BeVier Wins U.Va. Alumni Association Teaching Award
Lillian BeVier received the University of Virginia Alumni Association’s Distinguished Professor Award April 21, given annually to a faculty member who is a superior instructor, shows unusual concern to students, and has made significant contributions to the life of the University. BeVier joins Dean John Jeffries (the last law professor to win the award, in 1995) and professors Graham Lilly, Stan Henderson, A.E. Dick Howard, Robert Harris, Daniel Meador, and Charles Woltz as Law School recipients of the award.
“It’s quite an honor to be in their company,” BeVier said in an interview after the ceremony, which she found “very affecting.”
BeVier, who in 1973 was the first woman to join the law faculty, is also the first female law professor to win the award.
“Other law professors, including female faculty, have won other University teaching awards, but this one recognizes those who have reached the very pinnacle of teaching,” said law professor Anne Coughlin. “Lillian BeVier is in a league with the finest professors who’ve ever set foot in a law school classroom.”
An expert in constitutional law, intellectual property, real property, and torts, BeVier is known for her outstanding use of the Socratic method and for her commitment to engaging with students outside of the classroom.
“She really cares about the learning process and is happy to enter into discourse with her students,” said third-year law student Rush Howe, who took BeVier’s Property class as a first-year and Property Theory this fall. “She has a really good critical eye and is really good at developing a critical eye in others. She’s also a terrific writer.”
Third-year law student Leslie Kendrick also took Property Theory with BeVier.
“Part of what makes her so great is that although I didn’t have her as a professor until my third year, I had many great discussions with her [before that] and had dinner in her house more than any other professor,” Kendrick said. “She’s your professor whether you have her in class or not.” Kendrick said BeVier brought homemade cookies every week to her Property Theory class, and consistently wowed students with her “amazing intellect.”
Alumna Helgi Walker '94, a partner at Wiley Rein & Fielding, LLP, in Washington, D.C., who took courses in Property and First Amendment with BeVier, recalled her impact as a teacher.
"Professor BeVier taught us how to think about the law not by offering any orthodox prescriptions, but by probing us with questions about how to best approach a body of law and by challenging us to consider whether our answers made sense," said Walker, who recently served in the White House as associate counsel to the president. "There are many tools for finding raw information when you're a lawyer, but there's nothing like the legal judgment she shared with us."
“Lillian and I talk a lot—we have a lot of shared interests. She is just the ideal colleague,” said Harrison. “She will enter into your way of thinking without injecting her own opinion and will help you think about what you’re thinking about.”
BeVier recalled her first years as a law professor as difficult in a variety of ways as she learned the ropes, but “my male colleagues were wonderful to me. I was treated very fairly and with great respect and they became my friends.” Because she was the only female law professor, however, “‘All women’ is what I had to be—and I was a very particular kind of woman. It’s been absolutely wonderful as more women [faculty] have come into the Law School with varied life choices and backgrounds.
“The profession has so many great things about it—the fact that you’re engaged in law, which is always interesting—and the students are wonderful people. It’s great to be able to participate in their encounter with law."
• Reported by Mary Wood