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Interview with Professor Curtis Reitz: Tape Index

Interviewee: Professor Curtis Reitz

Interviewer: Scott White

Date: March 9, 1999

Place: Professor Curtis Reitz’s office at the Law School

Time - Topic

:08 - Introduction

:28 - Birthdate and Place

Reading, Pennsylvania, 1929.

:41 - Parents Birthdate

Mother 1895 and father 1892.

:56 - Parents Occupation

Mother was a school teacher, father was a jeweler.

1:02 - Siblings

One brother who lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.

1:20 - Interests as a Child


1:41 - High School

Reading High School. He remembers a large class and good teachers.

2:17 - High School Activities

Fellowship club and printing.

2:50 - College

Always knew he was going to college. Only considered Penn. He had a cousin who attended Penn and was attracted by the national reputation of the football program.

3:50 - College Activities

Radio, debate team and Christian Club. He spent most of his time with the radio.

4:19 - Radio

Attracted to radio because it was new. He worked in various positions including Manager. He had his own radio show.

5:58 - Difference Between College Now and Then

The current curriculum has expanded. Difficult to make a good comparison.

7:04 - Major

History, because it was a good pre-law program and the courses were interesting.

7:50 - Influential Undergraduate Professor

Russel Francis

8:24 - Law School Decision

He knew he was going to college since he was 12 year-old. He was influenced by books and radio programs.

9:34 - Between College and Law School

Two years in the service during the Korean War.

10:23 - Law Schools Considered

Penn and Yale. Returned to Penn because he liked it and his fiancée preferred Philadelphia.

12:04 - First Year of Law School

He remembers wonderful teachers.

12:58 - Activities at the Law School

He worked for UPS during his first year and spent a lot of time on the Law Review during his second and third years.

12:24 - Law Review

He learned a lot about writing and research. He was an Associate Editor and the Editor-in-Chief.

15:13 - Physical Structure of the Law School

Original 1900 building. It was run down.

16:36 - Size of Class

Started with 175, graduated 125. Some dropped out, some flunked out.

18:00 - Movie Based on Penn Law School

A Paul Newman movie based on the law school was shot during his third year of law school. It was not shot at the law school. A set was designed in Hollywood that replicated the law school.

20:15 - Typical Day at Law School

There was a lot less space, so students were more visible. Law Review students spend a great deal of time at the law school.

22:46 - Fondest Memory of Law School

The people.

23:28 - Research Assistant for Professor Schwartz

He worked on the Model Penal Code as a research assistant during the summer.

24:01 - Law School Expectations

Law school was very different from what he expected. He thought he would just have to memorize a lot of rules. It was quite a shock, but a pleasant surprise.

25:30 - Favorite Class

First year Torts with Professor Clarence Morris.

26:18 - Influential Law School Professors

Leo Levin, John Honald and Lou Schwartz.

26:51 - Reviewed 1956 Yearbook

Yearbook was started by one of his classmates.

29:10 - Plans for After Graduation

He was hired by the faculty to teach before he graduated.

30:10 - Other Career Options

Before the faculty offer, he interviewed with law firms in Philadelphia, New York and Cleveland. He almost went to Jones Day.

31:41 - Clerkship

He was recommended by the law school dean. He was very excited to clerk for Chief Justice Earl Warren. It was the post-McCarthy era and the Court had a lot of so-called Communist cases. He learned a lot about Earl Warren, who had become a father figure to him.

36:26 - Cases Worked on as a Clerk

Worked primarily on two cases. Both involved investigations where the suspects were members of the Communist Party. He also worked on a pornography case. He got in to long discussions with Justice Brennan about Federal Employers Liability Act cases.

38:57 - Returning to Penn as a Professor

Very weird to be on the faculty with former professors. He taught some of his fellow students.

40:23 - First Classes Taught

Civil Procedure and Sales. He found it difficult to match the material to the method. He learned that people absorb the material at different speeds and with different methods of comprehension.

43:20 - Leaving Penn

He never seriously considered leaving Penn to teach elsewhere. He did spend one year teaching at Washington and Lee University. He really enjoyed the experience and thought about staying. The school had great architecture and the students were very polite.

46:28 - Teaching Style

Changes all the time. He used to be more Socratic. Now he does more lecturing.

47:28 - Provost and Vice-President

He became the Provost through his involvement with the Faculty Senate. He was worried about the direction of the University, so he got involved to change things. He remembers steering the University in a very different direction than it was headed in. The most significant issues he dealt with were the financial health of the University and the status of the undergraduate program. He learned a lot about running a large organization. He never considered staying in an administrative position permanently. He had young children at the time and the Provost position was taking up too much time.

54:58 - Counselor to the President

Part-time position dedicated to maintaining a good relationship between the University and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The University depended a lot on the Commonwealth for educational funding and it was important for the University to maintain a good relationship.

58:23 - Changes at the Law School Over the Past 45 Years

Increases in the size of the physical plant, the faculty and the student body. There are now more women and minorities at the school. There are fewer “salt-of-the-earth types” in the student body. Many students now leave Pennsylvania to practice in other cities, particularly New York.

1:01:49 - Advice to Law Students Today

The profession is changing. There will be larger organizations providing legal services. The large accounting firms are now trying to provide legal services. The legal services community is becoming more global. Knowledge of U.S. law will not be sufficient.

1:06:08 - Most Significant Contribution to Penn Law

There is a large body of alumni that he taught. He has a “kind of immortality” in his students. He hopes they remember learning something from him. Furthermore, he has worked to improve the curriculum.

1:08:20 - First Academic Work Published

It was on federal habeas.

1:09:36 - Publishing With His Son

He worked on the Criminal Standards Project for the ABA with his son Kevin. They were co-reporters. They spent three years of intense work on sentencing. They both enjoyed it. He thinks sentencing should be the major criminal law course taught in law school.

1:13:24 - Director of the Center on Professionalism

This was an organized effort to teach Professional Responsibility at the law school. The Center was an umbrella organization for teaching the course. It used to be taught during the January term. When the January term was eliminated, the Center was also eliminated. The course is now a full time upper-level course. One of his great regrets is that the Center is no longer functioning.

1:18:04 - National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws

He has been a Commissioner since 1975. The position is appointed by the Governor. He has served on numerous drafting committees. He has worked on drafts of the Commercial Code. His term expires next month, but he hopes to be reappointed. He really enjoys the legislative process.

1:20:45 - Uniform Commercial Code

He has worked on drafting various sections including Articles One, Two, Two-A, Two-B and Eight. He has changed the process of drafting to get more public involvement earlier in the process. He has a great deal of respect for the National Conference of Commissioners. He says that everyone is a volunteer and that you couldn’t buy this kind of talent anywhere. He has a lot of friends from the Conference all over the country. He considers them like a family.

1:25:31 - Board of Overseers at Widener University Law School

He got involved by accident when the President of Widener University lived across the street from him. Originally the law school was an independent school, but it failed to receive ABA accreditation as a free standing institution. Widener was unsure about taking on the law school. He helped Widener decide to accept the law school. He helped set up the Board of Overseers and has been a member ever since. The school is now doing well and he thinks his services are no longer needed. He thinks he should probably retire soon. He has not been able to bring many ideas back and forth between the two schools because they are very different law schools.

1:30:38 - International House of Philadelphia

As Provost he served ex-officio on the Board. He remained on after he was no longer the Provost. The House is a resource for international students at Penn. It is not only a place to live, but it also provides services to international students. When his son was at Penn he lived at the House for one year.

1:35:49 - Glen Mills Schools

He is on the Board of Managers of the Glen Mills Schools. The School dates back to 1828. It is a school for juvenile delinquents. It is all boys who are sent there by court order. The school has an international reputation and is considering taking over another campus in Florida. The Glen Mills model has been very successful and many other states and countries are trying to replicate it. Some students leave to go on to college or professional sports. Others learn a vocation. The school is currently building a golf course where students will be trained in golf course management.

1:46:27 - Free Time

He still likes to read. He shares books with his son. He used to play tennis. Now he and his wife enjoy ball room dancing.

1:47:35 - Greatest Accomplishment in Life

He doesn’t like to think in those terms, nor is he ready to sum up. He doesn’t like to think about the past. He prefers to think about the future and how we are going to solve existing problems.

1:50:32 - Future Accomplishments

He would like to update a commercial law case book that is now seven years old. He would also like to get some materials on international trade regulation in to publishable form. Finally, he is building a house.

1:52:41 - The End