A Festschrift Honoring Michael Meltsner
fest•schrift: a volume of writings by different authors presented as a tribute or memorial especially to a scholar.
Be Like Mike: A Festschrift Honoring the Life and Work of Professor Michael Meltsner
Daniel S. Medwed*
*Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University School of Law
It was a true privilege to organize this symposium in honor of a legendary, even revolutionary figure in legal circles: Michael Meltsner.
The following tributes from Carol Steiker, Rose Zoltek-Jick, Margaret Burnham, Mark Brodin, Evan Mandery and Corinna Lain tell just part of the story of Michael’s marvelous career not only because he has led a life of unusual richness that is difficult to distill into a series of essays, but because he continues to generate new, meaty chapters.
Hired by Thurgood Marshall in the 1960s to join the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP, Michael fought to desegregate hospitals in the Jim Crow South. He also served as the architect of the game plan that led to the abolition of capital punishment for a brief period of time in the 1970s. His focus on the discriminatory impact of the death penalty’s application, rather than the morality of the “ultimate” punishment, has salience today and remains a vibrant advocacy tool in the continued fight for abolition. He later emerged as a pioneer in the nascent movement toward clinical legal education before becoming dean of Northeastern University School of Law in the 1980s.
Michael’s capacity for professional reinvention is astonishing. After his deanship, he engaged in teaching, research and writing. But he did not stop there, as so many of us do. He became a therapist committed to helping married couples work through their differences; he wrote plays; and he developed a knack for producing spirited op-eds. From my own mid-career perch, I view Michael as a template for personal and professional growth: a beacon leading me outside my professional comfort zone, encouraging me to evolve and take on new challenges—and, in the process, remain fully engaged.
Michael is one of the first people I consult when working on a new writing project. And one of the few who will offer honest feedback, including harsh critiques when warranted. He is my co-author on numerous op-ed pieces, and my companion during coffee breaks across the river in Cambridge. Most of all, he is my friend.
Please enjoy these links to tributes from other scholars: