Memorial Service for Professor James Vorenberg held May 10, 2000
 
 

Speakers:

Jill Alberts

Dean Robert Clark

Professor Emeritus Archibald Cox

Anthony Lewis

The Rev. Deborah W. Little

Margaret H. Marshall

Professor Daniel Meltzer

Deval Patrick
 
 

Jill Alberts:

I am Jill Alberts, Jim's oldest daughter. Planning what I wanted to say today was not easy. Things became, as dad, in his understated way would say, "a little complicated" when it became clear that I was the only family member who would be speaking today. Why complicated? Well because we are a complicated family, especially in the kid department. Dad started out with me, Amy and Liza (known in Vorenberg lexicon as "the girls"). Then he married Betty, and with her came Johnny and Amy. Then there are the 3 nephews, Dan, Tom, and Mike who over the years came to be like sons. So now we have become a rather large clan, expecially if you count the in-laws and Deval Patrick, who was always known in our family as the 6th child.

Over the past few weeks countless E-mails and phone calls have gone back and forth. "Remember the time dad let me drive on his lap and we went into the ditch? Maybe you could talk about that ". . . Or "Don't you think you should mention the way he left all those little notes to himself all over the house?" We are overflowing with memories. Each of us can conjure up the anticipation as we walked up Mass. Ave. to Dad's office at the Law School, drove down the long Quansoo Road, or pulled into the driveway at Willard Street. It was knowing you would feel loved, share some laughter or news of your kids, maybe share a special snack, or get a little advice.

So the thoughts and memories I will share with you today are compiled in a joint effort. I just happen to be the lucky one who got the stage, and therefore, editorial prerogative. If it seems a little disjointed, I apologize. The trouble is, my wisest, most trusted advisor and editor was not here to help me.

There are of course, a great many things to share. There are also some things that I won't be talking about. I won't be talking about how dedicated Dad was to his professional life and all the wonderful things he accomplished; though we are incredibly proud of the mark he made on the world and all of us have been influenced by his commitment to making a difference in the lives of others. He was unquestionably our hero. But truth be told, we really didn't pay much attention to how many commissions he ran or the impact of his scholarly work. We cared about what he was like in his daily life. What we will miss most about him are all the ways he expressed his generous spirit, his kindness, humor, loyalty and, above all, his devotion to his family.

We will miss the way he always asked: "Anything I should know?" "Should I be worried about you?" This was the essence of Dad. He wasn't one for small talk, and these questions were his way of cutting to the chase- of finding out what was most on our minds. Our burdens were lessened by his relentless willingness to hear what was REALLY going on and to offer support when we needed it. The night before he collapsed, Dad told me on the phone. " I don't want you to be worrying about me.'' That sort of role reversal was unacceptable to him. Worrying was his job. "That's what I get paid for", he once told me.

We will miss the way he took care of us. You may think that he found his calling as a lawyer, but in fact, he was a frustrated doctor He was always the one to dress our wounds and take out our splinters (As you can imagine, we were relieved when research suggested that most splinters should be left to work their way out alone). He checked on us when we were laid up in bed. He made with the most ingenious bandages, often using unusual materials such as duct tape and Popsicle sticks.

Dad also loved music, but it wasn't the music that you'd expect. Dixieland was his favorite - the louder the better. He loved Gilbert and Sullivan and old musicals. When we were in high school, Amy Troubh had a part in Guys and Dolls. I remember the two of them, and Betty too, serenading the rest of us with Take Back Your Mink! as we drove to the Vineyard.

Dad would mortify us with enthusiastic renditions of his favorite tunes from the Pirates of Penzance, or #I hits like Jeremiah was Bullfrog.- Always sung at the top of his lungs, always way off key, and often in the presence of some friend or young man we were hoping to impress.

Dad was the best twister around. He was the one who introduced us to Chubby Checker. We all remember him, eyes closed, chin thrust forward, shoulders hunched, lips pursed, twisting his whole body with delighted abandon. (He never quite could get just his hips to move - it was more of a torso kind of a thing) As the years went by, and his body stiffened with the Parkinson's, his dancing slowed down. But he was always game, especially for a dance with Betty. I remember watching him last summer, as they danced cheek to cheek at James Weiner's wedding. His steps may have been a bit clumsy, but you could tell how happy he was to be out on the dance floor with the love of his life.

Dad had a wonderful sense of humor. While he was always tolerant and accepting, he was occasionally known to make a joke at the expense of others. Once, on a family ski trip, Dad slipped a tape recorder under his brother Jack's bed to prove to him that he did, in fact snore-and loudly too. The next morning, as Jack arrived full of pep at the breakfast table, and the rest stared at each other in an exhausted stupor, a gleeful Dad played the tape, top volume. He had made his point and poor Jack was banished to the farthest bedroom.
 

Dad wasn't afraid to make a gentle joke about the hard stuff. It was one of his ways of expressing compassion. And he always tried to look on the bright side.

Dad also didn't mind making a fool of himself if it meant he could cheer someone up. In 1979 we girls lost our mother shortly before Easter, and although we were quite grown up, Dad, nice Jewish boy that he was, decided to raise our spirits by reviving one of Mom's Easter traditions. We awoke that Sunday morning to the sound of Dad galumphing into our room on all fours (he was trying to hop actually). He was dressed in his very own, homemade bunny costume, which included a stuffed sock pinned to his behind, and more socks hung over his ears. In his mouth he carried an Easter basket full of goodies.

Growing up in Dad's orbit was an adventure. As my siblings and I spoke about our childhood, a few themes emerged. First, (And many of you know this from his cookbook,) there was the "food thing". Like his own father Frank, dad was crazy for good ice cream. Every family car trip was punctuated by a stop for ice cream at a roadside restaurant. Sometimes he could barely wait to get out of town. On our frequent drives from Cambridge to New Hampshire, we often didn't make it past the Fresh Pond Circle Ho Jo's before we had to stop for our ice cream fix.

Dad always needed a bite of whatever it was you happened to be eating. More than once we hid in the kitchen broom closet at Dunster House in order to finish a sandwich before he discovered it. He also loved Liza's berry pies. Every single one was proclairned to be " The best you've ever made!"

And actually, despite all that has been said about Dad's ethics - he was, in fact, capable of lying. Amy remembers wandering over to their Vineyard house one morning and asking, "Dad, anymore of that blueberry pie left from last night?" He looked her right in the eye and said "Nope". But there in the fridge - stuffed way in the back- she found a small, carefully wrapped piece. "Some things are important enough to lie about," he told her.

Dad was a big one for games and, he was a great athlete. There was nothing better than a tennis, baseball or touch football game with Dad as the organizer, and unofficial referee. When it became too difficult for Dad to play some of the games he loved, he remained a steadfast cheerleader of the younger set, encouraging and taking great pride in their athletic accomplishments. With the grandchildren he was always up for a game of concentration, poker Connect Four, chess or Croquet.

And then there was the garnbling. While other fathers were taking their kids to the zoo, we were offto Suffolk Downs. Key life lessons were leamed on these jaunts. We would carefully study the daily racing form, consulting with the sage experl about the possible retums on the Exacta or the more risky Daily Double. While he might disagree with the bets we made, he would always accept them as long as we could convincingly argue our case.

We were not the only ones who accompanied Dad on his forays to the track. He and Gary Bellow had an annual tradition of a day at the races and Dad introduced his grandson, Nathan, to the wonders of horseracing at the ripe old age of 3.

And it wasn't just the track. On Caribbean vacations, we girls dressed up to look over 18 so that we could sneak into the local casinos witn Dad and hit the blackjack table as a family.

Dad would place a bet on just about anything- a croquet match, a skipping stone, a pool game between two children, how fast a clam couid dig it's way into the sand. Dad and John Troubh found a special bond in gambling. John is not unknown at Foxwoods and Atlantic City, and Dad always took a piece of his action when he couldn't be there in person.

Betty, who helped Dad "stay in the game" to the very end, had the wonderful idea of building Dad a bocce court by their Vineyard house in honor of their 30th anniversary next month. She knew he still had a good arm and wou]d love being able to play and make a wager or two with the younger generations. While our hearts will be aching, you can be sure that the competition will be fierce, and the stakes high, as we gather to inaugurate the court in his memory next summer.

Dad's ethics and integrity were a source of inspiration and pride for us all, though living with his standards was not always easy. One of the first things Betty said after Dad died was " Well, I guess I'll have to take the handicapped plates back to Motor Vehicles." What's the rush we asked? She responded, "I'm afraid if I don't, Dad will send a bolt of lightning down to strike me!"

But for Dad, being ethical did not always mean following the rules. When his friend Ellie Halprin was in the hospital years ago, he was angry that the restrictive visiting hour policy meant that she spent many hours alone. So, he borrowed one of his brother Jack's white doctor coats and donned it whenever he went to the hospital offhours. He had no problem with this deception. He kept the coat in the car so he could visit Ellie whenever he wanted.

If we girls doted on Dad a little too much - we learned it from how he was with his parents, Ida and Frank. He'd drop by on them almost nightly - with a little smoked salmon, maybe some of Rosanne's herring - just to check in. We are a family of fierce loyalty and unconditional love for each other -traits we no doubt leamed from watching the relationship of Dad and his only brother, Jack. Their steadfast devotion to each other was an inspiration to all of us in the next generation. Recently, Liza came across a letter Dad had written to his parents on the occasion of their 30th wedding anniversary. In it he wrote, "I suppuse the guiding theme of the way Jack and I have been brought up can best be summed up as affectionate liberalism. Subsumed in these two words are vast quantities of humor and skepticism." Then he went on to say, "By doing all that parents can do to provide the necessary equipment and backstopping for fruitful lives, without any mandate as to how that life should be lived, you have insured against our waking up some moming and saying "who got me into this?" Well, now we know where Dad got it from. He has continued in this tradition with the next generation. And while we will miss him daily, we will carry with us forever the axioms and words that we often heard from him. Among these were:

-Everyone has something. What's important is not to have too many things.

-No one is all good or all bad

-Always stick at 16

-Never use a ten-dollar word, wher a 2-dollar word will suffice. |

-No good deed goes unpunished -Always have a contingency plan

AND

-Old age is not for sissies

If this were the end of a conversation with Dad, rather than about him, you can be sure he would be asking- "Anything I should know?" So in closing I just want to sayóWell, yes Dad, there is something you should know- A few things actually. You should know how much we love you and how grateful we are for who you were and for all you gave us. You should know that we will do our best to carry on the Vorenberg tradition and make you proud.

Then he would ask, " Should I be worried about you?" No dad, it's time to stop worrying We'll take it from here. We'll watch out for Betty. We'll miss you so, but we'll be just fine.
 
 
 
 
 

Dean Robert Clark:

I miss Jim Vorenberg; I mourn his passing. There are so many things that can and should be said about Jim's good character and great achievements in his many roles - as law student, as corporate lawyer, as public servant, as law professor, as dean, and as family man, colleague, and friend. I find a crowd of images and memories of Jim jostling together in my mind. Being an academic and a lawyer, I've tried to organize some of them around a single theme, a kind of lawyer's analogy: Jim was and is an important precedent in my life. He was a leading case for me, so to speak - a crucial and authoritative leading case.

Jim worked at the great Boston law firm of Ropes & Gray; so did I, though Jim worked longer and rose higher. His early academic writing included work in corporate law; so did mine, though Jim quickly moved on other fields. He taught a long time at HLS, and then became its dean; so did I. He was a changed man as a result of his service as dean; so am I.

To be sure, I tell myself, there were many notable differences. My assistant, Joan Noel, who was also Jim's assistant when he was dean, tells me that Jim hated fundraising but actually seemed to enjoy student demonstrations. My preferences are exactly the opposite, and I have worked to shift the balance of exposure to the two kinds of events. Nevertheless, I find myself marveling at Jim s preferences.

I also find myself marveling at the magnanimity of spirit that undergirded Jim's actions as an experienced dean. Though when he entered the role he was perceived by many to be the ultimate tough guy, he evolved to become an unsurpassed good listener, and his always innate sense of fairness and evenhandedness became more and more apparent. He could entertain different perspectives. Sometunes this went pretty far. I am told that once, while Jim was sitting in the dean's office with a group of senior staff, Max, the office mouse, made an unscheduled appearance. Though one of the staff members jumped up on the table, Jim kindly said, "Hello, Max. How are you today?" (One long term consequence of this particular kindness of Jim is that Max survived to become part of the group that recently lobbied me to have the School offer a course in Animal Rights Law.) More seriously, Jim showed a similar benevolence toward odd and unscheduled intrusions - of ideas, arguments, and people - at faculty meetings.

After Jim stepped down from the deanship and I tried to take his place, I was fortunate to see a new side of him. As a faculty member, Jim was totally admirable. He never tried to test the margin of the rules, or bargain for the extra penny or the special privilege. He carried more than his share of the load, both as teacher and as committee member, and he did it willingly. As a former dean, he always stood ready and willing to be helpful to the School and to me. I think he sometimes disagreed with what one of my committees was recommending but became supportive because, as a former dean, he had his eye on the greater good. In any event, he often volunteered to do things to help me. This was a striking characteristic, and I am very, very grateful to him for it. And finally, in his metaphorical role as grand case law precedent, the interpretation of Jim changed and deepened. As the years of deaning have gone by, and one happening piles on top of another, I find myself feeling more and more understanding of what Jim experienced, more and more appreciation for what he achieved as dean, and more and more admiration and affection for him as a person.

I will miss you, Jim Vorenberg. Thanks for being my leading case.
 
 
 
 
 

Professor Emeritus Archibald Cox:

In his rich and varied career Jim Vorenberg contributed many benefits to the public good, to Harvard, and to individuals -- his colleagues, students and friends. I enjoyed a large share, beginning while he was my student and lasting until today and tomorrow. The work together I value most began in May 1973 when Jim and Phil Heymann walked into my Harvard office and volunteered to spend the spring and summer months in Washington helping me in my extraordinary new assignment as Special Watergate Prosecutor, charged with investigating and, if warranted, prosecuting a wide variety of charges against high executive officials, including the then President of the United States.

Starting with only the piece of paper defining my jurisdiction, Jim took on the unheralded but indispensable work of organizing the Watergate Special Prosecution Force. His familiarity with attorneys experienced in the administration of criminal justice, gained as Director of the Office of Criminal Justice and as Executive Director of the President's Crime Commission, was invaluable in building up the legal team. Jim got up the budget, found the office space, hired the supporting personnel, arranged for the support of the FBI and U.S. Marshals, established office procedures, and attended to the innumerable other tasks of good management. Thus, it was Jim who built the structure for all the work of the Watergate Special Task Force.

By quietly assuming that responsibility, Jim freed me to focus upon the investigations and court proceedings. Here, Jim Vorenberg's wise counsel had major influence upon the scope and style of the undertaking. "We start with the assumption that we'll look into everything [within our broad charter]", he said; but his strong sense of fairness, his commitment to principle and his life-long sensitivity to prosecutorial abuses helped to set limits conforming to the evidence, and to imbue the Watergate Special Prosecution Force with a spirit and style eschewing the temptations of a political witch hunt.

The resumption of classes at Harvard limited Jim to part-time participation before the on-set of the crisis precipitated by President Nixon's open defiance of the judicial subpoena for Watergate tapes and the ensuing "Saturday Night Massacre," designed to terminate any genuinely independent investigation, but by that time the organization Jim was central in building was, in Phil Heymann's words, "too powerful and too legitimate to be stopped." Important prosecutions followed under a new Special Prosecutor. Somewhat later President Nixon resigned. The people of the United States had risen up to enforce the rule of law carved on the front of Langdell Hall in Bracton's words: "Non sub homine sed Deo et Lege."

Such was one of Jim Vorenberg's great contributions to the public good -- one for which I as the first Special Prosecutor feel boundless gratitude.

Our work together during that time also had a more deeply personal side. For me, it was a time of endless strain, of constant self-doubt. As many of you know from your own experience, Jim Vorenberg had an extraordinary capacity for quietly communicating his deep and supporting friendship to individuals in time of stress. He gave me that friendship in my days of need. For that, too, I shall ever be grateful.

In such acts of individual friendship and human kindness as in his lasting contributions to the public good, Jim Vorenberg lives on, even though we sadly miss his presence.
 
 
 
 
 

Anthony Lewis:

On Jim's fiftieth birthday, twenty-two years ago, Felicia Kaplan celebrated him with verses set to Gilbert and Sullivan. Betty has asked me to sing them.

Now let us toast a paragon, a man of half a century
With sleek physique and perfect teeth, not one of which looks dentury,
A man of such distinction, both apparent and subliminal
That he's th' apotheosis of all the law that's criminal.

He first went to Washington as prime hot dog of Felix's,
His life then spiraled up and on in ever-rising helixes.

Twixt Washington and Boston he's jogged many miles of traveling
To save the lines of justice from incipient unraveling.
And in between he's found the time to master gourmet cookery
And take his wife upon a tour of planetary hookery.

The man as you can see is one of infinite variety,
Of tastes so broad he can't be bored or ever reach satiety.

Of gusto such there isn't much he doesn't stick his nose into,
Of talent which will raise the pitch of every job he goes into;
A man who never speaks or acts insipidly or banally,
Who's bound to be superb when he is functioning decanally.

The FBI would certainly be wise to start maneuvering
To get Jim in to tidy up and give the place a hoovering.
 
 
 
 
 

The Rev. Deborah W. Little:

In the summer of 1985 I was finishing my communications task for the $350 million Harvard campaign and had a strong sense that my next move should be direct service with poor people. I had a call from the office of the dean of HLS advising me to make an appointment with a James Vorenberg. I'd seen pictures of Jim and my source of information about the school had been the NY Times. Over the course of three meetings, Jim persuaded me that the enterprise of educating women and men for careers in the law was worthy, challenged me to convince the public media that the school was not a battlefield, and showed me by his understanding of my midlife crisis that he and I could be real with each other. I made one last visit to ask one last question, "I've heard you have a terrible temper," I told him, "and I don't think well with tempers." I got that smile and the chin drawn back . . . "I can't believe anyone would say that about me. You be sure to let me know if I get out of line."

A month later, it was 7:15 in the morning after I'd given him a draft press release about a poverty law initiative I'd thought was nearly perfect. I answered my telephone. "I think it's fine" said the voice . . . "but I want you to hear the view from the other side of the bed . . ." And in the next few seconds I learned that I was working for a partnership.

Jim and I had a good time together, and we also had our share of those employer-employee moments in which Jim with that smile would say, "what do you think?" and I knew this conciliator had just been challenged by a prosecutor and that my task was not to somehow accomplish an opinion, but to guess correctly HIS!

I was unable to come to the opening of the Vorenberg Room last fall, and asked Jim for a private viewing. It was January 4. We met in the parking lot because he had several bags of winter clothing and two Safari hats he and Betty were giving to my homeless community. As we walked into the international law building, Jim listed everything I should notice in his classroom. He stood outside the door, saying he felt to embarrassed to come in. Finally he arrived at my side, his embarrassment overcome by his doubt that I could appreciate adequately on my own all the details that mattered so much to him.

We then went back to his office for coffee. He asked me about my street ministry, about who the homeless people are, and what they need. "What can I do to help?" he said.

"What would you like to do?" I asked.

"Maybe I should come down and be a lawyer where you do your services."
 

"It's winter and it's cold out there," I said. "How about if we set you up at a table in Manhattan Bagel on Tremont Street?"

"That's fine," he said in that wonderful Voice. "I'll be down." "I'll be down."

I will close with this Jewish memorial prayer.

If some messenger were to come to us with the offer that death should be overthrown, but with the one inseparable condition that birth should also cease; if the existing generation were given the chance to live forever, but on the clear understanding that never again would there be a child, or a youth, or first love, never again new persons with new hopes, new ideas, new achievements; ourselves for always, and never any others -- could the answer be in doubt?

We shall not fear the summons of death; we shall remember those who have gone before us and those who will come after us.

Alas for those who cannot sing, but die with all their music in them. Let us treasure the time we have and resolve to use it well, counting each moment precious -- a chance to apprehend some truth, to experience some beauty, to conquer some evil, to relieve some suffering, to love and be loved, to achieve something of lasting worth.

Help us then to fulfill the promise that is in each of us and so to conduct ourselves that, generations hence, it will be true to say of us: The world is better because for a brief space, they lived in it.
 
 

Margaret H. Marshall:

When Tony and I were married, in October 1984, we asked Jim to perform the ceremony. To do so, Jim had to become a Justice of the Peace. As an Episcopalian of long standing, I wanted Jim to begin the ceremony with the familiar words, "Dearly Beloved . . ." Jim gently declined.

In October 1984, the "troubles" (some would call them) at the Harvard Law School were reaching their apogee. Factions in the law school were parading their irritation at one another in the national and international press. At the time Jim was Dean. Jim began our wedding ceremony as follows: "My name is Jim Vorenberg. This is not my day job . . . yet." There is a photograph in Jim and Betty's kitchen of that moment: Tony with his head thrown back, convulsed in laughter, and Jim smiling mischievously. Jim's beginning sent us off on a wonderful path together.

Jim assumed the role of Justice of the Peace with the same enjoyment of its odd tasks as he did in his many other roles. Whatever the job, he did it with elegance, and a skill that was breathtaking.

Who could forget the wonderful look on his face, a father beaming from ear to ear, as he walked Amy down the aisle, handed her gently to Paul, stepped ahead, and then turned around to face them, now with a serious look as he proceeded to officiate at their marriage?

"That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom,"

On June 28, 1989, a story in the Boston Globe began: "You might think that James Vorenberg would be relieved to be stepping down at the end of the month as Dean of Harvard University's Law School." No such sign, the interviewer found. "Would [, if I lived my life over again, do it again?" Jim asked. "Yes! It's a wonderful job . . . " Ten years later, when the law school honored him by renaming Langdell North as the Vorenberg classroom, some of his familiar humor slipped out; "I've had some of my best and worst moments there . . .," he said. "Of course, when I really needed classroom of my own was when students were occupying my office."

Jim's self-effacing humor was his defining grace. So too was his fair-mindedness: a fair-mindedness combined with passion, a rare combination. He was immovable in his commitment to justice. His profound opposition to racism was not an abstract opposition but a determined, creative use of the law to fight it. He was equally determined to advance black Americans -- and others -- who for so long have been excluded from law faculties, judgeships, the corridors of power.

Jim learned that lesson early. His family owned Gilchrist's, the first department store in Boston to hire black Americans for anything other than menial work. Years ago, long after Gilchrist's had closed, Betty was purchasing a rather chic pocketbook in Bloomingdale's. A black saleswoman took her charge card as Betty made the payment. "Are you related to the Vorenbergs from Gilchrist's?" she asked. When Betty replied "yes," the saleswoman said: "I used to be an assistant buyer at Gilchrist's. Why don't I keep the pocketbook until next week when it goes on sale? I'll send it to you."

Jim had the same lasting effect as his father on countless people to whom he extended a firm helping hand, especially those of us who didn't grow up on Brattle Street.

Last week, Tony received a letter from a one-time policeman, a cop on the beat, whom Jim had brought to Harvard's Center for Criminal Justice two decades ago. "Jim was a friend, mentor, supporter, and an inspiration to me," he wrote. "The years at Harvard gave me a chance that most people do not get, to step back from the front lines and to observe all of the things that were and are wrong with law enforcement."

"That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

If the genius of his life was his wisdom, he found in his beloved partner Betty a heart that matched his own. Where Jim sometimes seemed modest, self-effacing, or even enigmatic, Betty celebrated the exuberant affirmation of their joint commitment to human rights at home and abroad. Jim loved her deeply, deeply for that. Rather than enjoy a leisurely sabbatical after his taxing years as Dean, they traveled to the far east to examine and expose conditions in Indonesian prisons, as they earlier had examined how prostitution is handled by criminal justice systems around the world. Shortly afterwards, a gift arrived from Jim's father: "To the only couple I know who have been to a whorehouse together."

All of this makes Jim sound unrelievedly serious. He never was. He relished every moment of his life, from sitting on the little wooden bridge spanning Crab Creek at Martha's Vineyard, catching those damn silly crabs, to watching the barbecue so that the grilled salmon stayed moist and pink, just so. Thank God Jim and Betty have so many grandchildren; it saved us from the crabbing.

He combined his towering intellect, his tough, tough judgment, with a lightness and humor that were contagious. The presidency of the Law Review, the Frankfurter clerkship, the Pre-arraignment Code, the professional accolades that followed him throughout his life . . . Jim kept all of that in perspective, enjoying simple things. He never took himself too seriously, and conveyed always a sense of such ease, such grace.

Over the past fifteen years, again and again I telephoned Jim, walked across the yard to his office, pulled into his driveway, to seek his advice. If I was ambivalent, or confused, or rudderless when the conversation began, I always left knowing exactly what it was that I needed to do. Jim was no patsy. In some of the toughest battles that I faced, he was by far, by far, my most successful political strategist: political in every sense of that honorable word.

Fourteen years ago, Jim and Betty were told that Jim had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. For thirteen of those years, it was as if the disease would never lick him. He knew that for sure. I remember a day when he returned from, Atlanta where he had undergone what to me seemed a terrifying surgical procedure. But as we sat on their back patio and he raised his hand to show me that the shaking had stopped, it was as if medical miracles really would prevail.

Within the last year, he began to recognize that science might be running a lap behind him. It was a hard, tough year. But what a gift for me. I always hoped that I would be seated next to Jim at dinner. His voice was soft, and he could not interrupt the giddy flow of conversation. I had to stop and listen hard to what he had to say. He taught me to listen. And to wait, not to fill the silence with chatter as he summonsed the energy to speak the next sentence. It was a precious gift that his beloved students well recognized. Fewer words. Softer sounds. Treasures unsought.

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

Psalm 90

 

 

Professor Daniel Meltzer:

Some time ago, Jim Vorenberg told me that being Dean was the best job that heíd ever held. Quite a statement from someone who had clerked for Felix Frankfurter; excelled in law practice; taught and written about criminal law with distinction; headed President Johnsonís Crime Commission; and served as Archie Coxís right hand man in the Watergate prosecution.

But why did Jim like being Dean most of all? One could be taken aback by his statement, for the 1980s were turbulent times here, and Jimís Deanship was punctuated by conflict, student protests, and a fractious faculty. Inevitably, as Dean he found himself in the line of fire.

I think Jim loved being Dean for many reasons:

--because he believed deeply in the lawís capacity to serve humankind;

--because he relished a challenge, and this challenge engaged his sparkling amalgam of talents--his intelligence, his practicality, his perseverance, and his simple decency;

--most of all, because for Jim Harvard Law School was not just a notable institution; it was a functioning human community. Jim wanted everyone--not only his faculty colleagues, but equally the students and the staff--to thrive here, as he himself had.

As Dean, Jim was a master at solving problems, in part because every problem came to him with a human face; he didnít just accommodate people; he wanted them to feel successful. He took particular pleasure in shepherding his flock of junior faculty. He would prod us and encourage us, and his confidence and advice calmed and inspired us.

Jim sought the better side of people. When others carped or misbehaved, he patiently took the long view; he maintained human bonds and good cheer in the face of discord. Those who criticized or occasionally even maligned him one week were certain to receive a sympathetic hearing the next.

But Jim was not merely a builder of bridges or a paragon of fairness. He was firm on questions of principle. He refused to yield to studentsí misguided protest that a civil rights course was being taught not by a black but by a white instructor--the distinguished civil rights lawyer, Jack Greenberg. He applied the schoolís policy barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to prevent use of the placement office by the military, even when mighty consequences were threatened. He spoke out, as Dean and Professor, on public issues, decrying efforts to weaken the Legal Services Corporation, exposing the perversities of minimum mandatory sentences, opposing the invasion of Grenada.

Holding the school together during his Deanship was a great accomplishment, but that is not Jimís primary legacy. One sees his imprint today in countless respects:

Our vibrant clinical program blossomed under his leadership.

Jim established an office of public interest advising, and the schoolís pioneering program of loan forgiveness for students taking low paying jobs, to encourage graduates to serve the public and to aid those in need.

Jim cared deeply about the schoolís relationship to the profession, and he helped to launch programs that addressed important social problems, including the Human Rights Program, the Center for Criminal Justice, and the Program on the Legal Profession.

He played a pivotal role in increasing the presence of women and minorities on the faculty. (It was a bit ironic that students seeking greater diversity sat-in in his office; for as more than one award attests, Jim did as much as anyone, and more than most, to accomplish the protestorsí goals. But faced with a sit-in, Jim kept his poise; when the students blocked the way to his office, he removed his shoes, to be sure not to hurt anyone as he threaded his way through the bodies on the floor.)

Few challenges engaged Jim as thoroughly as improving the quality of the studentsí experience. He sought to provide every first year student with one small class. He expanded the number of law journals, to make more broadly available the distinctive training they provide. He systematically upgraded administrative services for students. And he attended to the small touches that often matter most--like serving free coffee in the morning.

But alert as he was to details, Jim kept the larger picture in focus. He was far-sighted about the schoolís needs, organizing a long-term planning process that bore fruit after he had stepped down. Jimís vision made possible the spectacular renovation of Langdell Library, the erection of Hauser Hall, and an unprecedented capital campaign that strengthened the school in myriad ways.

One could go on about Jimís decanal achievements. But for me, Jimís deepest imprint--as Dean, as colleague, and as friend--is more personal and less visible. He was an unparalleled counselor. Jim never had an agenda other than helping you to find the right answer. No matter how delicate or difficult the situation, Jim was wise, shrewd, empathetic--and straightforward when he thought you were wrong. No wonder so many sought his advice.

All this makes Jim sound vaguely saintly--the well-credentialed and humane lawyer serving the public in a succession of important jobs. Thatís not an inaccurate picture, but also itís not a complete one, and it certainly isnít the way that Jim viewed himself. For he loved aspects of life not associated with sainthood. He liked to play poker; he frequented Suffolk Downs; he loved jazz, especially Dixieland jazz; he played softball and tennis and squash with gusto--and yes, he was a fierce competitor who liked to win. He also loved to cook-- and where else but in the Deansí Cuisine--the famous cookbook he and Jack Greenberg wrote--would one find a recipe that involved tucking herbs under the skin of a fowl, bearing the title, "Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Subcutaneous Tarragon."

It wasnít only in his cookbook that Jim displayed a wonderful sense of humor--pithy, wry, never mean-spirited, and very often self-deprecating. Jim was never afraid to make fun of himself. After returning from his Watergate experience, he shared with his colleagues the shrewd advice he had offered Archie: "Thereís nothing to the tapes. Theyíd never be so stupid."

Years later, during his sabbatical year after he left the Deanship, Jim wrote to family and friends from Lamu, off the Kenyan Coast, reporting that he had been sailing in a dhow and ended up in a race with several other dhows--adding, in typical fashion, "we won or I wouldnít have mentioned it."

Recalling Jimís Deanship inevitably brings to mind his partnership with Betty, who was an integral part of the schoolís life in manifold ways. She and Jim entertained so often at their home that the Deanship must have seemed like one eight-year-long dinner party. That entertainment was a seamless part, though only one part, of their broad-ranging efforts to spread warmth and to bring the faculty together.

Betty and Jimís partnership had many facets. They worked together on public issues, from the ravages of prostitution to prison conditions in Indonesia. Their partnership embraced the five children they brought to their marriage. For me, it was hard to think of them as Bettyís or Jimís children -- and not just because occasionally one wasnít sure which Amy they were talking about--but because Jim, and Betty, spoke of them as "our children".

And Jim and Betty were partners in a last challenge, when Jim was beset with Parkinsonís disease. When he informed the faculty, he said, "My doctors tell me there is no reason to limit work activities, and I do not intend to." Perhaps not so hard to have said in 1987, but how much harder it was to carry through in recent years. But carry through he did--always with Bettyís steadfast support and encouragement.

My office was next to Jimís, and I saw, daily, his uncomplaining perseverance. Jim did not make light of his illness, for it was not to be made light of; it was frustrating, it was painful, it was tiring. Rather, he just went on with his business. He continued to meet his classes--inspiring his students by both his teaching and his courage. When a hurricane struck Marthaís Vineyard, he trudged through darkness to retrieve a wayward boat and drag it home. Donnie Marchant, who has long worked in the law schoolís mail room, remarked that just a few days before Jim died, Donnie, with his mail cart, was following Jim down the corridor. Though Jim was having particular trouble with movement and balance that day, he held the door open, with his cane, so that Donnie could push his cart through. Parkinsonís may have kept Jim off the tennis court, but it couldnít touch his spirit.

Paul Freund once said that you can pay no greater tribute to a teacher than to see him, when you have a difficult decision to make, as a head over your shoulders, and to seek the advice he would give. Though I never had a class with Jim, he was not only my Dean, and my friend; he was, and remains, my teacher.

 

 

Deval Patrick:

I first met Jim 25 years ago this coming September. I was a 19-year-old sophomore, newly arrived in Dunster House, and Jim and Betty were co-masters of the House. Jim was Jim: spry but gangly; surprisingly fast on the squash court (though not above cheating); sober, reserved but also very funny; and wise. That was the thing. Wise

Except for an interest in squash, Betty shared all those qualities. She also had a signature style in all things, including clothing, a style once summed up by a fellow student as "simple but expensive."

They had a newly blended family, all attractive and above average, a little jealous, I suspect, of having occasionally to share their mom and dad with several hundred other teenagers. We young Dunster men viewed one daughter as particularly hot- I will leave you the impossible task of guessing which one. Jim drew there one of the few unambiguous lines I have known him to draw.

Like most Harvard undergraduates interacting with most Harvard faculty, we didn't know what we had right under our noses. We kinda', sorta' knew his resume, but we didn't appreciate the significance of many of the accomplishments we have heard so eloquently remembered today. We knew we had a lawyer, but not a lion of the bar. We knew we had an intellectual, but not a primary source for American criminal jurisprudence. We sensed we had a man of conscience, but not necessarily a civil rights tactician. We knew we had a leader, but not HLS Dean material. |

Now, granted, Jim had not yet marked all of those career milestones at that point 25 years ago. It would be another decade or more before Jim and Betty finally became the age we thought they were then. But still, he was something remarkable even then. And yet all we knew is that we had a somewhat dry, big shot lawyer in our midst, politically liberal, but hard to place on most issues, with a passable squash game and a supposedly "intellectual" interest in Israeli and French prostitutes. The usual Harvard enigma.

In the Spring of my junior year, I was elected co-chair of the House Committee, Dunster's form of local student government, and so began to meet and work closely with the Housemasters Vorenberg. As the season warmed, we were confronted with a grossly arbitrary and capricious decision by the University's central administration, profoundly affecting the fundamental interests of Dunster residents. None of us had been consulted. No defense or explanation of this outrage was even offered us -save the hollow claim of "cost savings." Objections were haughtily dismissed.

The University had decided that Dunster would cease serving hot breakfast- three days a week. On those days, we were welcome for eggs and oatmeal at Leverett, a whole block away.

Well, you can image the indignation. And the student masses called on their new leadership, the co-chair of the House Committee (me), to lead them. They conceived a surprise early morning march on Leverett - where we would overwhelm the kitchen staff with our numbers and demonstrate the folly of this policy. Instinctively hesitant, but new to politics, I said, "okay."

So, early on the appointed morning, we gathered in the Dunster courtyard -- scores of us, many of whom hadn't seen morning all semester and most of whom hadn't eaten breakfast in years. Led by a bass drum, holding aloft signs and chanting in unison, "we want it hot!!", we marched to Leverett to make our point - and were served effortlessly, graciously and indifferently by the kitchen staff without a single glitch.

Betty, ever the civil libertarian, and a veteran of the civil rights movement, supported our right to protest, but warmly and frankly called the cause "stupid." Jim squinted at me silently for a very long time, and then gave me two pieces of advice:

Number one: Develop good instincts, and learn to trust them; and

Number two: Don't make any important decision, he said, "without talking to me first."

I have tried to follow the first rule. As for the second, for 25 years, I have never wavered.

Two years later, a graduated senior, I sat on a sand dune outside Khartoun, Sudan (a story too long to tell), trying to decide whether I wanted to go to law school. I had brought one application to one school along in my back packbecause Jim told me I should - and finally wrote it out by hand and mailed it, not to the Admissions office, but to Jim. I told him to submit it if he thought it was right for me. The next day I set off trekking across the Nubian desert and away from the reach of phones and mail for four months. When I came back to Khartoun, Jim had cabled me that I was admitted, adding the quip, "Happy to be your errand boy."

Whether it was looking for a place to live as a law student, grieving my poor grade in criminal law, meeting, courting and marrying Diane, a visit or call to Jim came first. I have talked through with Jim every job I have taken, turned down or left, every opportunity hoped for or lost; even whether to move my mother into and later out of our house. For 16 years or more now, he has played the same role for Diane. I never had a single class with Jim. And yet he taught me - openly, generously, consistently - how to be a better lawyer, how to be a better citizen, how to be a better husband and a better man. Like few I have ever known, his advice was always wise, always insighfful, always economical. It was sometimes not what I wanted to hear, but it was never more than I needed. And, it always left me with the illusion that I had made the decision myself. More than once it has left me envying his children - on whose behalf Jill spoke so beautifully today - Jim's extraordinary kindness and unwavering support.

Strange. For two and half decades he has been involved in every important decision in my life. SO, when I first learned that he was gone, I found myself selfishly wondering, "what am I supposed to do now?" Then I remembered Jim's first piece of advice, "develop good instincts, and learn to trust them." With that, I know I'll be okay.

Betty, I know your heart is broken. I have never known another marriage of nearly 30 years still characterized by mutual infatuation. For many of us here, "Jim and Betty" is one phrase, one single idea - and it is devastating to think we can't look to the future the same way. But you will be okav. Because "our minds are not made to hold on to pain, the way we do bliss." (Cold Mountain author.) And there is so much bliss to hold on to.

To you kids, Amy, Jill, John, Amy V. and Liza - I have told Betty that it makes me uncomfortable to be called "the sixth child" in your presence. Your claim on him was unique. His claim on you was total, fierce and absolutely proud. Thank you for sharing him with me - and with Diane and Mike and Jerome and all the other"sixth children" here today.

To you Jim, I will remember you every time I end an evening with a spontaneous visit to the Ritz bar; every time I reach into someone else's dessert or they into mine; every time I listen to Dixieland jazz; every time I pickup up a squash racquet or worry about anything important; every time I see the word "wise" or imagine what it means to be fair or to do justice.

You gave and you gave and you gave. And except for every pair of suspenders I ever owned - to keep you from wearing your pants in an early (and failed) version of hip-hop - I gave you so little back. But I hope you know how much I loved you, and how grateful I feel to have passed this time together.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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