William Warren with students and Jonathan Varat, dean emeritus and professor of law emeritus at UCLA Law.
William Warren, a former dean of UCLA School of Law who left
a lasting imprint on the school and the nation's commercial laws, died on May 30,
2017. He was 92.
UCLA Law grew into its current position as one of the
nation's premier law schools during Warren's tenure as its fourth dean, from
1975 to 1982. Those pivotal years were marked by expansion of the school's
trailblazing clinical education program, stronger ties to the firms and institutions
that hire law school graduates, and a growing reputation as a place where rigorous
scholarship, public service and a collegial atmosphere are prized attributes.
People from all corners of the UCLA Law community unanimously
recalled Warren as a humble and kind leader, as well as a beloved professor who
was one of the nation's leading scholars in bankruptcy and commercial law.
"He was a legend, a real institutional giant, and a truly
lovely human being," says Jennifer L. Mnookin, UCLA Law's dean and David G.
Price and Dallas P. Price Professor of Law. "The spirit of community he
instilled here and the initiatives he set in motion are what make our law
school tick today. All that, plus he was an outstanding scholar and teacher. The
frequency with which the alumni I meet reminisce about Bill, both as a
professor and as dean, is both heartwarming and striking."
Warren, who was also the school's Michael J. Connell
Distinguished Professor of Law, embraced faculty, staff and students alike as
wise peers, and strove to rid legal education of what he deemed "the old,
sadistic, humiliating type of classroom harassment from teachers."
Generations of students responded in kind. Warren was chosen
as Professor of the Year by the UCLA Law classes of 1965, 1969, 1971, 1982,
1984, 1986 and 1991. He won the same honor while teaching at the University of
Illinois College of Law in 1959 and at Stanford in 1973. Warren also received
UCLA Law's Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1984 and the UCLA
Distinguished Teaching Award in 1985.
"His talent as a teacher was unparalleled," says Judge
Sandra Ikuta '88 of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. "I still
find myself drawing on the fundamentals of bankruptcy law and the law of real
estate secured transactions that I learned from him. His teaching talent was
matched by his kindness and patience to his students struggling with this
Longtime law school staff members also recall a "sweet man"
who met every colleague on a personal level. "Every time I ran into him in the
halls, even after he stopped teaching, he would take the time to stop and
chat," says Sean Pine Treacy, assistant dean for curriculum and registration at
UCLA Law. "It was clear that Bill cared deeply about the school and the people
he worked with."
Warren was born in Mount Vernon, Illinois, and served in the
Army Air Force on the island of Saipan in World War II. He attended the
University of Illinois on the G.I. Bill and earned his undergraduate degree in
1948. Inspired by Irving Stone's seminal biography Clarence Darrow for the
Defense, Warren pursued a law degree at Illinois and graduated in 1950.
After several years as a law professor at the Ohio State University, Vanderbilt
University and Illinois, he received a J.S.D. from Yale Law School in 1957.
Already an academic of high stature when he joined UCLA
Law's faculty two years later, Warren's work, especially with longtime
collaborator Robert Jordan, formed the foundation of contemporary commercial
law and made UCLA Law the leading center for the study of that field and
bankruptcy. He authored numerous influential articles and books, including two
definitive casebooks: Commercial Law with Jordan and, later, Steven D. Walt; and Bankruptcy with Jordan and, later, Daniel J. Bussel and David A. Skeel Jr.
Warren, again along with Jordan, was also the drafter of Articles
3, 4 and 4A of the Uniform Commercial Code, statutes that continue to govern payments
law across the country.
"The system works," says UCLA Law professor Bussel,
over lead authorship of the Bankruptcy casebook after his mentor retired. "Every day,
billions and billions of dollars are transferred through the system, and Bill
created the legal architecture pursuant to which those transactions are
"I feel special because of my relationship with him, but I
wasn't special," Bussel continues. "There were so many people who benefited
from his mentorship. He was a role model for everybody on the faculty."
Warren left to join Stanford's law faculty in 1972, but he returned to UCLA Law to accept the position of dean in 1975. In 1994,
UCLA Law established the William D. Warren Chair in Law in his honor, and his
many other accolades included a lifetime achievement award from the State Bar
of California in 2000.
"He was a man of immense accomplishments who justifiably
could have acted like the cock of the walk, but he was far too much the
gentleman to ever be anything but gracious and kind," says Stephen Bainbridge,
the William D. Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at UCLA Law. "He was a
font of good advice and a role model for how to conduct oneself both at work
and in life."
Colleagues recall Warren as a jogger, avid reader and
classical music enthusiast who continued to join his former coworkers at
simulcast Metropolitan Opera performances well into retirement.
Jonathan Varat, dean emeritus and professor of law emeritus
at UCLA Law, recalls Warren's dry wit. "When we faculty attributed too much of
our students' success to ourselves and our teaching, Bill would always say, 'We're in the business of making silk purses out of silk purses.' He had a
strong sense of our very privileged position, teaching extremely bright
Warren is survived by his wife, Sue; sister, Shirley; children
Dr. John Warren (Dr. Silvana Volpe) and Sarah Warren; two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The family requests that any donations in Warren's honor be directed to UCLA School of Law.
In a lengthy interview in 2000, Warren reflected on his
career, the school's achievements and aspirations, and the ups and downs of
teaching and being an administrator. "I've been a very fortunate person," he
said. "Unlike nearly everyone else I know, I've spent my life doing exactly
what I always hoped to do."