Obituary: David M. Becker, professor emeritus of law, 87

David M. Becker, the Joseph H. Zumbalen Professor of the Law of Property Emeritus, died in St. Louis Monday, April 17, 2023. He was 87.


Becker taught at the School of Law for 50 years. Born in Chicago, he earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1957 and a juris doctorate in 1960, Order of the Coif, from the University of Chicago.

He joined the Washington University law faculty in 1963, and within 10 years, he received the Distinguished Faculty Award at Founders Day. He also received the School of Law Alumni Association’s first Distinguished Teacher Award in 1988 and the school’s Dean’s Medal in 2005. Becker received an honorary degree of humane letters from the university in 2012. 

Becker regularly received the Teacher of the Year Award from the Student Bar Association (SBA). 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 regularly contributes to the law school community. He is author of the 2019 book “Lessons Learned: Stories of a Teacher and Teaching.”

A memorial will take place at 1 p.m. Sept. 8 in Graham Chapel, with a reception to follow in the School of Law’s Crowder Courtyard. Gifts made in Becker’s memory can be directed to the Becker Family endowed scholarship in honor of his parents, within the School of Law. For more information, call 314-935-2954.

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