Monday, October 11, 2010
Incredibly sad news: Professor Richard Nagareda has passed away, unexpectedly. Here is the Vanderbilt press release. His passion for teaching and scholarship has inspired students, lawyers, and scholars in land use as well as his own fields of mass tort, evidence, and procedure. He was relatively young and this is hard to believe.
He was a fantastic scholar: Mass Torts in a World of Settlement (Chicago, 2007) stands as a seminal work in the field. He was also a very generous mentor. When I first went on the teaching market, Richard reached out to me and gave me advice and encouragement; he listened to my moot job talk (a disaster!) and sent me detailed comments on how to straighten it out; and when I got my first chance as a VAP at Georgia, he even helped me with advice about daycare and schools in Athens. Everyone at Georgia and Vanderbilt who knew Richard thought he was terrific. I last saw him at the AALS mid-year and he was as kind and encouraging as ever.
My personal interactions with Richard, limited as they were, are probably a common story among the many students, lawyers, and scholars he has helped. But what is most important to me is that Prof. Nagareda was the single best classroom teacher I have ever seen--and I say that in all seriousness considering the many truly wonderful teachers I have had as a student, and have known as colleagues. I took his Evidence class (with about 130 others) as a 3L after he moved from Georgia to Vanderbilt. He came in every day and made us believe that what we were doing was serious and important, yet also interesting and fun. His combination of professionalism, high standards, humor, and humanity is something that has inspired me profoundly as a teacher. I still remember many things that he said back in that class in 2001 (now that I think of it, he even had the leadership ability to speak to the class and bring us through on September 11). I'll never forget the time he told us that, as much as he enjoyed the scholarly part of his job (at which he was an academic rock star), his greatest motivation was to be with us in the classroom. I try to take that perspective into class every week. I have had a number of wonderful and inspiring mentors who have helped me to begin my academic career and to grow in the substantive areas in which I work; but Richard Nagareda is the law professor whom I still try most to emulate as a teacher.