Vanderbilt faculty are among the many reasons our students have been voted the happiest in the U.S. We all have professors we remember with fondness and admiration. For me, two were life-changing.
Professor Robert Birkby was rough, tough, demanding, intimidating—and beloved by his students. He did not suffer fools gladly, that’s for sure—but if he saw the right spark in a student, there was no more helpful or caring mentor.
I fell in love with Constitutional Law during my first class with Bob, and he soon became my faculty adviser. It was Bob who encouraged me to go on to law school, and I have him to thank for 40 years of professional and personal satisfaction as a trial lawyer. I treasure our many visits, our correspondence, and especially his annual holiday card. Bob has passed on now, and he is sorely missed by thousands of his former students.
Equally beloved is Vanderbilt Law School Professor Don Hall. Through three classes and innumerable racquetball matches, I came to know him extremely well and viewed him as a valued mentor. It was Don who taught me what a noble profession the law is, and that a life in the law can be a lot of fun. We became so close that Don asked me to give one of the eulogies for his funeral. He too is terribly missed by me and thousands of other former students.
Since then I have met many current faculty members at Commodore Classrooms events. I encourage you to attend these events or a Reunion educational program to hear these professors speak. You can learn more about these opportunities and others that feature faculty members at vuconnect.com/lifelonglearning.
Vanderbilt’s commitment to recruiting and retaining faculty has made these wonderful experiences possible. The Chancellor Chair Challenge [see page 36] is an enormous opportunity to ensure that future students enjoy stimulating classrooms and mentoring with the best faculty in the land—because, as we know, these relationships are to be cherished and serve as further proof that we are all Vanderbilt for Life.
—Perry Brandt, BA’74, JD’77