The Class That Will Stay With Them For A Lifetime

Some teachers stay with you for a lifetime, even if they are only with you for a single year.

They change the way you think, the way you write, the way you look at the world.

That's how many Dayton Law students feel about visiting professor Eleanor Brown, a renowned property and immigration scholar. She is nearing the end of her tenure at UDSL, but she has changed students' lives -- not only as a professor but also as organizer of the landmark Property and Subordination Symposium.

“She goes deep,” said rising 3L Timothy Hill. “Her curriculum has been interesting and challenging, and her enthusiasm is contagious. She has a profound insight into the way politics work, into the history of our country – race, religion, culture and nationality. She’s not just telling us where we have been; she’s preparing our minds to work out solutions for tomorrow.”

Brown, too, knows that Dayton Law will remain with her always.

“I had an absolutely wonderful year, in a wonderfully kind and academically rich environment, which I will remember for a lifetime,” she said.

Brown’s credentials are impressive. She was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1994, earning a master’s degree in politics from Oxford University. “It was two of the best years of my life,” Brown said. “The experience gave me a different way of looking at the world.”

She earned her J.D. in 1999 from the Yale Law School, followed by the Lewis Fellowship at Harvard Law School. Brown worked on issues of economic development in her native Jamaica and travels nationwide speaking about immigration and property law and the intersection of race, gender and the law. She publishes regularly in leading American law journals, including The Yale Law Journal and The New York University Law Review.

But there are qualities her students value even more than her academic pedigree -- her honesty, candor and depth of knowledge.

“She’s a straight shooter,” Hill said. “She doesn’t sugarcoat the negative parts of history, and she doesn’t put a slant on it to make it go down easier. There’s no chaser.”

After taking her class this semester, Hill said, “I have a better knowledge base and understanding of the needs and disadvantages of other cultures, races and genders, and what each group is lacking and what they are fighting for and what they would consider equality.”

Brown organized the Porter Wright Symposium at the request of Dean Andrew Strauss, bringing together the top property law professors in the country for a discussion of the way that property law, both in theory and in practice, has contributed to the subordination of particular groups of people.

Strauss said it was a seminal symposium that “will help re-frame the academy’s understanding of how conceptions of property further oppression.”

Keynote speaker Orlando Patterson is a famed Harvard University historical and cultural sociologist and the author of five major academic books, including the classic “Slavery and Social Death.”

Patterson thoroughly enjoyed the interdisciplinary discussion with a broad range of legal scholars. “Lawyers have a special interrogative style and way of arguing that I find quite fascinating,” he said.

Added Brown, “There were detailed discussions rooted not only in law, but also in the philosophy of property and how the property concept contributed to our understanding of who a slave is.”

The night before the March 24 symposium, Patterson delivered a speech for his fellow speakers and a group of student leaders about the way black youth are affected by inequality. "It was an opportunity I would have loved to have had as a student," Brown said.

For Hill, it was an unforgettable evening. "Any time I have the opportunity to learn from people who are smarter than me is a good thing," he said. "This is something I would gladly pay for, and it was offered for free. I look at it as a privilege to be in the presence of some of these great minds."

Before coming to Dayton Law, Brown was a law professor at George Washington University. "Her expectation level is very high, and she has forced me to try harder," Hill said. "She doesn't hesitate to let you know you are not at the level she wants you to be. She has drastically improved my writing style."

Hill hopes to become a judge one day, and Brown has helped him along that path, he said: "I have immense respect for her knowledge base, her dedication, her honesty and her encouragement. When I have questioned myself, she has encouraged me. She is easily one of the favorite teachers I've ever had, going back to kindergarten, even without the cookies and naptime."

Brown decided to come to Dayton Law because of Strauss' reputation as an international law professor and because of the Dayton Law-Human Rights Center Collaborative. It's a unique partnership with UD's Human Rights Center, in which students and faculty work side by side to protect vulnerable people in faraway places such as Colombia and Brazil.

“There are very few law schools in the country where students could have that kind of experience,” Brown said. “An in-depth research project on a human rights issue really brings the reality home in a way a regular exam never could.”

She said the Law School also is unique because of its significant involvement with the local law community and its warm, supportive faculty. "I will miss UD very much," she said.

Brown will join the faculty of Penn State University July 1 as a professor of law and a professor of international affairs

"Eleanor has been a wonderful addition to the Law School this year," Strauss said. "With her wealth of experience, she has been a tremendous inspiration to many of our students."

Brown also feels inspired by Dayton Law's engaged students and dedicated faculty.

“This university is extraordinary,” she says. “The human rights element ties in beautifully with our Marianist mission.”

--Mary McCarty

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