Appreciating Our Professors: James D. Ghiardi

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Marquette Law School

My first experience with Professor James D. Ghiardi occurred in the fall of 1960 when I was a first year student at the Marquette Law School. I learned that Jim was my Torts teacher. Prior to that time I had never known any attorney. There were none in my family, and none of my friends had relatives who practiced law. I recall thinking in that first Torts class, if Jim was what being a lawyer was about, I had selected the right form of postgraduate education. He was the kind of lawyer I wanted to be.

At the inception, Jim made it clear to me and my fellow students that he was there not only to help us learn what Torts was all about, but also so that we learned to think, speak, and act like lawyers. We were not there to learn how to be philosophers, economists, sociologists, or political scientists. He also made it clear to all of us that knowing the elements of any particular Tort theory did a lawyer little good if he or she did not know how to prove those elements in court. What I experienced in that class made me want to take Jim’s other courses as well. It was very clear to anyone who cared to observe that Jim loved the law and what he was doing.

But Jim Ghiardi was much more than a law professor. He was and remains a dedicated husband, father, and now grandfather. He has served as President of the State Bar of Wisconsin. Election to that post speaks volumes about the respect he earned from lawyers in the state — even those who were not Marquette alums. He also served as a representative of the State’s bar in the ruling body of the American Bar Association. Jim loves sports, being a Marquette Basketball season ticket holder for as long as I can remember. Up until a few years ago he was also an avid golfer.

Several years after I graduated from the Law School, I felt a great deal of pride after making a presentation at a Wisconsin State Bar meeting. Thereafter, a member of the audience approached me and said that he was one of Jim’s former students. He then said that when he closed his eyes while listening to me he could have sworn that it was Jim making the presentation. High praise indeed.

One thought on “Appreciating Our Professors: James D. Ghiardi”

  1. This is a terrific post, Jack. I spoke with Jim, earlier this evening, at the conclusion of the Centennial Symposium series which Gordon Hylton ably put together this semester. Today’s topic was the Law School in the modern era, the focus being from 1985 forward. Gordon asked me to say a few words at the end, as it was the last of the series; the opportunity was unscripted, but I was pleased to take it: For the comment that I primarily wished to make was how fortunate we are at the Law School to be heirs to the tradition that our forbears such as Jim Ghiardi helped to establish. To be sure, we like to think that we have improved the Law School, and that is no doubt true in a number of respects (although it is surely untrue in some other respects, most of which elude us at the moment, else we would seek to improve in them). But the primary reason that this is so — i.e., that we have been able to make advances — is, in my estimation, that the full-time faculty is so much larger than during Jim’s years on the faculty; as you know, we have to four to five times the number of full-time faculty as, say, 50 years ago. One would wonder indeed if such a law school, not comparably larger in student body (and we are larger in student body, but not comparably so), did not have faculty who had more time to devote to, say, important matters such as legal scholarship. But it would be mistaken — and it was mistaken in my early days on the faculty here, I am prepared to say with hindsight — for there to be a generally prevailing view within the Law School that minimized the extent of the Law School’s past contributions in that realm (or at least in the realm of national policy debates in a number of spheres). Jim alone ensured that a substantial percentage of the Law School’s faculty could be great in both teaching and studying the law. In short, I, too, would have regarded it as high praise to be compared to Jim Ghiardi. — JDK

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