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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Surviving the 65 Club: One Alumnus' Generosity Begets Another's

Kris Whitten '73 recalls a kindly (if quirky) alumnus' lifesaving tutorials with a gift to UC Hastings.
Kris Whitten '73

Kris Whitten '73

In the ’60s and ’70s, UC Hastings was renowned for its 65 Club, faculty who had reached mandatory retirement age elsewhere and continued their careers at the law school. Among students, the 65 Club was awe-inspiring, but the professors could be intimidating.

“Most of the big schools used the Socratic method: We were supposed to find our own answers,” says Kris Whitten ’73. “We were terrified. The professors were brilliant, but they believed that was how you trained lawyers because that’s how they were trained.”

Lucky for Whitten and his classmates, “this little leprechaun-type person dropped out of the sky and let us know it was going to be OK.” At the time, Jerome Sack ’48 was dean of Lincoln Law School, but once a week or so, he put on his trademark beret and headed to a slightly seedy storefront in the Tenderloin. There, he offered tutorials to UC Hastings students between telling war stories and chewing on cigars. The cost per student: $1 a session. Whitten never knew why Sack bothered: “He took pity on us, I guess, and God bless him. The gift he gave us was explaining these concepts in plain English.”

After graduation, Whitten clerked for a federal judge, worked at a law firm, and then went in-house at Bank of America. Since 1999, he has been a deputy attorney general specializing in business and tax issues. This year, as he commemorates his 40th reunion, he has started a scholarship fund in Sack’s name. His hope is that other alumni will chip in enough to establish a permanent scholarship, with the money going to students who help their first-year peers “not give up on the law”—just like the godsend dean who helped Whitten and his petrified friends.

Read more from UC Hastings magazine here.

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