Thursday, April 24, 2008

Professor Paul McKaskle Retires from USF Law

Professor Paul McKaskle is retiring from teaching here at USF Law. He is nothing short of legendary at this fine institution. I had him as a professor for both Civ Pro I, Civ Pro II, and Evidence and will never have another professor like him.

Professor McKaskle was one of the best. He was one of my favorite teachers. Ever. He always had time to speak to students. He was always there to offer honest advice. He kept the most flexible office hours. And though I sometimes wondered if he could hear the students speaking in the back room (he did fly helicopters for the Navy when he was a young man) he always answered questions intelligently. And as dry as civil procedure is, Professor McKaskle made it interesting to be there by understanding his material inside and out, and by never taking himself too seriously. Quick to make a joke, Professor McKaskle made it hard to fall asleep in class, even on Friday mornings. In fact, Professor McKaskle is so highly thought of that our flag football team named our fall season team after him in his honor when we found out he was retiring.

Professor McKaskle, first made an impression upon me on the first day of Civ Pro I when he pronounced my name correctly. While this may not seem like a very impressive achievement to some folks, having a man in his 70s pronounce a Chinese surname correctly was impressive enough for me. From there, he delighted all of us with his dry humor, hilarious stories of the past, dead on point social commentaries, lectures that, literally, have not changed (I got a set of class notes from a friend who took Civ Pro with him the year before and everything, from the says of the rules to the timing of the jokes were the same), historical notes on cases, and his occasional runnings into the wall ( I kid you not- the class was stunned into silence). To give you a little flavor of Professor McKaskle, here is a little blog commentary I found from a posting he did on the Volokh Conspiracy (I had no idea he read blogs) :

I'm surprised on a blog hosted by a bunch of law professors that there has been no comment on the number of male students who wear baseball caps in law school classes (whether put on forward or backward). In my school the University went to considerable expense to put a roof over the classrooms, but a surprising number of students apparently haven't noticed. Is there a rational reason for wearing baseball caps in classrooms, or is it simply a fashion statement of some obscure nature?

Classic Professor McKaskle. Some may think he's just "old fashioned" but to those of us who have had Professor McKaskle, it's hilarious. I can picture him saying it in my head; especially an emphasis on "considerable expense."

But, as all great professors must do, Professor McKaskle must retire. Yesterday, the school held a tea and coffee reception for Professor McKaskle, Professor William Bassett, and Professor C. Delos Putz (I did not have the privilege of taking classes with the latter two professors, so it would be dishonest for me to pay homage to them- though, indeed, they were great in their own rights). It was a very classy affair. It was well attended and there were giant cards for the students and others to sign.

I spoke with Professor McKaskle at the reception and he seemed to be enjoying himself. As usual, Professor McKaskle had on his "happy to see you" grin when I shook his hand (a surprisingly firm grip I might add). After congratulating him on his retirement and asking what he's going to do next, I didn't much know what else to say. A flag football teammate of mine told me I should tell him about our football team. So I did. I told him we had named our flag football team after him when we heard about his retirement. I told him we had made it all the way to the championship game, but lost to a team of undergrads. Professor McKaskle then paused for a moment, his grin growing wider, before telling me, "funny, I didn't read about it in the Chronicle."

I laughed. I couldn't help myself. I'm going to miss those jokes and his sense of humor. I'm going to miss seeing him walking around the halls or seeing him wait for the elevator after he gets out of class, observing the students mill around Kendrick Locker Walk.

I remember, coming out of my Civ Pro I final, and seeing him standing on the steps, waiting for us, first semester 1Ls, walk out of our final. Wearing his silly grin, at first I couldn't figure out why he was standing there. No other teachers did that. My undergrad professors could care less. It quickly dawned on me that this was a man who cared about his job, his craft, and his students. Walking out of that final, finishing up our first 1L semester, was a special accomplishment in and of itself, and he wanted to be there to watch us succeed by walking out and completing his test. Just like he has seen over 30 years of USF students succeed before I came to his class. It's a darn shame other students who come after me won't be able to enjoy Professor McKaskle. But, this being USF, and with the quality of dedicated and intellectual academic staff, there will be other McKaskles. But none like him.

I thought of that moment after my 1L final as I shook Professor McKaskle's hand to say good by, that day at the reception. I don't think I, or other students, will ever truly be able to articulate how "cool" Professor McKaskle was and the impact he had on our lives. He truly was a student favorite. And what ever he ends up doing with his retirement, I hope he enjoys it with his wife. He's given over three decades of his energy to this academic institution. Few men could do the same. I wish him only the best in his golden years. Good luck on retirement Professor McKaskle and thank you for your wisdom and dedication. There will never be another like you at USF Law. Or in any law school. Enjoy your retirement to its fullest.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Cool. Nice tribute.