After the sudden death of UC Hastings Dean William Simmons in 1940, his successor, David Snodgrass, had to hire faculty on short notice to teach Simmons’ classes. The only experienced teachers available were instructors over the age of 65 who had been forced to retire from other law schools. Snodgrass hired several of them and went on to recruit many more during World War II, when young professors were even harder to find.
What started as a necessity became a UC Hastings tradition: the 65 Club. By the end of the 1940s, the law school hired only retired scholars and distinguished jurists over 65 as full-time faculty members. Over time, the roster of 65ers included luminaries such as William Ray Forrester, law school dean at Cornell, Tulane, and Vanderbilt University; J. Warren Madden, the first chair of the National Labor Relations Board; Roger Traynor, chief justice of California; Arthur Goldberg, a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Rollin Morris Perkins, a criminal law expert; and William Prosser, a leading torts scholar.
By recruiting scholars at the height of their powers who had been shut out of other law schools because of mandatory retirement rules, UC Hastings became a national powerhouse. As early as the mid-1950s, Harvard Law School Dean Roscoe Pound declared in Newsweek that UC Hastings had “the strongest law faculty in the nation.”
“Dean Snodgrass was brilliant and contrarian,” notes Chancellor & Dean Frank H. Wu. “When every other law school was letting talented people go because of their age, he recognized that they were still terrific teachers and important scholars. The 65 Club put UC Hastings on the map.”
Professor Emeritus Joseph Grodin recalls that when he began teaching part time at UC Hastings in 1956, the full-time faculty members were almost entirely 65ers. “They were remarkable,” he says. “Many were great teachers and productive scholars and writers, and they were amazingly interested in new ideas. They brought a great deal to UC Hastings.”
They were also, as a rule, beloved by students, even in the rebellious 1960s and ’70s. Grodin remembers watching Warren Madden, who was in his 70s, running around the field during student-faculty picnics and touch football games. He adds that Richard Powell, a 65er who was the leading property law scholar of his time, was sympathetic to students who went on strike during final exams as a protest against the war in Vietnam. “He thought we should be willing to postpone final exams,” Grodin says, “to honor their idealism and give them time to study.”
According to Professor John Diamond, who came to UC Hastings in 1980, members of the 65 Club—including Traynor, comparative law scholar Rudolf Schlesinger, constitutional law scholar William Lockhart, and international law expert Stefan Riesenfeld—were “welcoming and engaged in the academic community. They were awe-inspiring to be with.” They were also very open to change. In the early 1970s, it was the 65ers who determined that UC Hastings needed a more diverse faculty, including young professors with current skills across a broad spectrum of legal scholarship.
When Chancellor & Dean Emeritus Mary Kay Kane joined the faculty in 1977, she notes, 75 percent of the professors were 65ers. “We didn’t agree on everything,” she recalls, “but there was no infighting or jockeying for position. Faculty members worked collegially, collaboratively, and honestly stood up and said what they wanted to say.” The members of the 65 Club, she adds, cared deeply about the institution. “They were great minds—not great egos—who laid the groundwork for the future by bringing in a broader range of faculty.”
Although the heyday of the 65 Club was over by the mid-’70s, its end came in 1994, when Congress ended mandatory retirement for tenured professors. The pool of available luminaries over 65 evaporated once scholars were able to keep working at their home institutions. Still, while the era of the 65 Club had ended, its legacy continued. As dean of UC Hastings from 1993 to 2006, Kane converted 65er positions to distinguished professorships.
“The 65 Club had a huge impact,” she says. “It transformed UC Hastings into a national institution. It gave students dramatic opportunities for a deeper and broader learning experience, with faculty who had been at the top of their game for 40 years. Today, it’s a different world, but students are still benefiting from the extraordinary scholarship of distinguished professors, as well as teachers who will be the luminaries of the future.”
Eminent and Devoted Scholars
UC Hastings’ distinguished professors are carrying on the tradition of the 65 Club by continuing to make important contributions long into their careers.
Geoffrey Hazard, the Emeritus Thomas E. Miller Distinguished Professor of Law, came to UC Hastings after teaching at Boalt Hall, the University of Chicago, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of 16 books, including The Moral Foundation of American Law. Teaching, he notes, is essential to his scholarship. “My students provoke deeper thinking on my part and enable me to work out legal rules in various contexts,” he says.
Charles Knapp, the Joseph W. Cotchett Distinguished Professor of Law, co-authored Problems in Contract Law with Professor Harry G. Prince. Formerly the Max E. Greenberg Professor of Contract Law at NYU Law School, Knapp says, “The atmosphere is conducive to thinking and getting work done.”
Roger C. Park, the James Edgar Hervey Chair in Litigation, believes that UC Hastings’ support has facilitated his scholarship, including the Park and Lininger “Witness” volume of The New Wigmore. After 23 years on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Law School, he came to UC Hastings in 1995, he says, “because so many distinguished people had come here in late career.”
John Leshy, the Harry D. Sunderland Distinguished Professor of Real Property Law, was previously solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Clinton administration. The author of many articles and books, including Federal Public Land and Resources Law, Leshy appreciates that UC Hastings embraces a wide range of scholars. “The faculty here has a big tent,” he notes.
The law school also provides a supportive base for action-oriented research, says Distinguished Professor Joan C. Williams. The author of many books and articles on work-life balance, she credits the college with helping her “create change in the world.”
Read more from UC Hastings magazine here.