Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Clark Byse 1912-2007


Professor Clark Byse is thought to be the inspiration for Professor Kingsfield in the novel The Paper Chase by John Osborne, Jr. He said this to his class on the first day of Contracts:

On the first day of the class on Contracts, there is a temptation to lecture because, as Adlai Stevenson said when he was the speaker at a college commencement, "This is a wonderful opportunity, for there is so much that I, a man in his fifties, have learned in my lifetime that would be of great value to you in your early twenties." At this point, Mr. Stevenson paused, shook his head slightly, and said in a mournful tone, "But it would do no good for me to tell you those things, for what is important and lasting in life must be learned -- by action, by participation, rather than by passive absorption."

So never forget that the emphasis in this class is on what and how you think, not on what some judge or treatise writer or your instructor thinks. My function is to assist you to develop your lawyerly skills and understanding of the institution of Contract and of the development of the legal process and the role of law in our society. Developing those skills and understanding can and will be an exciting experience for some. For others, the experience at times may be frustrating and even unpleasant. Some will enjoy being called on and speaking in class. For others, speaking in front of 100 hearers may be embarassing, even painful -- something to be avoided at all costs.

To those who dread being called on, I say, Relax. We are all in this together, to learn to improve ourselves. Of course, mistkes will be made. This is why there are erasers on pencils. There is nothing wrong about making a mistake. What would be wrong is not learning from one's mistakes.

Clark Byse, Introductory Comments to the First-Year Class in Contracts, 78 B.Y.U. L. Rev. 59 (1998). Prof. Byse taught Contracts and Administrative Law at Harvard for nearly 50 years.He died on October 9, 2007 at the age of 95. May he rest in peace.

1 comment:

julie k said...

This was absolutely wonderful to read, and I could almost hear his voice as I read it. He was probably the best teacher I ever had, anywhere. Thanks for posting this.