Students describe Prof. Saul Levmore as inquisitive, charismatic, confident, engaging and downright funny, with a bit of an edge that keeps them on their toes.
They describe dean of admissions Ann K. Perry as a supportive mentor and friend, always interested in even the small details of their lives and educations.
For those reasons and others, students in the graduating Class of 2012 honored both Levmore and Perry at the Graduating Students annual dinner. Levmore was presented with the Teaching Award, and Perry with the Class Award, bestowed on a member of the faculty or staff who improves the quality of life and spirit of community at the Law School.
Levmore, dean of the Law School from 2001 to 2009, said that as a teacher his goal is to provide added value to what the students can learn from law books. He works to develop “predictive theories of law” with his students, which will help them think in broader ways, not just about the particulars of a certain case. Before joining the UChicago law faculty in 1998, Levmore taught at Virginia, Harvard, Yale, Michigan and Northwestern.
“I love teaching. I like challenging students. I’m learning when I’m teaching,” he said. In fact, he estimates up to half of the themes in his scholarly writing come to him in the classroom. Levmore also appreciates that teaching allows him to see firsthand how students and technology change over the years. For instance, this year, for the first time, he utilized i>clicker remotes, which allow him to electronically poll the entire classroom on questions both concrete and theoretical. It’s been a great tool to assess the progress of the class as a whole, he said.
But no technology will replace his central teaching strategy, which is to challenge and question and provoke thought in his students.
“I was very bored as a student,” he said. “I’m so desperate not to bore them.”
Levmore is well aware that he’s known for his “strong personality,” which includes a dry and sometimes sarcastic wit. Most students respond well to it, he said, but he acknowledged he would never be the professor every student loves.
Clearly, plenty of them are fans. In fact, Alex Hartzler, ’12, said Levmore is the reason he came to the Law School. He was convinced by the then-Dean’s description of the school’s commitment to “intellectual rigor, expanding one’s mind, and challenging one’s positions.”
As a professor, Levmore “weaves so many skill sets together: the Socratic law professor, the earnestly curious thinker, the scathing comedian, the master orator. His Public Choice Theory class is legendary, and any current student should consider it a ‘must’ – if nothing else, just to have the opportunity to spend a term engaging with a master law professor at his best,” said Hartzler.
Students are no less enthusiastic when talking about Perry, who they say remained a constant in their Law School lives, even though her formal role is in admissions.
“From the submitting of my application until the day I receive my diploma, nobody has been more of a consistent voice of support for me than Dean Perry,” Ryan Dunigan, ’12, said.
Kyle Dolan, ’12, agreed.
“At any given time, she is happy to discuss whatever might be necessary, whether it’s advice about finding a job or a needed break from the law school grind with a discussion about sports. These conversations have both enriched my experience here and helped me to maintain perspective,” he said.
Dolan went on: “She shows a genuine interest in our lives outside of law school and is truly interested in our growth as people, as well as law students. Dean Perry even took time out of her life to come to one of the games for the high school lacrosse team that I coach. Despite getting destroyed in the game, it was really cool to look up at the bleachers and see the Dean of Admissions for my law school.”
Perry, who came to the Law School in 2002, said she was honored to receive the award.
“I’m happy the class thought so much of me,” she said.
Levmore echoed their praise, joking that whoever hired Perry must be very wise. (It was, of course, him.)