uests of honor and h g onorable speakers Dean Richard Revesz (upper right) with his wife, Vicki Been, and daughter, Sarah, basking in the glow of encomiums from, clockwise from lower right, Elena Kagan, Robert Katzmann, Nicholas Bagley, Jeannie Forrest, Barry Friedman, Kenji Yoshino, John Sexton, and Anthony Welters.
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Yoshino, as a fellow faculty member, was last in a lineup of speakers who each revealed different relationships to Revesz as dean: John Sexton, president of NYU, spoke as Revesz’s decanal predecessor and, subsequently, his boss; Elena Kagan, associate justice of the Supreme Court, was both a colleague and a direct competitor when she was dean of Harvard Law School; Robert Katzmann, judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, is both a longtime adjunct professor and a close friend; and Nicholas Bagley ’05, assistant professor at the University of Michigan Law School, is a former student and collaborator of Revesz. The 90-minute event, emceed with wit and banter by Vice Dean Jeannie Forrest and Professor Barry Friedman, also featured the unveiling of Revesz’s official portrait, painted by Daniel Mark Duffy. But before the scrim was pulled off Duffy’s handsome work, the speakers painted their own “verbal portrait,” as Yoshino called it, each reflecting with insight and a little humor on the myriad ways Revesz had transformed and strengthened NYU Law since he took over as dean in 2002. First up was Sexton, who recounted his 1984 trip down to the Supreme Court to try to convince Revesz, then a clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall, to join the NYU Law faculty. “He elevated our faculty the minute he joined it,” Sexton said, adding that during his own 14-year tenure as dean, no one “had more to do with shaping the heart and soul of the Law School, which is its faculty, than Ricky.” In this way, Sexton said, “it really is the case that for 25 years, Ricky’s been the dean, in the most important way.” Sexton cited Revesz’s many accomplishments as dean, including more than $500 million in fundraising, the addition of 46 new faculty members, the expansion of NYU’s pioneering loan repayment assistance program, the creation of multiple new and influential policy centers, the doubling of the number of clinical courses, and the trailblazing steps to adapt legal education to the fiscal and global realities of the 21st century.
n early 2008, kenji yoshino faced an unusual dilemma: The respected constitutional scholar had in his hands a tempting offer to become a full professor at NYU School of Law—and yet he could not accept it. At the time, Yoshino was in the midst of a successful visiting professorship at NYU, on leave from his post as Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale, where he had been on the faculty for nearly 10 years. To lure him to NYU, Dean Richard Revesz presented Yoshino with a seemingly ideal title: the inaugural Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law. Yoshino, who is of Japanese heritage, was honored but explained to Revesz that he could not accept the chair because Warren, as attorney general and later governor of California, had been a central figure in establishing the Japanese American internment camps there during World War II. “Ricky completely understood, but a few weeks later he reached out to me again,” Yoshino recalled. Revesz told him that he had consulted a biography of Warren and confirmed that as Chief Justice of the United States—the post he famously held for 16 years after his governorship—Warren had publicly expressed profound regret for his involvement in the internment program. Revesz added that he had discovered he had some flexibility in the exact name of the professorship, and proposed that the chair instead be called the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professorship of Constitutional Law. “He mentioned that as a specialist in civil rights, I might enjoy having a title that would remind me how much an individual can grow over a lifetime,” Yoshino said. “I knew then that I had found my new dean.” The story, which Yoshino recounted during a celebration on April 9 honoring Revesz’s 11 years of service at the helm of NYU Law, evoked many of Revesz’s best qualities: “his keen problemsolving approach, his relentless energy—but most of all, his humane wisdom,” Yoshino said to the hundreds of professors, administrators, alumni, and students who filled Tishman Auditorium to bid a bittersweet goodbye to the outgoing dean.
Published on Sep 6, 2013