David Vernon

August 9, 1925 - November 5, 2001

Memorial Web Page

David Vernon was a much beloved professor and former dean of the University of Iowa College of Law. He died November 5, 2001, at the age of 76. This site, and the material to which it links, was created by his friends as a memorial to Dave, a set of memories for his family and friends, and as an introduction to this remarkable man for those who were never privileged to know and work with him.

There were two memorial services: on November 8, at 2:00 p.m., at the Agudas Achim Congregation Synagogue in Iowa City, Iowa, and on November 9, at 4:00 p.m., in the Levitt Auditorium at the Boyd Law Building (University of Iowa College of Law in Iowa City).

These links will take you to pages containing links to the moving and impressive comments about the life of this extraordinary man made by his friends and associates on those occasions, scanned images of the printed programs, and a few photos.

There is a separate page with links to the newspaper obituaries and descriptions of his life contained in the memorial programs.

Additional tributes will be added to this page from time to time as received. The Iowa Law Review will have a special issue sometime in 2002. Law students' comments will be coming. Here is one from an admiring student of Professor Vernon's, Colby Friend. There is also this article by Dean W.H. (Joe) Knight, "Role Models," about Dave. Joe Knight formerly occupied the office next to Dave's before leaving the faculty of the University of Iowa College of Law for the Deanship at the University of Washington School of Law.

A bibliography of David Vernon's research and writing is maintained by the UI College of Law as a part of its listing of all faculty members' writing. His was an impressive body of scholarship.

The photograph at the top of this page is of a portion of a portrait of David Vernon that hangs near the administrative offices in the College of Law. University of Iowa Professor and President Emeritus Willard L. Boyd, Jr., who played an instrumental role in assembling the remarks made at the David Vernon memorial services in order that they could be uploaded and available from this site, also played the primary role in preparing the textual material associated with each of the oil portraits of professors that hang in the College of Law, including that of David Vernon. The text soon to be associated with Professor Vernon's portrait reads as follows:

 b. 1925, a. 1966, d. 2001

Taught Contracts, Conflict of Laws, Commercial Law, Remedies.  A Boston High dropout, he enlisted at 17 in the U.S. Navy serving on a PT boat in the Pacific during World War II.  Upon discharge he entered university life never to leave, earning four degrees, serving on five law faculties, and often as a visiting professor at other law schools here and abroad.  Coming to Iowa as Dean of Law in 1966, he was an imaginative leader in a time of growth when the law faculty more than doubled.  He championed what he described as the �Graduate College� approach to legal education, characterized by smaller classes and a richer curriculum, enhanced by advanced courses and seminars, and emphasizing individual attention to development of each student�s research and writing skills.  In 1971 he returned to the classroom full time becoming a legendary master teacher for generations of Iowa law students.  He required students to stand when reciting so that they could learn to �think on their feet�.  Gruff and wry in humor, he never let a class end without a glint of appreciation in his eye for his students.  Nationally admired as a leader in legal education, he served as president of the Association of American Law Schools, chair of the Board of the Law School Admission Council, and editor of the Journal of Legal Education.  He was a prolific author of numerous legal books and articles.  Although devoted to his role as professor of law, he generously responded to repeated calls for help from the University at large on condition that no crisis could be considered so dire as to interfere with his inveterate tennis playing.  He served as interim provost twice and special assistant to four University presidents.  During thirty-five years of change, he handled all nature of problems from academic to athletic to student judiciary.  Ever committed to the integrity of the University, he was pivotal during the protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s in keeping the University open and open to all ideas.  As a drafter of many University policies and procedures, he assured the due process rights of faculty, staff, and students.  He also was a staunch promote and implementer of policies and programs to advance inclusiveness in all aspects of the University.  Receiving the highest honors of the Law School and the University, he was particularly touched to be the Allan D. Vestal Professor of Law, his esteemed and beloved colleague.  Concerned and helpful for everyone he came in contact with, he remains as vivid as the red socks he invariably wore.

Nicholas Johnson
E-mail comments to: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

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