Friday, August 22, 2008

Thoughts about the late Robert Dunne

Professor Robert Dunne died on Saturday.

This is the first time one of my professors has died. It is disturbing. My assigned adviser Walter Feit died right after he retired and Serge Lang died three days after I talked to him. But there is something different when the professor actually taught a class I was in.

Dunne was also much younger than either Feit or Lang. He was only 59.

That's not the only thing that makes this disturbing: I've had professors where I barely remember their names and faces. Bob Dunne was not that sort of professor. He was engaging, charismatic and thoughtful. He was always willing to stay after class and talk about material even tangentially related to the subject.

I only took one class with Professor Dunne. That was Computers and the Law. The class was a gut. I think that Dunne didn't realize the normal level of material in a Yale class. Between preexisting general knowledge and the ease of the class, I could have not shown up to the lectures and gotten a similar grade. But I didn't skip class. Dunne was too good a lecturer. He was
thoughtful and funny. I learned things from him that would never be formally articulated in a textbook. He taught me the true rule of parody: Parody is accepted as a fair-use defense only if the court finds that parody funny. I cannot think of a better example of Dunne's humor and ability to cut through legalism. It is unfortunate that future students will not benefit from his teaching. He will be missed.


Aaron Zelinsky said...

Agreed. He was a great professor and a wonderful person who will be missed.

C. Taylor Leigh said...

Robert Dunne, Esq. was my dearest friend in this world. We spoke many times throughout our day and saw each other often. We vacationed on Block Island together with our daughters, the week before his death. Robert and I shared a passion for thinking and reason. We laughed endlessly about life, our future together both professionally and personally, and his students. He adored his students. Robert was a dreamer; an intellect. Robert begged me at least on a daily basis, to marry him. It made me smile. "Just marry me, dear" he would say, often with tears in his eyes. He was a man of great depth and unimaginable insight. I miss my dear friend. It is important for me to tell his students that they meant so much to him. His work at Yale was personal ... deeply personal. He loved each and every one of you. Remember him fondly.