Celebration weekend honors Professor Becker’s teaching milestone

More than 1,100 Washington University School of Law alumni and friends are returning to campus today and tomorrow for Alumni Weekend and to celebrate the 2012 milestone of Professor David M. Becker’s 50th year of teaching.

Becker, JD, associate dean for external relations and the Joseph H. Zumbalen Professor Emeritus of the Law of Property, is a popular teacher and mentor known for his service and dedication to the law school. A website in honor of Becker houses memories, tributes, photos and the weekend schedule of events.

Celebrations begin today with The Law School in the New Legal Environment Symposium in Anheuser-Busch Hall followed by the Becker 50th Reception and Gala Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton. More than 600 alumni and friends will join Becker at the Gala Dinner tonight.

Bradley Winters (LW ’81) will serve as the event’s master of ceremonies.

On Saturday, former students will go back to “class” in Anheuser-Busch Hall in the Peper, Martin, Jensen, Maichel & Hetlage Classroom (No. 401) to have the opportunity to visit with Becker. Because of the overwhelming response, he will visit with alumni as follows: 10:45 a.m.–11:15 a.m., Classes of 1960-69; 11:15 a.m.-noon, Classes of 1970-79; break for an alumni luncheon at noon in the Crowder Courtyard; and 1–1:45 p.m., Classes of 1980-2012.

Celebration plans have been in the works for the past two years under the leadership of Gene Kornblum and law alumni Alan Bornstein, JD, and Tanja Schwendinger, JD, along with a Steering Committee and a 200-plus-member-strong “Becker Brigade” of volunteers.

“David has left an indelible mark on the law school through his outstanding teaching and commitment to his students throughout their careers,” says Kent D. Syverud, JD, law dean and the Ethan A. H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor. “David’s friendships with hundreds of our students have created a legacy of mentoring, volunteering and giving that has benefited so many. We celebrate David for this legacy and for transforming the lives, minds and careers of so many of his students.”

Becker has played a key role in law scholarships and summer public interest fellowships.

In 2002, The David Becker Public Interest Fund was established by alumni to honor their teacher. Since the program’s inception, 42 Becker Fellows have devoted the summers after their second year of law school to meaningful public interest legal work.

The law school also launched the Becker Scholarship Initiative as well as the Becker Project of the Career Services office. To date, scholarship gifts and commitments bearing Becker’s name total more than $1 million. In addition, the Becker Career Connections Project has enlisted the help of more than 3,500 alumni who are willing to assist students with networking in their job searches.

David M. Becker, JD, associate dean for external relations and the Joseph H. Zumbalen Professor Emeritus of the Law of Property, receives an honorary doctor of humane letters during the 2012 Commencement ceremony. (Credit: Mary Butkus/ WUSTL Photo Services)

Distinguished career

Becker joined the Washington University law faculty in 1963, and within 10 years, he received the University’s Distinguished Faculty Award at Founders Day. He also was the first recipient of the Law Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award and received the Dean’s Medal in 2005.

Becker, author of several books and numerous articles, focuses much of his scholarship on estate planning and also the Rule Against Perpetuities, which imposes time limits upon the transferability of property.

He regularly received the Teacher of the Year Award from the Student Bar Association. In 2007, the SBA renamed the award as the David M. Becker Professor of the Year. The award — SBA’s highest recognition of excellence in teaching — is given annually to a professor who demonstrates a passion for teaching and regular contributions to the law school community.

During the 2012 Commencement ceremony, Becker received an honorary doctor of humane letters in recognition of his distinguished career.