David R. Herwitz ’49

One lawyer’s account

The influence of a great teacher like Dave Herwitz brings him nearer to immortality than most of us get. In my own nearly 50 years of professional life, I have met numerous wonderful individuals and benefited from the wisdom and character of many. However, Dave is a standout as a man of character, professional, teacher and friend. In my three stints at “the law school” (as a student, teaching fellow and visiting professor), I witnessed the esteem in which he has been held by three generations of students. It is of the highest order.

David R. Herwitz
John Chapin

How often does a tap on the shoulder change a life’s course? While I was never enrolled in any of Dave’s courses, I attended, as a 2L, every session of his course in Business Planning—not for credit, but for learning. During the following summer, Dave noticed me in the law library reading room, and that’s when he tapped my shoulder. After several inquiries of a delicate nature, he asked if I would be interested in tutoring for the next semester the foreign tax officials he was teaching in the International Program in Taxation. I eagerly accepted and thereafter assisted a remarkable group of individuals who were already prominent in nations worldwide. That year he also hired me as a research assistant for his new “Accounting for Lawyers” book. These tasks called for me to again audit Dave’s course, this time Accounting for Lawyers.

In that class, he opened my mind wide to the vast excitement and significance of this seemingly prosaic language of business. Ten years later I, too, went into teaching and wrote my own book for that course. I believe I avoided plagiarism, but could I avoid “plagiarizing” his inspiration of that subject? Ultimately, I realized that whatever was of value in the book was inspired by Dave’s spirit.

Dave began his career working in private practice in Boston after a brief stint on the U.S. Tax Court. By the time I returned to HLS, in 1988, as a visiting professor (again, at his instigation), he had been on the faculty for nearly 35 years, clearly highly respected and well-liked by faculty, staff and other law school constituencies. It was a sabbatical year for Dave, but he stayed on site, and I still savor the memory of the frequent conversations with him, alone and in faculty groups, and the gracious hospitality that he and Carla extended to my wife and me in their beautiful home.

I suspect that he is quite unaware of how much he affected my life and career. He treated all his students and colleagues in the same way, and there are surely many other beneficiaries of his generous goodwill and wisdom.

For many of us, “Sic transit gloria mundi” is a necessary caution against hubris, but Dave was never guilty of that failing, and his glory is not merely transitory.

Next tribute: Frank E.A. Sander ’52