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by Jennifer Baldino Bonett

“In this wonderful life that I have, there are very few things I went out to get. They happened, but for the best.” This from Curtis Reitz L’56, the Algernon Sydney Biddle Professor of Law who clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren upon graduation, joined the Penn Law faculty one year later, and served as University Provost and Counselor to the President.

After 45 years on the Penn Law faculty - and still counting - Reitz stands today as a highly admired scholar and counselor on commercial law, an influential senior commissioner of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, and a remarkable forward thinking legal mind.

While the rather unassuming Reitz may consider happy coincidence to be at the root of these accomplishments, alumni and colleagues of the well-regarded professor would respectfully disagree.

One of them is James Strazzella L’64. A former vice dean of the faculty at Penn, Strazzella later acted as dean of Temple Law School where he holds the James G. Schmidt Chair in Law. As one of the 8,000-plus students (according to his ballpark estimate) who have filled desks in a Reitz classroom in the past 45 years, Strazzella calls Reitz “a remarkable sage, to Penn’s great benefit.”

Like other Reitz alumni, Strazzella still seeks – and cites – the professor’s perspectives. On legal issues: “His grasp of his fields is amazing,” Strazzella says. “Even more remarkable, he’s one of the most informed and astute thinkers in a range of fields beyond those in which he teaches. If I want to discuss something about an obscure aspect of habeas corpus or double jeopardy or sentencing – famously difficult areas of the law – Curtis Reitz is the person to call.”

On administrative issues: “I could always be assured,” Strazzella says, “that a realistic discussion with Curtis Reitz would add an educational dimension that included the long term implications for Penn, the profession, and the individual.”

On academic matters: “Even today, I find his published work some of the most productive work to cite in my own writings,” Strazzella says. “No matter how far ahead in his thinking – and he is ahead, a lot ahead – he has a patient way that remains a model for many of us. . . . he’s one of those people who generously support others’ growth.”

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