George Geis Receives All-University Teaching Award

Business Law Professor Teaches According to His Personality
George Geis

Professor George Geis, an expert in business law, is the William S. Potter Professor of Law and Thomas F. Bergin Teaching Professor of Law.

April 25, 2019

University of Virginia School of Law professor George Geis is a recipient of UVA’s All-University Teaching Award this year.

Geis, who is the William S. Potter Professor of Law and Thomas F. Bergin Teaching Professor of Law, received the award for his engaging approach to making challenging subject matter accessible. He teaches Corporate Finance, Accounting, Contracts, Corporations and Applied Problem-Solving.

Students flock to his classes. His nomination letter notes that, while most law courses have fewer than 25 students, Geis’ Corporations class had 100 this spring, or about a ninth of all law students.

“Among our students, Professor Geis is legendary,” said Dean Risa Goluboff, one of his nominators. “His extraordinary talent in the classroom enables him to teach complex business law concepts such as corporate finance to law students with no prior finance background.”

Geis’ other nominators were Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick ’06, former lecturer John B. Esterhay ’06, and three of Geis’ former students: Esha Mankodi ’12, Pradip Chandrasoma ’15 and Eleanora Kaloyeropoulou ’20.    

“What happens if I make a deal with you to pay you $500 to swim from San Francisco to Alcatraz, and halfway through your swim I decide not to pay you?” Kaloyeropoulou asked in her letter of recommendation. “These are the scenarios Professor George Geis had us puzzling over in his first-year contract law course. Every day with him felt like a well-thought-out Ted Talk.”

Kendrick praised Geis for maintaining a teaching schedule while serving as vice dean from 2012-17, and for being someone who is always well prepared but makes his instruction seem effortless.

“George is from California, and I think of his teaching as California-style: super-smart, high-tech and laid-back, all at the same time,” she said.

His relaxed nature is at least a little deceptive. Always considering where he can improve, he takes detailed notes after each class he teaches.

He attributes his style to trying to teach according to his personality.

“Some law professors can rely on gruff comments or sarcastic humor to motivate learning, but that has never been my style,” he said in a reflective statement, part of the nomination package. “Rather, I consider myself gregarious and friendly. Accordingly, I seek to make my classroom enjoyable but rigorous — a place where students will value our time together, but also a place where they can’t just skate on the surface of an argument or theory. Over the years, my favorite evaluation comments are ones where students remark on both the collegiality and the rigor of my classes.”

Geis said one of the most memorable episodes during his teaching career was when a student, anticipating his turn to be called upon, fainted in his seat. (Student and professor survived the experience.)

He keeps the letters of former students in his desk drawer as a source of inspiration and a reminder of why he teaches.

“It’s such a treat to work with our students and get to know them in the classroom, but also keep in touch over the years,” he said. “There’s nothing I like better than getting an email from someone I taught five or 10 years ago and getting an update on their life.”

Geis joined the faculty in 2008, after visiting at the Law School during the 2007-08 academic year. He previously taught at the University of Alabama, where he received numerous teaching awards and was selected by the student body as the outstanding faculty member in 2007. He is also faculty adviser for the J.D.-MBA dual-degree program.

He said he is honored by the award, which is made all the more meaningful because the prize is University-wide and because of how seriously he knows his peers take their teaching roles. In Princeton Review’s survey of law students, respondents named UVA Law as having the best professors in the nation for the past two years.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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