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|Citing Curtis Reitz: Professor Marks 45 Years of Teaching|
Famous: The Extraordinary Career of
David L. Cohen Lí81
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Reitz considers the faculty members of his day still my heroes. Noyes Leech C43, L48 is among them, and the esteem is mutual. Leech, now professor emeritus, says his admiration for his former student and colleague glitters. Reitz graduated in 1956 as the sole summa cum laude in his class. He was offered a position on the Penn Law faculty immediately.
He postponed accepting. The Supreme Court had come calling.
Dean Jefferson B. Fordham had recommended Reitz for a clerkship with Chief Justice Earl Warren. Only a couple of years after Brown v. Board of
It was an unbelievably fun year, Reitz recalled in his oral history. Hard work, very hard work, but marvelous. Largely because of Earl Warren. He was just a fascinating man to work with. Reitz, who at age 11 lost his father, considered Warren a father figure that would talk openly about his early life and his political career. Reitz worked with giants of the Court: Black, Douglas, Frankfurter, and Brennan, who became a friend to Reitz.
Returning to Penn Law as a member of the faculty, Reitz became legendary for his Paper Chase-like approach to teaching. Im not nearly as Socratic as I used to be, reports Reitz, once rumored to eschew the declarative sentence. I used to tell students who would get frustrated that they didnt need to know the answers. What they needed to know were the questions. Just write down the questions. If you kept track of the important or the interesting questions, that in itself would be a learning experience.
The reputation of Curtis Reitz for serious, Socratic style preceded him into Judith Renzullis L80 first-year Contracts class. Pursuing law as a second career, Renzulli watched in the long silences as Reitz would polish his glasses and walk across the dais, waiting for a response from a student. Outside class, he seemed more relaxed, she recalls. I knew I had to make him laugh, she says. She got him to crack a smile in response to a notion she proposed that would pair contracts and torts. I cant imagine anyone would think that, he said. Well, I just did, she replied gamely.
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