remember him as one of the best! Rest in Peace!
Partner, EY, Wayne Law alum
What a sad sad news! I was an LLM student at Wayne Law in 2010 and Peter was so gracious and welcoming to me. I came to Wayne Law LLM program directly from Cameroon in Africa, with limited English language capacity but a burning love and appreciation for the law, legal studies and legal practice. In Professor Henning, I found a brilliant legal mind, a companionate person and a patient and dedicated teacher! He graciously accepted to supervise my LLM thesis and what a joy it was to work with and I learned so very much from him, both on the law and personally. It is indeed a very sad day for the legal community in general and Wayne Law specifically. You will deeply be missed Peter, rest in perfect peace!! My thoughts and prayers are with his family!
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Oakland County, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was my professor for several courses. As a student interested in prosecution, I looked up to Professor Henning. Professor Henning was never too busy to help. After I graduated, I emailed Professor Henning for help with legal issues. He has never been hesitant to help and has always been very kind. We are lucky to have had Professor Henning as a professor and mentor.
Attorney, Wayne Law alum
As a criminal defense attorney, I am grateful to have been a student in Professor Henning’s criminal law courses. His personality and sense of humor couldn’t help but shine through in his lessons, which made him so effective and memorable.
Sr. Technology Transfer & Patenting Specialist, NIH, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning taught my 1L Criminal Law course in 2000. To this day, I still remember his energy and enthusiasm for the subject and teaching. Specifically, I remember how well he illustrated the points of actus reus and mens rea. Leaving his class, I genuinely felt that I had fun as well as learned a great deal. Most importantly, Professor Henning was approachable and kind. He will be missed. My condolences to his family and friends.
Package Handler, FedEx Ground, Wayne Law alum
I took Professor Henning for Criminal Procedure - Adjudication in Fall 2017. I admired his enthusiasm for teaching, his apparent subject matter expertise, his dedication to educating his students, and his zeal for the law. I found that thought he taught with aplomb, curiosity, integrity, humor and wisdom. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, and all his colleagues and former students at Wayne Law.
Chief Administrative Officer, IAC, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning is one of those professors you never forget! I am forever grateful to his impact on me professionally.
Attorney, Dickinson Wright, PLLC, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was an incredible mentor to me during law school. We initially met through the moot court program, but I also took several classes with him. Professor Henning and I had so many conversations where we discussed various legal theories, he would give me career advice, or we would just talk about life in general. He always would lend an ear if I was struggling with something, whether it be academic or personal, and he would provide me the greatest insight. I truly believe that his strong mentorship of me has led me to become the attorney I am today, and I would have been quite lost without him. He will be dearly missed.
Partner/Shareholder, Garan, Lucow, Miller, P.C., Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was a wonderful teacher and brilliant legal scholar. He had a way of communicating with his students in both a practical, and oftentimes humorous way that connected with me personally. Whether he was discussing the case law, or his interpretation of the ways in which he expected the laws to change, his lessons always connected with me in a meaningful way. He was an impressive and highly respected attorney, however never allowed his professional accomplishments to give him a superiority complex. He communicated with his students as though he was on the same level as they were. I was never intimidated by him, and because of that, I always felt comfortable approaching him with questions. That is something I will never take for granted because it made me a better student, and inevitably, a better lawyer. My respect for him is everlasting and he will be greatly missed.
Career Law Clerk, Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was simply one of the best. He was a challenging, encouraging teacher and a kind, thoughtful advisor. I will always appreciate his contribution to my career.
Collins Einhorn Farrell PC, Wayne Law alum
I am so saddened to hear of Professor Henning's passing. He was, hands down, my favorite professor at Wayne Law (no offense to the other professors). I was fortunate to have had him as a professor for five classes at Wayne Law. I enjoyed his style of teaching, I enjoyed his humor, and I still quote him often to this day with respect to the rules of practicing criminal law ("Rule 1: Get the money up front. Rule 2: Get the money up front. Rule 3: You go to lunch, your client goes to jail, never the other way around.") He was great to talk to about the practice of criminal law and we had many great conversations about baseball. It's a big loss for Wayne Law, and I wish I had spoken with him more since I graduated. May his memory be a blessing.
Wayne Law alum
Was my favorite professor. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse… except when it is.” He was brilliant and passionate and he will be missed.
Wayne Law alum
I had the pleasure of taking a class with Professor Henning during my time at Wayne State. He was insightful and always respectful toward his students. He will be missed. Rest In Peace. God bless, Thomas Beindit.
Expert Counsel, Dow Chemical, Wayne Law alum
Professor Henning was a lovely man and wonderful teacher. I still remember his example of dubious attorney ethics with a scene from "Anatomy of a Murder." I use that example frequently.
Angela Bodley Carter
Director, Compliance and Legal Operations, Owens Corning, Wayne Law alum
As a student, I found Professor Henning’s White Collar Crime course to be fascinating. Little did I realize that I would have a career dedicating to creating compliance management systems to prevent the fraud and corruption that I learned about in his class. Years beyond his classroom, Professor Henning’s thought provoking NYT “White Collar Watch” columns became a continuation of his influence in my understanding of the law. The pragmatically written articles served as case studies and cautionary tales for why business integrity was good business strategy. I was always proud to say I was his student.
Partner, Dawda Mann, PLC, Wayne Law alum
I came to Wayne State in 2001 knowing that I wanted to do corporate law, even though I probably didn't really fully understand what that meant. I took Corporations with Professor Henning, as well as White Collar Crime, which was a lot of fun. As I get older, I remember less and less of my professors, but Professor Henning is certainly one who stands out to me. I really enjoyed seeing him on TV and in the newspaper giving his opinions on the latest headline cases. He made learning the law fun, which is admittedly a cliche, but nevertheless certainly applies here. He will be greatly, greatly missed.
Associate Attorney, Wayne Law alum
If the question is will Professor Henning be missed, the only answer is yes, yes, 1000 times yes. I was lucky enough to have Professor Henning for criminal law as a 1L and again for criminal procedure. His enthusiasm and passion for the law radiated through the lessons he taught each day. He made learning the law fun and exciting. Knowing that future law students will not have the chance to experience him is a tough pill to swallow but his legacy will live on through each of us who did. Rest Peacefully, Professor.
Attorney Advisor, U.S. Department of State, Wayne Law alum
I had Prof. Henning for White Collar Crime, he was one of the best. His knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for teaching were infectious. It was obvious he loved teaching, and his students loved him. My thoughts and prayers to his family, he will be missed. This is a huge loss for the Wayne State Law family, the metro Detroit region and the legal field as a whole.
News Director, WWJ Newsradio 950
Professor Henning was one of our go to legal analysts whenever we would need some legal perspective on a story, be it a local trial, legal proceeding, cyber crime etc. He always was straight to the point and made the story easy to comprehend. His comments and thoughts no doubt helped thousands of our listeners gain more knowledge on a number of stories. Our condolences and sympathies to his family and friends.
Marvin Pickholz Esq.
Former Assistant Director of Enforcement, SEC
Peter was always thoughtful and scholarly. As a lawyer with the SEC and DOJ he performed his prosecutorial job with skill, compassion and fairness. With Peter it always was “ what is right? What do the facts prove?” Never meanness or vindictiveness.
James P. Gillis
Assistant United States Attorney, Eastern District of Virginia
I knew Peter when we worked together at Crim Div's Fraud Section at Justice. He was such an amazing man, possessed of a singular wit, a razor-sharp mind, an infectious laugh, and an abiding love for his wife and children. We had lunch together every day, and that is still the thing I remember best from my time there. In the too rare times that we caught up after he moved to Detroit and Wayne State, and in the many times that I saw or read about him when he was consulted by the media, I was so happy to see that none of what I knew of him had changed. He was a great man, and all who knew him will be lesser for his absence.