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Aronstein, An Irrepressible Professor, Dies at 78
By Larry Teitelbaum

Martin J. Aronstein
Martin J. Aronstein L’65

Martin J. Aronstein L’65, who switched careers in mid-life and became an esteemed Penn law professor, died suddenly last February after a brief illness. He was 78.

“He was a fine lawyer, but he was a better law teacher,” said Curtis Reitz, the Algernon Sydney Biddle Professor of Law who taught and worked with Aronstein. “He just had this ability to communicate. He had a natural, relaxed style. He was not a person who intimidated students, he encouraged them.”

A U.S. Navy veteran, Mr. Aronstein came to law at a relatively advanced age. After he earned an engineering degree from Yale, Aronstein received a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard. Fresh from the MBA program, Aronstein, born in New York City and raised on Long Island, came to Philadelphia to run one business – the Puro Filter Co., which manufactured water coolers – and start another - Arc, a water treatment company.

But business failed to quench Aronstein’s prolific intellect. So in 1962, at age 37, Aronstein entered Penn Law School – as the first student ever permitted to attend part-time. After he graduated in 1965, Aronstein joined Obermeyer, Rebman, Maxwell, and Hippel in Philadelphia. Four years later, Aronstein joined Penn Law’s faculty.

In fourteen years as a professor, Aronstein earned a reputation for being whimsical yet practical. To wit, one day a student in Aronstein’s Commercial Law class asked him why he gave a different answer than Professor Reitz did to the same question. According to Reitz, Aronstein replied: “ ‘That’s the glory of this great law school. You’re entitled to both the right answer and the wrong answer.’”

Showing his appreciation for commerce, and thus his practical side, Aronstein offered simple career advice: Go where the money is. Aronstein called his suggestion the secret to becoming a successful lawyer.

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