Two legendary members of the Indiana Law community were honored at a retirement ceremony November 16 in the Indiana Memorial Union.
Friends, family, and colleagues gathered to celebrate the remarkable careers of Professor Joe Hoffmann and Dean Emerita Lauren Robel. While both have retired from the Law School, Dean Christiana Ochoa said she is grateful that both continue to be deeply involved in various projects.
Hoffmann, now the Harry Pratter Professor of Law Emeritus, was cited as an extraordinary teacher and scholar, earning rave reviews in the classroom and among his academic peers—all without a trace of ego.
“Joe has done everything a faculty member can do,” said Prof. Jeff Stake. “Internationally famous scholarship, enlightened teaching—both JD and undergrad—and a record of splendid service to the school. And he’s been selfless. He’s a complete team player. He made us better when he joined us, and we’re going to miss him in ways we’ll never know.”
Professor Aviva Orenstein echoed those sentiments.
“You are an amazing colleague,” she said in a letter read by Professor Charlie Geyh. “Throughout your tenure here at IU you’ve offered deep insights into the law, demonstrated a love of ideas, and displayed intellectual generosity.”
Hoffmann joined Indiana Law after clerking for the Hon. Phyllis A. Kravitch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and in 1985 for the Hon. William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court. He graduated with an undergraduate degree from Harvard College in 1978 and earned his law degree from the University of Washington School of Law in 1984.
“Herman B Wells, the great president of IU, wrote a book called Being Lucky, and that would’ve been the title of my book if I ever wrote one about my life,” Hoffmann said. “I knew from my time that I went to law school at the University of Washington that I wanted to be a law teacher someday. I’d hoped I’d get that chance. And then I got lucky.”
Hoffmann said he and his family came to interview at the Law School on a cold December day, and they fell in love with the school, campus, and city.
“It was clear this was an incredibly special place,” he said.
After joining the Maurer faculty, Hoffmann quickly became an award-winning scholar and teacher, renowned for his remarkable scholarship in criminal procedure, habeas corpus law, and the death penalty. He is the co-author of the groundbreaking book Habeas for the 21st Century: Uses, Abuses, and the Future of the Great Writ, and co-author of one of the leading casebooks in criminal procedure law, Comprehensive Criminal Procedure.
Hoffmann has been honored with the Gavel Award, presented annually to the individual who has contributed the most to the school during the enrollment of the graduating class. He is also a past recipient of the Indiana University Outstanding Young Faculty Award.
In 1996, Hoffmann was a Fulbright Professor at the University of Tokyo, and for two years after that was a Visiting Professor at its International Center for Comparative Law and Politics. In 2003-4 he was a Fulbright Professor at the Universities of Erlangen and Jena in Germany.
But his contributions have extended far beyond our Law School
He served as the co-chair and reporter for the Massachusetts Governor’s Council on Capital Punishment, as principal investigator in Indiana for the National Science Foundation-sponsored Capital Jury Project, and was elected to the Order of the Coif and to the Order of the Barristers at the University of Washington.
“I was incredibly lucky to have kind of stumbled on this place,” he said of the Law School. “This is the kind of place I’d never want to leave.”
Colleagues recalled Robel has a visionary leader of the Law School, and for nearly a decade as Provost of the IU Bloomington campus and executive vice president of Indiana University.
Robel became the first woman to lead the school as dean in 2002 after years of acclaimed service as a teacher and scholar. A 1983 graduate of the Law School, Robel has made an extraordinary impact on her alma mater, Indiana University, and the legal profession.
Her diplomatic administrative style combined with the ability to see—and anticipate—every possible angle to a problem left many awestruck.
“We go way back,” said Professor Don Gjerdingen. “I knew you as an associate professor, and then as a full professor, and then as an associate dean, then as dean of this Law School, then as provost of this even bigger place around us. In all those times and all those places you supported each of our wandering and so often fragile academic worlds. Somehow through all of it, you knew everybody and talked to everybody.”
“Because you were there in all of those places for us,” Gjerdingen continued, “we felt safe and cared for, and above all, we felt listened to. And because we did, we want you to know this: When we were talking to you we felt for a long and so lovely and precious moment like a faculty of one.”
As a teacher, Robel’s influence in the classroom was immeasurable. She was honored with the Leonard D. Fromm Public Interest Award twice, along with the Leon Wallace Teaching Award—the highest teaching award the school bestows upon one of its instructors—and two Teaching Excellence Recognition Awards.
Vice President for International Affairs and John E. Schiller Chair in Legal Ethics Hannah Buxbaum recalled her own first time teaching in Room 121, right after one of Robel’s classes.
“Lauren is an incredibly wonderful teacher,” Buxbaum said. “I thought, if I can just do as good a job in this room as Lauren Robel, I’ll be doing okay at this school.”
Ochoa said it was impossible to overstate the momentum the Law School gained under Robel’s leadership, from the creation of new academic programs and research centers to the transformational gifts the school received from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., Michael S. Maurer ’67, and others.
“Her vision and energy lifted the school,” said Professor Susan Willliams. “It helped us to move toward what we dream of being. Because Lauren has always seen us as our best selves, and she’s made it possible for us to imagine ourselves that way.”
Robel served the legal profession as well, as a member of the Association of American Law Schools’ Executive Committee and later as its president, and as a member of the American Bar Foundation. She was a founding member of the board of the Law School Survey of Student Engagement and a member of the board of the National Survey of Student Engagement.
A number of colleagues reflected on the impact Robel had on their own lives, both personal and professional. Many said they wouldn’t be who they were had it not been for her.
“What this proves to me is that it’s what I’ve always believed about this institution,” Robel said. “It’s one of the most generous and warm and loving places you could ever possibly be. When I came here as a student, I came here by the skin of my teeth. I barely had the resources to walk in the door. And every single step of the way, the faculty here and Len Fromm made it possible for me to get a degree.”
“It’s been easy to love this place,” she said.