Wednesday, November 22, 2017


He was a law professor’s law professor. With a twinkle in his eye, he could espouse the most preposterous position on any proposition of law or politics and stubbornly defend it against any and every effort to uphold reason and common sense.

He could make you think. He could make you analyze. He was a born teacher who motivated his students to work, forced them to learn how to learn.

I hired Pete Jason more than forty years ago. No search committee. No formal application or interview. He was a friend of Bob Krinock’s, a U. of Detroit guy and, at a relatively young age, had already risen to the position of Corporate Council of the City of Detroit.

He had no academic credentials as I remember, but like most of the early faculty at Thomas Cooley Law School, Pete Jason was a ‘good old boy’ well liked, well recommended, easy to know, fun to be with.

Peter was the quintessential pixie. He could draw you into a heated debate with some outlandish assertion or improbable contention. You knew he wasn’t serious. But he would never admit a spoof or concede a point.

Looking back, I marvel at the chutzpa we all shared in the salad days of Cooley. In many respects, Pete Jason and I, along with a handful of others shared the task of making something out of nothing.

That is an experience like no other. The act of creating, of founding, of launching an institution is not shared by many people. I know how iffy it was for me; a young married man with a young family. It was certainly as shakey a limb for Pete Jason and his wife, Sandy, as well.

But it was a limb he happily crawled out on. Nobody was more dedicated or committed to the Thomas M. Cooley Law School than Peter D. Jason. And no one is to this day, more nearly identified with Cooley and its philosophy of access to legal education.

Pete Jason is dead. He died just a week or so ago and not much more than a few days after he sat next to Polly and me at a dinner of some old faculty people.

It’s a strange realty. One moment you are enjoying the company of an old and dear friend, laughing at stories told and retold over the years; then seemingly in the blink of an eye, the friend is gone; the companionship, so real and so vital, is over; the present has become the past; the friend has lost his own time and space, and he now lives only in the shared memories of those who knew and loved him.

Polly and I, along with all the folks at Cooley Law School, and a virtual army of his former students will keep him in our hearts and prayers.

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