When I arrived at Suffolk Law School in the Fall of 1971, Professor John E. Fenton, Jr., was already a faculty icon. He was universally considered to be one of its very top teachers. He was the faculty advisor to both the Law Review and the Moot Court Board. And he was, hands down, the most approachable, and fun, faculty member. Little did I know when an upperclassman pointed him out to me as a fellow Holy Cross alum, how profound an impact he would have on the direction of my career and life.
As a second year day student in 1973, I finally had the good fortune to have Professor Fenton as my teacher. The course was Evidence and boy was it a treat! I would sit in class transfixed by both the substance of his presentation and, perhaps more importantly, the quality of his performance. It was a tour de force. Indeed, unlike other quality professors at the time, Professor Fenton was neither distant nor calculatingly foreboding. To the contrary, you felt you were proceeding shoulder to shoulder with him as he analyzed the various rules and doctrines embedded in the materials. I have no doubt that my later desire to become a full-time law professor began germinating in his classroom that Spring.
Later that semester, when I was elected an officer of the Moot Court Board, I began meeting with him as our faculty advisor on a regular basis. It was in those smaller, less formal, settings that I got to experience more fully the Fenton personality. And what a personality it was. To say he was interested in his students' career development would be a gross understatement. He wanted to know our goals, how we hoped to achieve them, and how he could help bring them about. And he didn't seem to be particularly concerned about how much of his time it would take to be of assistance. In sum, it was clear that he considered our fate and futures intertwined with his success as a teacher. To say the least, few members of the faculty ever gave us that impression. But then again, who other than John Fenton was perceived to not only love teaching, but love their students?
And so when the Governor of Massachusetts appointed Professor Fenton to the Massachusetts Land Court in the Spring of my senior year, there was, notwithstanding a universal joy that he would follow in his father's judicial footsteps, a ripple of shock and concern among the Law School's student body. Who would, or could, be the mentor extraordinaire to so many students? Who could possibly fill his...