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Release: Nov. 6, 2001

Prominent, longtime UI law professor David Vernon dies

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- David H. Vernon -- professor of law, former dean of law, interim provost and assistant to four University of Iowa presidents -- died of pneumonia Monday, Nov. 5 at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 at Agudas Achim Congregation, 602 E. Washington St., Iowa City. A law school memorial will be at 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9 in Levitt Auditorium of the Boyd Law Building.

Reflecting on his enormous contribution to the university as a whole, President Mary Sue Coleman said, "David Vernon was not only a dedicated and influential member of the faculty of the College of Law, he was also a consummate university citizen. Twice he served as the acting provost and many times he advised presidents and vice presidents about difficult and thorny issues. Perhaps what I admired most about David was his enthusiasm for what universities mean in our society and his active engagement until the very end of his life."

Speaking of his longtime friend and colleague, Law Dean N. William Hines said:

"The Iowa Law School provides a quite different and higher quality legal education today because of Dave Vernon's leadership. Dave served the school superbly, first as dean and then for 30 years as a gifted teacher and scholar. Dave was a unique individual who was always there for students and faculty colleagues who needed his help. He touched the lives of literally thousands of young men and women, whose fond memories of his cheerful badgering (and red socks) will lighten the grief we all feel at his loss."

Vernon was the Allan D. Vestal Professor of Law since l986 and before that was Iowa Law School Foundation Professor. He served as president of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) and delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates, representing AALS. He also was editor of the Journal of Legal Education, and chair of the Board of Trustees of the Law School Admissions Council.

He was born in Boston on Aug. 9, 1925. Following graduation from Harvard College and the Harvard Law School, he began his distinguished teaching career as an instructor at New York University Law School where he received the LLM and SJD degrees. Later he was a professor at the University of Houston Law School and the University of New Mexico before going to the University of Washington Law School as professor and associate dean.

Coming to Iowa as dean of law and professor in 1966-71, David Vernon was an imaginative leader in a time of growth when the law faculty more than doubled. He championed what he described as the "Graduate College approach" to legal education, characterized by smaller classes and a richer curriculum, enhanced by advanced courses and seminars, and emphasizing much greater individual attention to the development of students' basic professional skills, particularly their research and writing. He was instrumental in recruiting minority law students through summer orientation programs at both Iowa and New Mexico.

He was respected nationally in his scholarly fields -- contracts and conflict of laws -- and in transnational legal education. He was the author of six books, thirty articles, monographs and book reviews. He was invited as visiting professor at many American law schools as well as at the University of Durham, England, and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand as Fulbright Lecturer. In 1997 he received the Collegiate Teaching Award and the Regents Award for Faculty Excellence and in 2001 the Hancher-Finkbine Medallion Award.

Yet, in spite of his preference for full-time teaching, he twice agreed to serve as the University of Iowa's chief academic officer in l973-74 and 1988-89 and undertook special assignments for four university presidents. Known for his integrity, he worked assiduously and effectively to maintain the university's openness in time of campus unrest, to assure due process for faculty and students, and to promote inclusiveness throughout the university.

He and his wife Rhoda, who met in grade school in their native Boston, were married on June 1, 1947, following his freshman year at Harvard. He enrolled there after his return from U.S. Navy service on a PT boat in the Pacific during World War II. Their children are Amy Vernon and Charles Vernon (Alyse), and their grandchildren are Nathan, Carly, and Michael, all of Houston. He also is survived by two sisters, Helen Krute of Baltimore, and Louise Rosser of Boston.

Memorials may be given in his name to the University of Iowa Foundation for the Law School, the UI Hospitals and Clinics Cancer Center, or the UI Hospitals and Clinics Center for Pulmonary Rehabilitation.