A unifying and constant presence in our lives

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)

The Consummate Human Being

Professor Becker (OK, maybe, just maybe, I’ll have the nerve to accept his many invitations to call him “David” one of these days) is one of those very rare persons I’ve known who exude some kind of “higher power” that strikes you the minute you meet him.  For those of us fortunate enough to have gotten to know him beyond earning the “I Survived Becker’s Property Class” t-shirt, we have learned how one person can impact so many solely by being a genuine and caring human being and appreciating life for what it is and has to offer and not diminishing it for what it otherwise might have been.  I regret not making the effort to stay in closer touch with him but am grateful for the opportunity to help celebrate a man who likely would prefer a cold beer and a Cubs World Series win over the celebration he so rightly deserves.  Congratulations, David!

Nick Varsam, Class of 1990

Many thanks to a great friend

Dave Becker has been a great friend and mentor since my first year of law school in 1981. I arrived, largely clueless about what I had gotten myself into, having just completed a rather undistinguished career in the NFL. I compounded my circumstances by agreeing to serve as an assistant coach on the Wash U football team during my first semester. Just keeping pace with other students was a constant challenge. I needed lots of help.

Professor Becker was my first year property prof, and although he initially appeared to me as more intimidating than my last coach, Don Shula, I always felt a great comfort in his classes. Early on, I discovered what many others knew of him–he so capably directed even confused students like me through the day’s materials by his artful questioning, finding indirect paths even when the first, direct questions, were met with blank stares, that I never worred about leaving embarrassed by my ineptitude. One double class period stands out–where he stayed with me the entire time, addressing multiple hypotheticals on the rule against perpetuities. I survived the process and gained a great deal of confidence in my abilities as a result.

We also played a great many games together, basketball, softball and golf, both while I was in school and as teammates on the “Law Jocks” softball team in Forest Park after my graduation. Our long-term nemesis was a team sponsored by Dave Sinclair Ford, with Dave Sinclair, Sr. typically pitching for that team. The two Daves were near the same age and both were extremely competitive.  I don’t know that I recall a happier Dave Becker than the night we beat Sinclair’s team for the league championship and celebrated at a local restaurant. Wonderful memories of Dave running around in his favorite, bright red, softball pants.

Finally, Dave’s clear interest in the lives of others has always been a hallmark of him. Each of my visits with him was marked by an intense but supportive focus on my life in the practice of law, but also a sincere interest in the other circumstances of my life: my marriage, kids and other important aspects of my life. I always left our meetings assured that I had a strong supporter and advocate.

Congratulations to Professor Becker on his great accomplishments and thanks for his role in my life.

Pete Woods, Class of 1984

Thinking like a Lawyer

I arrived at law school completely unsure about where this new path would lead me.  Not only did Professor Becker teach me to start thinking like a lawyer in his 1L Property Class, he taught me to start thinking like an estate planning lawyer, which lead me to a career that I love.

Stephanie L. Moll, JD’06

Turning Point

After receiving my grades my first semester in law school, I was disappointed and my disappointment included my grade in Dave Becker’s Real Property class.  I knew his door was always open so I venture in to ask him what I had done wrong to windup in the middle of the pack in his class.  He was busy at that particular moment but invited me to come back and spend some time going over my exam as well as what he was looking for in answers to his complex exam questions.  He spent over three hours with me concluding that I had written a fine exam for a political science class but it was now time to think and write like a lawyer.   The light bulb went on in my head and the rest is history.  The rest of my law school career went very well.  I have been blessed with an extraordinary career as a lawyer.  I can’t be absolutely sure that Dave made the difference but there is a very good chance that he provided the turning point.  For that I have and will continue to say “thank you” to Dave Becker, the consummate teacher. 

Maury Poscover, JD’69

DAVID’S REAL PROPERTY

So!  Some years after graduating from Wash. U.  a potential client walks into my office and says:  “Mr. Schmidt, can you make for me a fee simple absolute?”  I said, “No!” and threw him out of my office.

 

 

Dan Schmidt LW ’83

The Dalai Lama of Future Interests

In the spring semester of 1980 I took Professor Becker’s Law of Future Interests and the Rule Against Perpetuities class.  Not having had the good fortune to take Property from Professor Becker as a first year student I didn’t know what to expect, other than the rumors that this was the most difficult class in Law School.  We met in the late afternoon, at a time of day that was conducive to sleepiness.  Except it wasn’t!  Not in Professor Becker’s class!  It was the most intellectually stimulating class I have ever taken, and I loved every minute of it.  I never dragged my feet to his class, never felt like skipping, never begrudged the time.   I wished that I could spend every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon for the rest of my life attending this class.  With Professor Becker at the helm I knew it would never get old and I envisioned a group of us getting together over the years discussing A to B for life then to C in ever more complicated iterations.  It is a real regret that this little fantasy did not happen and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend one semester sitting at the feet of a true master of his craft, and a wonderful human being as well.

Thank you, Professor Becker – it was a joy and honor to be your student.

Wendy W. Waller, JD 1981

The summer before starting law school

           The summer before starting law school, I needed to decide whether I would continue to play football at WashingtonUniversity. I was referred to David Becker to discuss whether I could handle the load of football and law school. I don’t remember the specific conversation, but I left him with a feeling that maybe it was time to grow up.  He indicated that it was clearly my own decision.

             I decided I would err on the side of caution and concentrate on school.  I am glad I made that decision because I had no future as a football player, although after law school I did play three years of minor league professional football inKansas City.

             Guess who David Becker called on the first day of class?  Frank Miller, from whom I had also sought counsel, did the same thing.  Welcome to law school.

             Now I live almost directly behind David.  We visit when I walk my dogs.  I have learned he is an expert on Chicago Bears football.  And can you believe, he ran the 400 meters in 68 seconds in the Senior Olympics.  Regardless of age, you have to be in excellent shape to run that time.  What a great guy.

 David Hess Class of ‘67

First day of Property

First year of law school. First day of Property with David Becker. About 70 very nervous first year students in the lecture hall. Enter Professor Becker wearing a tan sportcoat and with his pipe in his mouth. Total Silence. Professor Becker removes his sportcoat in a very exacting fashion and lays it over the lecture table in the front. Professor Becker then spends what seemed like an eternity ministering to his pipe which he eventually places next to his sportcoat. Still total silence. Professor Becker then commences to speak giving the class a rather lengthy and detailed hypothetical question. All of us in the class are now seriously considering withdrawing from law school. Professor Becker finishes his hypothetical question and pauses as he scans the class list. Total silence accompanied by sheer panic. Professor Becker looks up and says something like “What do you think the holding should be, Mr. Big Bird (name changed to protect all , even though I’m quite sure the applicaple ‘Statute of limitations’ has expired) Mr. Big Bird is seated 2 seats away from me. 69 people in the lecture hall all heave an audible sigh of relieve. Mr. Big Bird mutters under his breath “Oh @#$% .” Without missing a beat Professor Becker deadpans: “No, would you like to try again?” Game set and match – Becker.

Edward Richard JD’74

The Consummate Teacher

“After receiving my grades my first semester in law school, I was disappointed and my disappointment included my grade in Dave Becker’s Real Property class.  I knew his door was always open so I venture in to ask him what I had done wrong to windup in the middle of the pack in his class.  He was busy at that particular moment but invited me to come back and spend some time going over my exam as well as what he was looking for in answers to his complex exam questions.  He spent over three hours with me concluding that I had written a fine exam for a political science class but it was now time to think and write like a lawyer.   The light bulb went on in my head and the rest is history.  The rest of my law school career went very well.  I have been blessed with an extraordinary career as a lawyer.  I can’t be absolutely sure that Dave made the difference but there is a very good chance that he provided the turning point.  For that I have and will continue to say “thank you” to Dave Becker, the consummate teacher.”

Maury Poscover, JD 1969