The Heart of the Matter

Almost everyone who’s ever even thought about law school has heard that attending one will teach you, primarily, to “think like a lawyer.”  While that is universally recognized as an important element of any legal education, three events over the past week have led me to conclude that we cannot only be about teaching our students’ minds: we must also be engaging their hearts.  Fortunately, recent events have reminded me that this is something the faculty and alumni of Temple Law do exceptionally well.

On Friday, April 4th, Temple Law hosted Wills for Heroes, an organization that assists first responders and members of the military in drafting basic estate planning documents.  Dan McKenna ’05 and volunteers from Ballard Spahr joined Temple Law faculty, administrators and students to provide this much-needed service.  The feel-good vibes were palpable, and you could see in the faces of the clients the peace that comes from knowing that you are doing something tangible and concrete to protect the ones you love.

From left:  Professor Jane Baron, Shanna Miles, Amanda Cappelletti, Caroline Hubbard and Shelley Reinhart. In back are Kevin Hill and Nick Engel. Photo credit: Rich Baron.

From left: Professor Jane Baron, Shanna Miles, Amanda Cappelletti, Caroline Hubbard and Shelley Reinhart. In back are Kevin Hill and Nick Engel. Photo credit: Rich Baron.

On Saturday, Professor Jane Baron, who had also volunteered at the event on Friday, met students from her Property class at the East Poplar Playground and Recreation Center where, as part of the 7th annual Philly Spring Cleanup, they worked to spruce up a community garden.  Professor Baron has been a real driving force for the law school, reminding us that giving back to our community is not an obligation; it’s not even something we occasionally do.  It is who we are.

In between these two wonderful events was yet a third expression of the Temple Law Heart – -the tribute to Professor Eddie Ohlbaum, (“Eddie” to everyone), who passed away on March 13 after a valiant but too brief battle against cancer.  Judge Mitchell Goldberg (EDPA) gave comments from the judiciary, and as a member (with Andy Stern) of the inaugural trial team.  Luke Reiter, currently Executive Producer of “The Blacklist” but with legions of Hollywood credits to his name, spoke on behalf of the trial team (he was a member of Temple’s winning National Trial Competition team (NTC) where he received ‘best advocate honors).  Emilia McKee, a current 3L and member of the all-women NTC team just back from Texas where we once again made the Elite Eight, spoke about Eddie’s impact on trial team members, sharing with us an email Eddie had written to the team after a heart-breaking second-place finish earlier in the year.  (Members of the only other all women team, were also in attendance.  See both teams in the photo to the right).  In his message to this year’s team members, Eddie reminded them of all they had accomplished and how proud he was of them.  He told them, and forgive me for paraphrasing, that he would go into battle with them any day.  That unqualified support is what we all received from Eddie in various forms and settings.  And it is what we so very much miss.  After Emilia came David Layne, also a 3L, who talked about Eddie’s impact on students not on the trial team.  In reprising an encounter he’d had with Eddie about his success on Eddie’s Evidence exam, David reminded us that Eddie cared about every one of his students, not as competitors or numbers, but as people.

From left: Michelle Ashcroft, Emilia McKee Vassallo, Caroline Power, Brittne Walden, Anne Hendricks, Elaine Ugolnik,  Nancy Conrad

From left: Michelle Ashcroft, Emilia McKee Vassallo, Caroline Power, Brittne Walden, Anne Hendricks, Elaine Ugolnik, Nancy Conrad

David was followed by a trio of faculty members.  Professor Lou Natali reminisced about hiring Eddie at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and Eddie’s relentless commitment to out-work everyone else.  Professor Eleanor Myers reflected on Eddie’s service in the Temple Office of University Counsel, where he excelled at civil litigation, but just hated it.  Fortunately, Temple Law School came calling, and Eddie joined the Law School faculty in 1984.  Former University Counsel and former Dean Bob Reinstein shared memories of Eddie’s role on the Law School faculty, particularly as architect of the nationally-recognized advocacy program, an impact that single-handedly changed Temple Law School.

Having labelled both her presence and her participation as a game-day decision, Eddie’s widow, Karyn Scher, graced us with remarks.  She was at once nostalgic yet funny.  She shared a hilarious dream she’d had featuring Eddie and St. Peter.  I won’t reveal the punchline in case she chooses to tell it again — as she should.

The tribute ended with a short but poignant video, ending with Eddie’s hands over his head in victory.  (Thank you, Steve App, for finding the video).  It reminded us of his essence, his encouragement, and his love of success.   The planning committee concluded, afterwards, that the evening was as near perfect as one could hope.

Why do I go on like this?  In part, I want to honor my friend and colleague, Eddie Ohlbaum. But as I surveyed the several hundred people who had gathered to honor his contributions (the event was planned as a tribute, long before we had reason to suspect he would not be present to witness it), I realized that Eddie, and our reaction to his achievements and his loss, are what people love about Temple.  As an institution, Temple has a big heart  one with space and love for all of our community.

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