Last week I rode my bike through the WU campus. Much changed since I attended. I passed January Hall, then what use to be Mudd Hall and the finally Anheuser Busch Hall. Reflecting upon how the campus and University have changed, I couldn’t help but feel that the one constant throughout these many years was everyone’s favorite professor David Becker. David along with Sandy, have helped give the law school a distinct personality and his memories of his students and their families as well as their interests makes him a unique and irreplaceable treasure.
I was fortunate to have Professor Becker for several classes in law school and equally fortunate to reconnect socially with David and Sandy several years after graduation. David was able to recall occurrences during my years in class that made me realize that he remembers in such great detail because he cares and was genuinely interested. David showed particular interest in my growing up in Mississippi and made me aware, maybe for the first time, of how special and unique my experiences were. Of course David made a lot of connections between my early life and the lives of other law students that he taught and knew.
Later in my career I had a trust issue involving Missouri’s Rule against Perpetuities. I quickly discovered that David knew more about the Rule than anyone on the planet (surprise!). After reading David’s several articles on the topic, I called David to discuss my situation. David was generous with his time and gave me good practical advice about solving my problem.
When my son, Micah, enrolled in law school, I was comforted in knowing that David was an “honorary parent” who looked after Micah. David did not disappoint Micah or me.
Thus I feel myself fortunate to have David in my life, as a teacher and friend and I am happy to share in his special celebration.
Al Rose (1970)
My Professor Becker memory comes from his first year Real Property class. He called on me with a question regarding the difference between determinable and conditional fees and I answered, uncertainly, with everything I could recall on the subject from studying the night before. Professor Becker paused for a moment, then said slowly but emphatically, “That’s exactly right.” I was startled for a moment as this was not something one heard often (or ever!) from law professors. It still stands out for me as one brief, bright moment in an otherwise shaky freshman year.
Of course, the remainder of the recitation went downhill from there. And, as I recall, when Professor Becker introduced new subjects, the first student to recite on the subject became the one he would call on later when knowledge or clarification on that subject was needed. Hence, I continued to field, not very cleanly, various questions regarding conditional fees for the rest of the semester. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the class and Professor Becker’s style.
Congratulations, David, on your amazing 50-year teaching accomplishment and enjoy the celebration. And, thanks for the memory.
Stephen E. Martin JD ’73
David is a superb teacher and compassionate grader. Why do I say that? He knew instinctively that I was struggling in his property class freshman year. He told me not to worry, saying some students don’t get it right away, some take until Christmas, and some even to Easter. I was the Easter Bunny. I barely got by property thanks to David’s allowing me to pass by the narrowest margin which gave me the chance to catch-on and pass on to the next year, again by a hair. I did relatively well the next two years thanks in large measure to David. He was and is a Saint and I shall always remember him as the person most responsible for making it through.
Sincerely, Dick Platt ’71
Congratulations on 50 years of inspiring teaching. David not only inspired me as a law student but guided me in his courses to appreciate the intellectual aspects of legal study accompanied with respect for me as a student. His strength as a scholar and his humility as a human being stand as a model for teachers everywhere. I have tried to emulate these qualities in my own teaching career and as a trial lawyer. Many thanks for what he has given students over his career.
-John Gilbert, JD75
I recall the first day of Real Property class, “Mr. Goldstein, what is a tenement?” My immediate thought was –a place in which I never wanted to live. (Actually, a tenement was a form of real property in which I had no future interest.) My response at the time was something akin to “Duh?” David moved on to the next victim of the Socratic method.
Over the years David’s role in my life transitioned from teacher to mentor. When my older son attended Wash. U as an undergraduate, David was there as an integral part of his support network–and host at Passover Sedars. He was also very persistent, but diplomatic in making sure that I let my son make up his own mind to go to law school. He did, and now we practice together. Thank you David.
Eugene Goldstein, J.D. 1970
I first met David in 1974 when my husband, Stuart, was a student of his. Their relationship evolved into a very close friendship so much so that when Stuart passed away in 2007, David was the natural person to deliver the eulogy, and he did so with great eloquence. Since then, David and Sandi have been a tremendous support, making me feel like family. I can’t overstate this. David is one of those rare people whom when he asks how are you, he really wants to know. He is genuinely interested, and a superficial answer does not suffice. He has an amazing capacity to connect, always with kindness, perspective, and humor. Perhaps Stuart summed it up best on the occasion of another 50th milestone, David’s 50th birthday. Stuart offered a toast which ended as follows: “Fittingly, we conclude with a question. David often asks it, and tonight we will give the definitive response. Are we happy? Yes, we are all happier because we know David.”
- Rhea Oelbaum, wife of Stuart Oelbaum JD 1977
Professor Becker’s dedicated teaching, his caring, and his love of the law: all of these have inspired and continue to inspire me. I became a law professor myself, so his style and persona have been in my thoughts consistently over the years as I aspired to his kind of greatness (an impossible goal). But what gift to have had him as a teacher, and what great fortune to have had him as a role model and lodestar in my own career.
- Sheila (Krawll) Hyatt, JD ’74
David’s dedication to and love for the Washington University School of Law is so complete that he has turned his back on every bedrock principle of his youth. He grew up a dedicated Blackhawks fan-but no more. He grew up having his karma for the upcoming week shaped and influenced by the success (or lack thereof) of the Bears-but no more. He grew up dreaming of playing shortstop for his beloved Cubs-but no more. Rarely has a turnabout been more complete or profound. Surely it is a measure of what the School, its students and its faculty have meant to Dave. Perhaps if the Cubs won more often, maybe if the Bears were more consistently strong, if only the Blackhawks had ascended earlier the future would have been different and we might never have known who owned the calf!
- Michael King JD70
Professor Becker stands out in my mind as extraordinary not only because he was a masterful teacher but also because he genuinely cared about his students and created an enduring bond with many of us. Dave has kept in touch with many of his students and follows their accomplishments long after graduation, perhaps because he knows that their professional accomplishments are also his. I last spoke with Dave in St. Louis at my 45th reunion. He spoke about the accomplishments and experiences of some of my classmates as if they were his personal friends and so many years had not gone by. The mere fact that he can remember so many of us including me demonstrates a unique connection that I find a personal treasure. I am so very pleased to participate in honoring Dave on his 50th.
- John I. Karesh JD70
Weekly I am reminded that “we go nowhere by accident, wherever we go God has sent us for a purpose”. This is the only explanation I have for going to the Washington U Law interview my senior year at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachuesetts. On paper many of my classmates were more likely to be accepted at Wash U than I. I went anyway and met Dave Becker for the first time. I didn’t know then the influence this man would subsequently have on my life, my perspective and my future career choices. Dave Becker saw something in me that day that I hadn’t seen in myself. His belief in my abilities gave me confidence that I could achieve my life’s dream of a career in Law.
-Hon. Orion Douglass JD71