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Tributes

ASU Law Awesome Awards

I have been lucky to have some amazing professors during my time at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.  With graduation approaching, I polled my classmates and asked them which professors deserved awards for their excellence in teaching or dedication to students.  These are the results:

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Best In-class Quotes: Andy Hessick
I took a class from him two years ago, and I still remember, “When someone cuts off your face, you don’t get your face back. You get money. It’s a substitute.”

Best Open Door Policy: Chad Noreuil
I don’t know how many times I popped by his office hours to vent, get advice, and re-gain some perspective on life.  He always said that he was there for his students, and you knew he meant it.

Best Comedian: Doug Sylvester
He explained concepts brilliantly and he always did it in a way that made me laugh.

Best Heart-to-Heart Talks: Judy Stinson
She is the best person to talk when you need a conversation about law school or life without the professor-student relationship getting in the way of her awesome advice.

Best Rants: Michael Berch
You never knew what he would say next.  Every class was a jaw-dropping performance.

Best Professor for Showing Students the Big Picture: Bob Clinton
Taking his classes hurts your head because you have to understand the historical and social issues that correspond to the legal issues in each case.  It makes his classes challenging, but you get more out of them.

Most Dedicated to the Student Experience: Shelli Soto
She is devoted to helping students make the best of their experience at law school & celebrates the student perspective.

Most Knowledgeable: Tom Williams
The man knows everything about everything from policies to professors.  He’s also the best person to sit next to at an event because he knows Berman’s speeches so he’ll know when they’ll be over.

Biggest Heart: Charles Calleros
It only takes one conversation with him to know how dedicated he is to his students.

Awesome Adjuncts: Larry Cohen, Troy Foster, Andy Halaby, Bill Richards, & Anne Tiffen
These professors are known for their incredible knowledge base and for providing a valuable real-world element to their courses.

Most Dedicated to Helping Students Achieve their Dreams: Michael Bossone
When I was a 1L, his entire job was helping students achieve their dreams.  Even after he left the law school, he was always there when we needed his encouragement or guidance.

Honorable Mentions: John Becker, Marianne Alcorn, Chuck Dallyn, Amy Langenfeld, & Mary Sigler

Thank you all for you energy and dedication to the graduating class of 2011!

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SALK Day 17 – Remembering MLK’s Dream

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

3. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights act...
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Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream that African Americans would be treated the same as Caucasian Americans.  Thanks to the Civil Rights Movements, the law treats all person the same; however, we have a long way to go to make this occur on a societal level.  Stereotypes vastly pervade our culture.  When we see a person, we automatically make judgments about them based on their appearance, whether it’s based on their skin color, height, weight, gender, clothing, posture, or who they associate with.

When it comes to overcoming stereotypes, one thing that is hard to turn off is the automatic filter.  This can be applied to a group of people or to a single person.  These are the automatic thoughts that all overweight people are lazy or that all Asians are bad drivers.  It takes an effort to see people for who they are, and not what they are.  When I don’t like a person, it takes a conscious effort not to view everything that they do or say as wrong or bad.  Also, when someone is being hyper-judgmental of me, I try to remember that their ability to be rational could be being blocked by their automatic filter.

When judgment is suspended long enough to see a person for who they are, their talents and personalities shine through.  The person who appears dim-witted has a chance to show that he is brilliant.  The large intimidating black man can be seen as a sensitive poet.  The awkward-looking paralyzed man in the wheelchair can be seen as an exceptional physicist.

Like Martin Luther King, we all have dreams.  It might be to have particular career, achieve certain athletic goals, or to raise a family.  With few exceptions, who are any of us to tell someone that their dream is wrong or to criticize them for their aspirations?  My dream is for the world to see that being different is not the same as being wrong.  Just because you don’t share my views or my passions, it does not make either of us wrong.

We each bring something different to the table, and whenever possible our unique perspectives should be honored if not celebrated.  We should all strive to see each other for who we are, and not who we assume each other to be.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is Darvin and Jane DeShazer.   For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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SALK Day 7 – The Ruth-Mr. D Story – Part 5

I think my favorite part of the Ruth-Mr. DeShazer story is the fact that what I learned in his classes has stayed with me.  For the rest of my life, whenever I see a fruit fly I’ll think, “Oooohh…drosophila.”  When I go on vacation and the ocean glows at night, I think, “Oooohh…bioluminescent algae.”  I still celebrate Mole Day every October.  And thanks to Mr. D.’s chemistry class, I will never forget about the dangers of dihyrdogen monoxide.

I opened my senior yearbook last night.  Next to his picture, Mr. D. wrote, “Study Life.  It’s Neat Stuff.”  I’d like to think that that is what I have endeavored to do with my life – always learning and seeking new adventures.  They say law school teaches you how to think.  I think that I was challenged to think critically starting in Mr. D.’s class.

I remember when I told him and my high school friends that I was changing my major from chemistry to psychology.  Everyone thought that I had lost my mind.  I remember Mr. D. had some choice words.  He didn’t want me to throw in the towel just because I was frustrated.  He tried to convince me that I was just going through a rough patch and that it would get better it I stuck with it.  He and my high school friends had not seen me for the previous six months, yelling across the lab every day, “I’m changing my major!”  They couldn’t see how unhappy I was via email.

I knew that there was going to be a backlash from my friends and family.  I knew I needed data to back up my decision so I went to my career services office and took personality tests.  The results showed that I was well suited for science, but that I was also suited for human services.  My love of science had not changed; I just didn’t want to be trapped in a lab all day.  I think everyone calmed down when they saw that I wasn’t giving up my science roots; I’m using them in a different way.

I’m grateful that the DeShazers sponsored my entire first week of Sponsor A Law Kid and gave me the freedom to tell this story.  It’s been a blast for me and my fellow classmates.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsors are Darvin and Jane DeShazer. For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

SALK Day 6 – The Ruth-Mr.D Story – Part 4

St. Vincent High School has a maximum capacity of about 400 students.  It was common for people to end up in the same classes together.  I took study hall every year except for my freshman year, and I needed it.  I had gymnastics practice every day after school for three hours, and so my study hall gave me a chance to crank through some homework during the day.

On my first day of senior year, I walked into my study hall and saw that the class was bigger than my previous study halls and it was full of the closest thing St. Vincent had to dumb jocks and obnoxious cheerleaders.  I thought, “Oh no, this is not going to work.”  While I sat through class, I recalled that Mr. DeShazer had a teacher’s assistant when I was in sophomore biology.  At the end of class, I made a beeline to his classroom and said, “Please tell me you need a TA for seventh period.”  I was so grateful when he said, “Yes.”

So instead of spending my senior year study hall fuming in a loud library, I had the quiet science lab to myself.  I graded Mr. D.’s sophomore biology tests and their labs, I got my homework done, and I took advantage of having huge white boards to work on.  As a bonus, I got quality time with Mr. D.  I don’t remember much about what we talked about, but I remember he was a sounding board for whatever was on my mind.

Mr. D. struggled with his sophomores while I was his TA.  Many of them did not seem to care enough to study, and thus, they had very low test scores.  I began to understand Mr. D.’s passion for teaching and his frustration when his usual tactics did not work.  Biology was a challenging class, but he made it as entertaining and accessible as possible.  He even put his old tests on the bulletin board outside his room so students could see what they had to learn.  Even when Mr. D. gave his students the easiest versions of the tests he had (i.e., all multiple choice or matching questions), some of them still struggled and were at risk of not passing the course.  I watched him in anguish, trying to think of what more he could do to help these students learn biology.  I remember that I didn’t care what students got on their tests; it was just my job to grade them.  But Mr. D. cared deeply that his students did well, not because it was a reflection on him, but because it was important to him that they learned about things that actually would be useful to know later on in life.

At the end of my senior year, I was very touched by a gift Mr. D. gave me as a thank you for being his diligent TA for the year – a Cross pen that he engraved himself.  I remember my jaw dropped when I saw how much time he had to have taken to carefully carve the letters into the pen.  I still have it and use it when I have something important to sign.

Click here for Part 5 of the Ruth-Mr. D Story, the last blog dedicated to the Ruth-Mr. D story.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsors are Darvin and Jane DeShazer. For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

SALK Day 5 – The Ruth-Mr. D Story – Part 3

My classmates and I who took all the advanced science classes at St. Vincent High School had Mr. DeShazer twice a day during our junior year for Advanced Placement Biology and Honors Chemistry.  They were some of my hardest classes but also my most enjoyable classes.  My classmates and I have been reminiscing about high school memories the last few days…

Chemicals in flasks (including Ammonium hydrox...
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The ceiling of Mr. DeShazer’s classroom had what appeared to be circular burn marks on it.  As sophomores we had no idea why they were there.  As honors chemistry students, we learned that they were created by bubbles that we ignited.  Neat Stuff!!

Before every chemistry lab, we had to write out the procedure, including a section about safety precautions.  Since this was a high school lab, this usually meant “Wear your goggles” and “Be careful when working with acid.”  Somehow we got into the habit of adding safety reminders like “Don’t chew glass.”  Mr. D. went along with it as long as we had the real information in there too.  I think he was entertained by us and joined in our lightheartedness as long as we were serious about the science.

The school created a more restrictive dress code while we were students.  Our rebellious response was to follow the dress code but to wear the most outrageous things we could.  One day my friend BJ walked into class wearing a neon orange reflective safety vest over his shirt.  Without skipping a beat, Mr. D. said, “I see BJ was out directing traffic this morning,” and went on with the class.  It was hilarious because he understood what we were doing.

Sesame Street is doing something right by connecting learning to music.  Mr. D. is doing the same thing.  When we were learning about the ideal gas law, he played a song for us about it: “talkin’ heavy duty chemistry…we’re talkin’ PV=nRT!”  My classmates and I have not heard this song for 16 years, but we still remember it.

I have never met the great Mrs. D.  She must be a wonderful woman because she puts up with the great Mr. D. and she made us mini muffins on the day of the national A.P. Biology test – a four-hour exam that determined whether we got college credit for taking the class.  She knew it was a big deal and did what she could to help us.

Mr. D. had a strict rule about no food in the lab, except for one day a year.  At the end of junior year, after the A.P. Biology test, Mr. D. chili cheese omelets with wild cantrell mushrooms and bagels with truffle butter for his A.P. Bio students.  A.P. Biology was one of the most work-intensive classes I took in high school.  We had a test about every three days, and he pushed us hard to prepare for that test.  I think the end of the year breakfast was a congratulations/thank you celebration.

If any other St. Vincent graduates want to share their DeShazer experiences, please let them as comments.

Click here for Part 4 of the Ruth-Mr. D Story.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsors are Darvin and Jane DeShazer. For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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SALK Day 4 – The Ruth-Mr. D Story – Part 2

Every student at St. Vincent High School gets to have The Mr. D. Experience in sophomore biology.  One thing that I have come to appreciate about Mr. D. is his enthusiasm.  He will do whatever it takes to help a student love science, or at least learn it.  Mr. D. wore these ugly red-brown shoes just so he could be on his feet, jumping around, all day without being in pain.  He said the wackiest things in class.  One year, students kept track of these DeShazerisms for two weeks and published them in the school newspaper.  I wish I had kept that issue.  I don’t remember what was on the list, but I remember laughing very hard.

MAGIA EN HYDRODICTYON
Image by PROYECTO AGUA** /** WATER PROJECT via Flickr

One thing every student gets out of his class is a strong feeling about the Latin language – either an appreciation for it or complete disdain.  I remember when we were learning about the different types of algae.  He would put a species name on the overhead and cold call on people to try to translate it out of the Latin.  Every time he did this, I would cringe and pray that he wouldn’t call on me, kind of like the way I cringed and cowered in Professor Clinton’s Constitutional Law class my 1L year.  I now realize that he didn’t expect us to know the answer, but he wanted us to try.  As the year progressed, we learned a handful of Latin word roots: hydro = water, philic = loves, phobic = fears, chloro = green, rhodo = red, etc.  They were useful to know while I was studying vocabulary for the GRE and still come in handy with random legal terms.

I remember one day he put up a species name and said, “Ruuuuth, would you like to translate out of the Latin?” I honestly answered, “No.”  I think he was surprised by my response but realized that he asked a question instead of give a direction.  He turned to my friend sitting next to me and said, “BJ, you’re her lab partner.  You translate it out of the Latin.”  I never tortured my lab partner like that again.

Looking back on my biology class, I remember doing a lot of labs.  It wasn’t enough for us to talk about science; Mr. D. wanted us to do science.  Given that he had four full classes of sophomores every day, and only 45 minutes per class, that was quite an undertaking.  I’m sure he went home exhausted those days.  We did a lot of work with the microscopes – creating and looking at slides.  We dissected worms, grasshoppers, and frogs.  I remember when we were studying bacteria, each student was given the task of growing bacteria from a different source.  I grew the bacteria that was on the top of my shoe and my lab partner BJ grew the bacteria from the bottom of his shoe.  Neat Stuff!!

Click here for Part 3 of the Ruth-Mr. D Story.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsors are Darvin and Jane DeShazer. For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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SALK Day 3 – The Ruth-Mr. D Story – Part 1

When I launched Sponsor A Law Kid, Darvin and Jane DeShazer were among my first sponsors and they asked to sponsor my entire first week.  After my blog about Mr. D the mushroom master, they said I could write about whatever I wanted.  I decided to take the next few days to share part of the Ruth-Mr. D story.  I’m not sure he remembers our first conversation.

Iguana iguana close up small
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Mr. D teaches sophomore biology and AP biology at St. Vincent High School.  One of his rules is you can earn extra credit in his biology class by keeping a plant or animal alive in the classroom.  When I was a freshman, my sister was in his biology class and kept an iguana named Gomer in his classroom.  Gomer needed fresh food and water every day and he came home on the weekends.  It was common for me to take him out of his terrarium and place him on my shoulder.  Sometimes he would jump from my shoulder to Mom’s and scare the bejuzus out of her – kind of like this guy.

One morning my sister was sick, and she asked me feed Gomer for her.  I had never been in Mr. D’s classroom before.  His room was intimidating to a small freshman like me.  Not only was it at the far end of the senior hallway, it was one of the biggest classrooms in the school with tall heavy lab tables instead of traditional desks.

I entered Mr. D’s room shyly and saw Gomer in his terrarium.  My fear evaporated as I opened the top to change his food and water.  Mr. D was back in his prep area and didn’t really see me come in.  I called out, “Is it ok if I take him out?”  By the time Mr. D looked up to see (1) who this unfamiliar voice belonged to, and (2) what she was talking about, I had picked Gomer up and placed him on my shoulder.

Mr. D seemed surprised by my presence in his classroom.  He asked,”Does that belong to you?”  I explained that Gomer was my sister’s and that I was feeding him in her absence.  I was lucky that my sister was one of the smartest kids in his class, so her reputation proceeded me.  I think he thought that was a precocious freshman who didn’t know that he had a rule against taking pets out of their cages at school.

I think he came to appreciate my bold nature when he had me as a student for the following three years.   He was probably glad when I was a sophomore that Mom decided that it was better for me to have a cactus instead of an animal for extra credit.

Click here for Part 2 of the Ruth-Mr. D story.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsors are Darvin and Jane DeShazer. For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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Lessons from Grandpa Jim

My grandfather died unexpectedly when I was two.  I have no memories of him.  It’s seems odd that some of the ideas that often run through my head are the lessons that he passed down through his children.

Growing up, I simply accepted that I only had one grandparent on my father’s side of the family.  My grandfather was someone we rarely talked about, but I learned little bits about him over the years:  he was a Marine; he owned a ranch in Phoenix; and his favorite flavor of ice cream was vanilla.  I gathered that he was a fairly stoic man, and according to others, he would have been content to lead a boring life if it wasn’t for my grandmother.

My grandfather was only fifty-seven when he died of a heart attack.  I think it was easier for my family not to talk about him because when they did, they had to relive the pain of losing him.  About ten years ago, I got curious and started asking questions like, “What was grandpa like?”  From that came an outpouring of stories about this man and the lessons he passed on to his children.

  1. Life is Choices. This is probably the simplest and the most profound statements I carry with me.  It is absolutely true that a person’s existence is made up of the choices they make – where to go to school, what profession to enter, who to marry, what to do in frightening situations, etc.  Who I am is what I do and what I do depends on the choices I make.  This even applies to what I think about and where I put my energy.  The best part of this lesson is the fact that in every situation, there is always a choice.  Neither option may be desirable, but there is a choice nonetheless.
  2. Finish Strong. I practiced this lesson this weekend during a 5K race.  By the last quarter mile, I was hot, tired, and wondering why I ever thought running was fun.  Regardless of all this, I still dug deep and finished with as much speed as my legs could produce.  I hear this lesson when I get senioritis with school being almost over and when the end of a project in on the horizon and every fiber of my being wants to slack off.  This is the lesson I draw upon when I have to take a deep breath, ignore all fatigue and distractions, and tackle the task at hand.

When I think about the lessons from my grandfather, I feel like I am carrying part of him with me.  I literally carry a part of him with me too because I carry one of his handkerchiefs most of the time.  It’s comforting to think that I’m not going through the stress and challenge of law school alone, even on the days when I am completely isolated working on homework and projects.

Photo courtesy of the Carter family.

Remembering Joel

I miss my friend.

I got a sad call this Saturday morning.  I got a call from a classmate saying my friend, Joel, was dead.

It’s been a surreal couple of days.

Joel and I had every class together during our first semester of law school.  We sat next to each other or near eachother in almost every class.  He was the friend I would high five at the beginning of Professor Noreuil’s legal writing class.  We agreed Professor Berch was insane, but only Joel thought that was a good thing.

During finals week last fall, we both had the idea of wearing black under our eyes like football players because we were going to attack our exams.  After one test, we high fived and said, “Good game.”  I’m sure it looked strange to everyone around us, but to us, it made perfect sense.

Joel was from Alabama.  He always made sure I knew how his football team performed every week and where they were ranked.  This year he invited me and a few others to watch Alabama face Texas in the BCS National Championship Game.  He was so mad when he caught me making the Longhorn symbol with my fingers.  It was almost sacrilegious to have someone rooting against his team in his home.

Joel always got a twinkle in his eye when he talked about his beloved wife, Stephanie.  I remember the day I met her.  He was so proud to introduce me to the love of his life.  Joel also had two beautiful children.  His daughter was born during our first semester finals.  By then we had become good friends, so I crocheted a baby blanket for her.  Joel must have told me at least 15 times that she can’t sleep without it.  With Joel, if he considered you a friend, you were as good as family.

It’s still settling in that my friend is gone.  I didn’t see him much this semester because we didn’t have any classes together and we were busy with internships and projects.  He wanted to go into family law and my heart is in intellectual property.  Every few hours, the grief hits me like a wave and I remember, “My friend is dead.”  I hope the school does some type of memorial or tribute to him.  I hope his wife and family have the support they need, for as long as they need it.  I know when the rest of us are back to our normal routines, they will still be feeling the stabbing pain of losing him.

I’ve been thinking about the song “Seasons of Love” from “Rent:”

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?

Joel – I hope  you accomplished everything you came here to do.

I miss my friend.

Photo from ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

Lessons From Captain Phil Harris (1956-2010)

UNDATED:  (NO SALE; NO ARCHIVE)  In this hando...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The adventurers of the world lost a friend and colleague last week with the untimely death of Captain Phil Harris of the Cornelia Marie.  We got to know him through Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.  I have a deep respect for all the fishermen up in Alaska.  They work long hours in the sub-freezing cold and perform a job that could literally kill them. I particularly enjoyed Phil because of his honesty and his heart.

There’s a proverb at Dutch Harbor: “Live for today. Tomorrow may never come.”  Captain Phil is proof of that.  The passion with which he lived his life inspired me to write a top five list of the lessons we can learn from Phil’s zealous but too-short life.

#5  Rock On With Your Quirky Self.
Captain Phil was a superstitious man.  He never left the harbor on a Friday.  He blew up his main engine twice when he tried to leave on a Friday.  He also wouldn’t shave while he was fishing, claiming it was bad luck.

Captain Phil also had a theory about how to find the crab: He looked for fart bubbles.  He said that crabs are “farting little machines.”  His technique was look for “fart bubbles” and a noxious stench in the air.  Apparently it worked.

#4  Protect Your Crew.
Captain Phil was extremely protective of his crew, especially his two sons.  During Season Four, his health was potentially in jeopardy.  He was literally coughing up blood, yet he kept fishing for days before seeking medical attention.  Although he allowed the camera crew to film his symptoms, he wouldn’t let his crew or kids know how badly he was doing.  It’s well known that crew members don’t pick their boat, they pick the captain.  They literally trust their captain with their lives.  You could tell how devoted his crew was to him.  It was a direct result of how devoted he was to them.

#3  Look Out For The Little Guy.
During Season 5, a baby-faced cameraman named Josh was assigned to the Cornelia Marie.  Captain Phil nicknames him “Mouse” because he looked like he was about 14 years old and weighed about 120 pounds.  Captain Phil said, “He’s as green as they come, and he will get hurt.”  He kept an eye on Mouse to make sure he didn’t get himself killed.  Mouse was seasick for his entire tour of duty.  During one of their off loads at Dutch Harbor, Captain Phil had a local doctor come to the boat to make sure Mouse had the medication he needed.

#2  Give Credit Where It’s Due.
Despite being seasick for four months and loosing nine pounds on the Cornelia Marie, Mouse never stopped saying “This is still my dream job” and “The Bering Sea is not going to get me down.”  Captain Phil said, “I’ve never met anybody who’s got as much heart as he does.”

#1  Do What You Love.
Captain Phil Harris did what he loved.  It appears that crab fishing in the Bering Sea is a brutal life offset by laughter.  Alaskan fishermen can be wealthy, but it’s not about the money.  They do it because they love it.  Captain Phil said, “You gotta be a little bit twisted to do this job.”  He said he “wouldn’t want to do a different job.”

Thank you Captain Phil for showing us what means to live adventurously and with integrity.
Happy Hunting.

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