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The First Time’s a Charm

ongtime trustee and supporter After Thomson Reuters bought West Dwight Opperman passed away on in 1996, Opperman turned more actively June 13 at the age of 89 after a brief to philanthropy. That year, he became a illness. A model of leadership and integ- trustee of NYU Law and established the rity, he combined sharp business acumen Dwight D. Opperman Scholarship at the with a philanthropic spirit and a gracious- Law School. More than 40 students and ness that made a significant difference in alumni have been Opperman Scholars to the lives of many individuals and institu- date. In 2004, he endowed the Dwight D. tions, including NYU Law. Opperman Professorship of Law, which “Dwight has long been a committed has been held since its inception by Samfriend and supporter not only of the uel Estreicher. The Institute of Judicial Supreme Court but of the Federal Judiciary Administration, a pioneer in its commitas a whole,” Chief Justice John Roberts of ment to improving the administration of the US Supreme Court said in a statement. justice in federal and state courts, was “He demonstrated his deep commitment renamed the Dwight D. Opperman Instito the American system of justice, and in tute of Judicial Administration in 2005 to particular the role of the judge in that sys- recognize Opperman’s outstanding suptem, in countless other ways as well.” port as both a long-time IJA board member Opperman was the first member of his and principal funder. family to go to college, eventually becom“A warm, decent man, Dwight Oppering a self-made billionaire. He grew up in man was a great friend of judges and the rural Iowa during the Great Depression; as courts,” said Estreicher, who is co-director a child, he walked along train tracks col- of the IJA. “There is no program in the counlecting stray coal to heat the family home. try dedicated to the education of judges As a young man, he was an accomplished and excellence in the judicial process that saxophonist, often accompanied by his has not been the recipient of Dwight’s first wife, Jeanice, as vocalist. After serv- personal generosity and sage counsel. ing in the Army during World War II, he We will sorely miss him.” attended Drake University Law School “Throughout my deanship, I always knew with the aid of the GI Bill, and graduated I could turn to Dwight for support and wise in 1951. His first job was as an editor at counsel,” said Richard Revesz, Lawrence West Publishing Company, a legal pub- King Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus. lisher of regional court opinions, where “It’s clear to me that NYU Law has benefited he eventually worked his way up to CEO enormously from Dwight’s keen intelligence, and chairman. In the 1970s, persuading foresight, generosity, and vision,” said Dean a reluctant board, Opperman pushed the Trevor Morrison. company to deliver information electroniOpperman’s first wife, Jeanice, died in cally. The result was Westlaw, an online 1993. He is survived by his wife, Julie; his legal research database and service known two sons, Vance and Fane; nine grandchilto every legal professional. dren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

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THE PEOPLE

Dwight Opperman, 1924--2013

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scholarly pursuits Justice Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Estreicher, Dwight Opperman, and Richard Revesz at the inaugural lecture of the Dwight D. Opperman Professorship of Law in 2005

like many fledgling novelists, Marlen Bodden ’86 was stymied by traditional book publishing. The veteran Legal Aid Society lawyer had spent nine years researching and writing a page-turner about a wealthy, slaveowning plantation family in pre-Civil War Alabama. Unable to find an agent—despite sending more than 300 entreaties—or a commercial publisher, she self-published, in the process hiring three editors to polish her manuscript and spending hours promoting the book to family and friends; traveling to book clubs, signings, fairs, and readings; and reaching out to academia and local media. Her hard work paid off. From 2011–12, Amazon sold 140,000 digital copies of The Wedding Gift, putting it on the Wall Street Journal’s e-book bestseller list. Within weeks, Bodden found an agent who sold her book to major publishers in the US and worldwide, netting her at least two six-figure contracts. The Wedding Gift will be released by St. Martin’s Press this fall with an enthusiastic blurb by Tom Wolfe. Bodden’s novel was inspired by an actual 1840s Alabama case in which a slave owner sued his wife for divorce and the court granted him all the property she brought into the marriage, including a young slave woman. Writing on weekends and on vacations, Bodden, who is currently working on a class action in the Southern District of New York concerning the constitutionality of stop-and-frisk police practices, did not even tell her family she was writing a book: “I just thought that no one was going to take it seriously, and this was just something that I was doing for me.” Now Bodden is working on a historical novel about the conquest of Mexico. Creative writing serves as a refuge from the stress of law practice, she says, and vice versa: “It’s the best of both worlds.”

NYU Law Magazine 2013  
NYU Law Magazine 2013  

The annual magazine from NYU School of Law.