Introductory Comments for Rachel Godsil’s Chair Presentation

Carl H. Coleman
Professor of Law, Seton Hall Law School

I was so pleased to have been asked to introduce Rachel tonight, but I must say that it’s a bit of a daunting task. One of Rachel’s many accomplishments is that she does such a good job making all of us look so good when she introduces us at admissions events—so she has set the bar for introductions very high.

We all know Rachel’s many accomplishments, from her highly-regarded scholarship, to her wildly successful classroom teaching, to her remarkable accomplishments with law school admissions. But, as I’m sure you’ll all agree, simply listing her accomplishments wouldn’t come close to capturing what’s so special about her, and why she is such a valued member of our faculty and community.

So what is it about Rachel that makes us all like her so much? In thinking this over, I decided that much of it stems from the fact that—unlike many of us in the academic world—she is both a true intellectual and a true “people person.” Or, to put another way, she is equally at home in the world of ideas and the world of her friends, family, and colleagues. As a result of this quality, she is truly engaged in everything she does, and that sense of engagement is truly infectious.

First, while many people like to talk about “engaged scholarship,” Rachel actually does it. She has written about diverse areas of law, ranging from constitutional law to property to legal history, but all of her work shares a common characteristic: It probes the implications of theoretical understandings of the law for responding to problems in the real world. For example, her most recent article on the implications of looking at homeownership as status develops a highly sophisticated understanding of the nature of property, but her goal is not simply to make an interesting theoretical point. Rather, she uses this theoretical framework to shed light on pressing questions of public policy, including the current foreclosure crisis. Similarly, her Michigan Law Review piece on race nuisance cases does more than simply enrich our understanding of history; it uses history to explore contemporary questions about the role of the courts in social reform.

In addition to the content of her writing, her scholarship is engaged in another, equally important, way: She is conscious of the audiences that could benefit from her insights, and she makes a real effort to reach those people and engage them in the discussion. So, for example, in addition to her law review articles, she has co-authored a Supreme Court brief with Michelle Adams and a Third Circuit brief with Jon Romberg. She is the convener of the Urban Policy Working Group for the Obama campaign. And she recently completed work on a book called Katrina after the Flood, which was a collaboration among lawyers, community activists sociologists, and environmental justice advocates.

Her engagement also is evident in her relationship with students. Not only is Rachel connected to her students on a level that most of us will never come close to, but she also finds ways to get her students connected to others. For example, in one of her Seton Hall classes, she had her students write appellate briefs in a case challenging stricter zoning requirements for methadone clinics. She sent the best briefs to the lawyers in the case, who used the students’ theories in their own briefs. The lawyers were so impressed with Rachel’s work that they invited her to submit an amicus brief in the case—which they ultimately won, undoubtedly in part because of Rachel and her students’ many contributions. Similarly, in a class she taught last semester at the University of Pennsylvania, she worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fun on a case involving a Tennessee family whose well water was poisoned by toxins for decades. She has also been a cherished mentor to countless students over the years, including one student with whom she has co-authored an article and book chapter. These are experiences her the students will always remember. She has engaged them in scholarship and public service in ways that will be career-defining for them.

Last but not least, Rachel is engaged with her colleagues and her community. I don’t think there’s anyone in the room who does not consider Rachel a friend and an ally. Personally, I know how much I have benefited from my relationship with Rachel over the years. And I’m not just talking about the fact that Rachel has read every single thing I’ve written and offered incredibly helpful comments—although she has done that. I’m thinking more about the anguished conversations that happen the day you’re sending an article out and you realize that your thesis doesn’t make any sense, or when you walk out of a class and are convinced that the students have finally caught on to the fact that you have no idea what you’re talking about. Rachel is very good at getting your heart rate back to normal.

Overall, Rachel is one of those people who continually reminds us that we are here not only to do our own individual work, but also to build a community of teachers, scholars, and public servants. When I came back from my sabbatical last fall, I had a feeling that something was missing; in the spring when Rachel returned from Penn, I realized that, without Rachel around, the place just feels different. Rachel, I know you really deserve a sabbatical of your own, but part of me wishes that you would just skip it so that the rest of us could benefit from having you always around.
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Looking Like Bridie’s Found Her Harvard

She has spent about 5 half-days with me this past couple of weeks,
Some of them in bitter cold,
Others requiring some mind/body/hand precision,
Like shooting basketballs,
Which she does so well!

A total pleasure to be with these past couple of weeks in my work rounds.
She has a peddler’s aspect the truck will serve,
E.g. buying, selling, bartering, and delivering things from
Craig’s List Milwaukee Emporium.

Looking like Bridie’s found her Harvard.

Part of her “folk” Harvard adventure will be presented at
www.twogirlsandatruck.com
A wiki web site master wiki gnome Tegan Dowling
Will be creating for Bridie’s 20th Birthday,
The Friend willing!

In the way that I pray, I pray the tragectory of Bridie’s last 3 seasons,
Remains with her for the next 320!

She is one of the reasons I can weep for joy
At an inside table with food and warmth for my babies,
With promise of nice bedrooms for the evening.

Dreaming of 3 generation homes for my sweet ones,
With lots of grand children picking summer raspberries
And sweet red cherry tomatoes.

Olde Godsil

Happy Birthday to Bridie!
Highlights of 20th Birthday Week

Bridie Godsil with Morrey of Crown Hardware and new roofing tools
Rainbow Roofing

Leaning How To Nail Fasten Metal Flashings
And Heat Weld Membrane Seams

----------------------------------------

Two Girls and a 3/4 Ton Truck
Ready to Haul Your Stuff

Viva, Bridie Wines Godsil!

Happy 20th Birthday!

What a great and good adventure
You are making of your life!

What a joy to be part of
Bridie Rose Wines Godsil’s Life!

What fine people love you!

And thank The Friend
That you were born!

Olde Godsil

Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on July 01, 2008

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