In memoriam: Honorable John E. Fenton, Jr.: remembering an extraordinary teacher, leader, and friend.

Author:Corbett, William T.

On August 24, 2014, Suffolk University Law School lost a legendary and inspirational leader. Outside of Gleason Archer who founded the law school in 1906, few have left their mark on the institution, its faculty, staff, students, and alumni as indelibly as did former Dean and Judge John E. Fenton, Jr. In the eyes and hearts of many, his name and Suffolk Law are synonymous.

Dean Fenton's devotion to the law school spanned well over fifty years. He served the institution in so many capacities and for those fortunate enough to have been his student he probably is most fondly remembered as an extraordinary teacher--perhaps the best ever had during any part of their education. His course in Evidence was truly legendary. As was the case over forty years ago when I was a student, and was still the case until his retirement a few years ago, every student in the law school wanted to take that course. It was always oversubscribed with students literally sitting in the aisles of the classroom. Dean Fenton took great pride in this fact and with a wonderful smile would, to his good friends, attribute it to his gifted teaching. Those friends humorously would point out to him the fact that he rarely gave a grade below an A- certainly did not hurt his enrollment. Such bantering was always done in good humor and with the knowledge that Dean Fenton, indeed, was a very special person.

John assumed the Deanship in 1994 after having completed many years of service to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as an Associate Justice and then as Chief Justice on the Massachusetts Land Court, and later as the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court. At that time, the law school was entering a particularly challenging period in its then nearly 100-year history. Facing him was major curriculum revision, the largest ever capital campaign, the construction of the new law school, and the transition from the law school's former location on Beacon Hill to its current home on Tremont Street, not to mention the high expectations concerning Suffolk's emergence into greater national prominence and visibility. Under his guidance, and with the generous support of our loyal alumni, faculty, and staff, the mission was accomplished and today we have what is still rightfully referred to as one of the finest law school facilities in the United States.

When one reflects on all that John accomplished as Dean, it is astounding. He transformed the school in so many...

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