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Walter Wadlington Retires After Four-Decade Career

By Gene Dahmen '67

Walter J. Wadlington, James Madison Professor of Law, retired in June after forty distinguished years at the Law School. Much revered both inside and outside the classroom, Professor Wadlington always found time to share his warmth, wit, and friendship with students and colleagues, despite the heavy demands of his professional life. Few teachers have influenced the lives of as many living alumni of the Law School, and none of these alumni are more grateful to him than members of the Class of 1967. We believe that one of Professor Wadlington's most significant but least known contributions to the Law School was his service in 1963-1964 as Acting Director of Admissions. It was in this role that his uncommon perspicacity evidenced itself in the selection of our class, widely reported by objective sources (certainly among us, anyway) to be the finest one ever admitted. (Rumor also has it that this achievement was singularly responsible for his rapid elevation to the rank of full professor after only two years on the faculty.)

At its thirty-fifth reunion in May, the Class of 1967 honored Professor Wadlington by funding the James Madison Professorship with contributions of over $400,000, the largest gift of any reunion class in 2002. Written tributes from class members captured the affection and high regard in which he is held, not just as a teacher, but as a mentor and friend: "You served as an inspiration for me as an aspiring law teacher."

"You were one of the most approachable professors, always willing to spend as much time it took to answer questions, no matter how inane."

"We honor you not only for your extensive legal scholarship and teaching skills, but also for the compassion and encouragement you offered to all of us."

"Thanks for inspiring so many for so long and confirming the adage that 'a teacher touches the future.'"

"Thanks for teaching us that good will and humanism are important in the practice of law."

An eminent scholar in the fields of family law, law and medicine, medical malpractice, and children in the legal system, Professor Wadlington joined the faculty in 1962 from Tulane Law School, his alma mater. He became a full professor in 1964 and the Law School honored him with the James Madison Professorship in 1970.

Professor Wadlington is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and has served on study committees on the delivery of obstetrical care, women in health care research, and professional medical liability. From 1985 to 1991, he directed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation medical malpractice program, and he also chaired the Foundation's advisory board on improving medical compensation systems. In 1988, he received the American Society of Law and Medicine's Distinguished Health Law Teacher Award.

The Law School community is fortunate that Professor Wadlington's retirement will not take him from our midst. With characteristic vigor, he is pursuing many of his same involvements and some new ones as well—including honing his horticultural skills under the tutelage of his lovely and accomplished wife Ruth. We congratulate them both and wish them the very best.

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