On the Occasion of the Retirement of Stanley Henderson
Law Alumni Weekend—May 1, 2004
At the meeting of the Alumni Association, Dean John C. Jeffries, Jr. ’73, introduced the featured speaker: retiring Law Professor Stanley D. Henderson. The Dean’s remarks as well as Mr. Henderson’s address are featured here.
It is with great personal pleasure—and also a little sadness—that I rise to introduce Stanley Henderson.
Stan and I arrived here on the same day. I was a first-year student—in other words, intellectually a tabula rasa. In contrast, Stan was already an experienced teacher, but new to this institution. He had graduated from law school—at the University of Colorado—in 1961.
After clerking for a year, and private practice for two, he entered teaching at the University of Wyoming in 1964, and rose to the rank of full professor. He visited Virginia in the fall of 1970, was immediately offered a permanent position, and has been here ever since.
Stan is an accomplished scholar. He is the author of Dawson, Harvey & Henderson on Contracts, now in its eighth edition and one of the top-10 selling casebooks nationally.
By the way, the fact that the casebook is still called Dawson, Harvey & Henderson is testimony to Stan’s modesty. Messrs. Dawson and Harvey have long since gone to their reward, and Stan has produced the last five editions of the casebook by himself.
It seems to me, Stan, that it is high time that the book be called Henderson & Somebody rather than Somebody & Henderson.
He is also the co-author of a casebook on Labor Law, and if he keeps on schedule—and if you know Stan, you know he will—in 2005 he will produce a treatise on Labor Law, to be published by Foundation Press.
These are very considerable achievements, and I don’t mean to diminish them when I say that no matter what fame he enjoys as a scholar, Stanley Henderson will always be known—and loved—for his success in the classroom.
For those of you who had Professor Henderson in first-year Contracts, you don’t need my help in recalling the thrill of that experience.
For those of you who did not have Stan, you—if you were lucky—had someone like him. Perhaps that person was Hardy Dillard or perhaps Charlie Gregory or perhaps someone else.
But if you were lucky, you had someone who taught you far more than Torts or Contracts. You had someone who taught you law—or to put it more conventionally—someone who taught you to think like a lawyer.
The key word in that sentence is not “lawyer” but “think.”
For many of us, when we learned to “think like a lawyer” was the first time we learned to “think” much at all. To be sure, we learned to think in a particular intellectual tradition and with a particular set of raw materials, but mostly we learned how to think.
And for that—above all else—we thank Stan Henderson.
No one has done it better, or with greater grace. No one has done it with more civility, with more down-to-the-ground decency in his dealings with students. And no one has been rewarded with greater admiration and affection than Stan Henderson.
Let me quote Stan on law teaching:
“Teaching law is essentially about passing on the intellectual culture, especially the inquiring element.
“It is the business of engaging legal materials, of doing something with a vast and untidy body of cases, statutes, and concepts.
“My task is to prepare the students for a lifetime of self-education.”
Well, there you have it. That’s as good a short statement of what legal education is—and should be—as you will ever see.
And, Stanley, at that task, we are here to say, you are the master.