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Professor Larry Schlam Memorial

Lawrence Schlam

Louis G. Apostol ('78): I was one of Larry’s students and played third base on his “Schlammers” softball team. I always will remember how he and I exchanged sometimes heated discussions regarding law school activities and the practice of law. As I reflect back on these events, I know he wanted to challenge me to always stand up and be counted when expressing my ideas and beliefs. This lesson really helped me in the practice of law and I thank him for it.

Len Strickman, NIU Law Dean 1981-1990: As I went through materials I had been sent in February of 1991 in preparation for my interview for the deanship of the NIU College of Law, I realized that my classmate in the Class of 1959 at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Larry Schlam, was a member of the faculty. After I had accepted the appointment, but before I arrived on the job, I was asked by the Provost to react to a recommendation for tenure for Larry which had been made by the appropriate faculty committee. Judging from his record up to then and his obvious talent, I endorsed that recommendation. I started work that July with the aspirations of building upon previous work of others to navigate a successful move to the DeKalb campus in 1982, achieve full ABA accreditation and AALS membership, and build a high quality program that would earn our young law school a reputation locally and nationally as one of America’s fine law schools. Larry was an important player in the achievement of those goals.

I remember fondly our frequent one-on-one lunches, a great deal of disputation about Constitutional Law issues, and a lot of laughs. Larry had a sharp, often acerbic, sense of humor, and was never dull. Whatever the sources of our disagreements, I always retained great regard for his intelligence, his sense of humor, his passion, and his commitment to the ends of social justice. To him the law was not merely a vocation, but the means to the achievement of that justice. Those great qualities which he evinced will be missed by the law school community and the larger profession which he served.

Howard Bain ('78): Larry was late for our Con Law class. We gave him 10 minutes and then decided to take the class over. I got to play Larry. The women threw me their bracelets and some necklaces and I pulled my hair back and tied it into a ponytail as best I could. Then I started writing on the board. We were all laughing and having fun, and actually were going to try to go through the class material without Prof. Schlam. My back was to the class, and then I turned around and there he was sitting in the back of the classroom. I tried to turn the class over to him. He said "No, you're it. When you wear the mask, you play the part." Ultimately he rescued me. But it was a Larry class: real learning and real fun at as high a level as possible.

Although I hadn't seen him but a few times over the years, he was a one-of-a-kind-type guy. We were blessed to have had his intellect, style and love for fun. From bringing KoKo Taylor to the school to mentoring. May his memory be for a blessing.

Hon. Gloria Coco ('78): Professor Larry Schlam is a legend in his own right. His love of the law, his inspiration and support for his students--and all of the NIU College of Law community--will continue for many years to come.

Personally, Professor Schlam initially inspired me as my Constitutional Law professor at Lewis University in 1976. And, yes, he sported a ponytail in those early days! He encouraged me to succeed as a law student and a lawyer, and taught me to trust my instincts in all facets of life. And how fortunate I was to be a neighbor of Professor Schlam, living in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago in the late 70's. He was a mentor and my friend, who introduced me to moo shu pork while discussing Marbury v. Madison!

Thank you Professor Schlam, thank you Larry, for the gift of sharing you. Myself, as well as so, so many lives that you have touched, will miss you sorely. We are all so blessed to have known you Professor Schlam, and for that we are better. My prayers and thoughts are with you always. May you find peace, rest, and love forever my colleague and dear friend.

Cynthia Edwards Pietrucha ('09): I was sad to hear about the passing of Professor Schlam, one of the most encouraging, supportive and inspiring professors I met at NIU Law. He was the professor for my Culture and Disputing seminar. When I completed my final paper, he wrote an e-mail thanking me for a well-written, interesting paper. In the midst of law student stress, it was wonderful to hear cheerful words of encouragement. I also participated with the a cappella vocal group the Schlamtones and very much enjoyed spending time in Professor Schlam’s presence.

Russell Slifer ('94): It is sad to lose a mentor. I am forever grateful to Professor Schlam for allowing me to be his assistant in my 3L year. He wanted me to help him resurrect an old paper he had written but not published: Compulsory Royalty-Free Licensing as an Antitrust Remedy for Patent Fraud. Little did I know that he would provide me a draft that was literally cut and pasted together with yellowing scotch tape. It was an honor to work on that paper together and learn from his extensive knowledge.

Nancy Joerg ('89): Professor Schlam was my Constitutional Law professor for both sections of Con Law. I delighted in his marvelous sense of humor and found that his method of teaching through humor and imagery was remarkably effective. I still remember the day he came to class and pulled a rubber chicken out of his briefcase! And I also recall the “tin plate” image---to explain how the plate had to be carefully balanced so that the Supreme Court could have credibility. I took his classes in 1987-88 and the imagery lives on in my mind. And I remember the laughter as we learned---what a true privilege it was to be his law student. I have contacted him over the years (since I graduated in the class of ’89). Once he visited our law firm here in St. Charles, Illinois, and he spoke to the attorneys here about his life and teaching career. When he finished his presentation, he stood up and sang a song. Needless to say, he was a hit! Professor Schlam, you will always be my favorite law school professor, in every way. My sincere condolences to your family.

Professor Robert Jones: Professor Schlam is one of the most important figures in the law school’s history. He was instrumental in the school’s transition from Lewis over thirty years ago, and the law school would not be what it is today without him. Larry befriended me the moment I stepped on campus eight years ago. I owe a tremendous amount to the support and encouragement he gave me over those years. Throughout it all, he was brilliant, insightful, resilient, vibrant, witty, iconoclastic, and free-spirited. I will miss my friend very much.

Brittany Tewksbury: I was Larry's personal trainer at the Genoa Fitness Center. I met him when he started training with another trainer, Nick, back in 2013. He always waved at me through the windows when I taught my Spin class on Wednesday mornings. He always complimented me on my workout sessions & my muscle "definition" and him and Nick always seemed to have a great time training together because Nick was always giggling when he trained with Larry. In September of 2014 I began training Larry when Nick left for another job. I loved working with him right away. He always made me laugh and we had our funny inside jokes. He was always so determined to stay strong and healthy which I always admire in men and women his age. I loved his doo-wop singing at every session and would get a kick out of him trying to get other gym members to sing with him. He gave me a copy of his doo-wop album with his group the "Schlamtones" and I cherish it! He had a beautiful voice and a beautiful heart & soul. He always joked that I should randomly show up to his class dressed as Xena the warrior princess and yell "Schlam! Get down and give me 20!" (Push-ups) in front of his students because he said "they would get a big kick out of it." He always made me laugh, he gave me great advice on life, he shared many amazing stories of his life and everyone who knew him at the Fitness Center loved him. I will miss our Monday and Wednesday morning training sessions. He loved life, law, his family & his music. I'll miss him terribly. It hasn't been the same without him. May you rest in peace Larry. Remember to "put some weight on it."

Richard E. Pravda ('78): I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and DuPage County was a very strange place. Professor Schlam was an anchor for me. We had gone to the same high school (Stuyvesant), albeit ten years apart. We spoke about 60's music and politics, and I could drop Yiddish expressions and he had a responsive ear. Professor Schlam (Larry) taught a fascinating course in Constitutional Law, from the prospective of a practitioner. We shared the same sense of humor and he appreciated my efforts to lampoon the school, and warned about those who did not.

I was very saddened to learn of his passing, and immediately called several other Class of '78 alums to share our grief. Larry was one of a kind, and I am glad that I was fortunate enough to know him. My sympathies to his family.

Jessica Parsons (1L): As I look at this memorial page, and as I am about to catch up on my Constitutional Law outline, this still does not seem real. I keep thinking that I will be sitting in Professor Schlam's class again on Monday. Even though his unorthodox teaching methods could be frustrating at times, I respect him for being true to himself, and unapologetic for doing so. Regardless, he would go out of his way to make class fun. You never knew what was going to come out of his mouth! During my last class with him, I was playing a butcher in a mock congressional hearing. One of the last things he said to me was, "If you are not going to take playing the butcher seriously, I'll find someone else who will!" About five minutes later he was encouraging the class to just have fun with the exercise. That about sums him up...unpredictable and one of a kind. We never did get the chance to see the rubber chicken or the chicken hook. Rest in peace.

Mariam L. Hafezi ('10): I’m sad to hear about Professor Schlam. He was one of a kind, for sure. One of my favorite memories was when he took me and some of my colleagues out to lunch. He sat down with us and he said, completely earnestly, “I know exactly what each of you will be doing once you graduate.” We looked at him, so excited and eager to hear his answer. He paused. He looked us in the eye. We leaned forward: “Whatever your boss tells you to do.” So Schlam, right there.

I loved hearing his stories about his days as a lawyer, in the trenches fighting hard for those that needed help the most He was a walking, talking history book.

But most importantly, he brought the human factor to the law when he taught us. In Constitutional Law, we were learning about some of the most important cases from the most important court in the land. Yes, we would study the holding and the rule, but he would always make sure we understood the outside factors. What was the implication of this? Why was the suit brought? What was the political atmosphere at the time? Why did the Justices lean that way at that time in history? It was a huge, impactful lesson that I didn’t realize he taught me until I was practicing. You have to know not just the law, but the whole picture surrounding it – the human element. I learned from Professor Schlam – and I do this each day – that the most effective arguments are those that address those underlying, perhaps non-legal issues and concerns a judge may have for his/her decision. The most effective arguments make the judge comfortable about their decision and the impact of their decision. The human element is something we must think about and address if we are to be great advocates, and that was Schlam’s great lesson to us.

He was an excellent professor and lawyer, and a wonderfully unique human being. He will be missed, but never forgotten.

Hon. Jon M. Theisen ('99): It is with sorrow and regret that I hear of Professor Schlam's passing. May God be with him and his family. As I recall, he often referenced a loving relationship with his daughter, of whom he clearly thought the world.

I easily recount some cardinal rules given to me by Professor Schlam: 1) Take the teeth out of opposing counsel's argument. 2) The answer to every legal question is the same, "It depends."

Although I use these truisms everyday, these are not Professor Schlam's legacy. I am most thankful to Professor Schlam for inspiring in me a passion for advocacy. He appeared to love the argument and love the dramatic--but to present these passions only through profound sincerity. From Professor Schlam, I learned not simply to "tell the jury my client's side of the story," but rather, to convince the jury "that I truly believed my client."

I wish I had taken the time to share with Professor Schlam the impact he had on my career, and my life. Please know that his passion for clients, victims and the law live on through this thankful pupil; and that I have shared his lessons with my family, as well as earnest lawyers whom appear in my courtroom.

John E. Stevens ('78): Besides being a great teacher, (he taught me Constitutional Law) Larry cared a great deal about the “culture” of the law school. One of my fondest law school memories was the evening Larry hosted a performance by Chicago Blues legend KoKo Taylor in the law school cafeteria. I’m not sure the year, but I think it was late 1976 or early 1977. Larry appeared to be having the time of his life in introducing his friend, Ms. Taylor, and the musical performance that evening was truly historic. A great evening all around!

Tom Wartowski ('99): I thoroughly enjoyed Professor Schlam's Con Law lectures. He was enthusiastic, entertaining and, of course, informative. Aside from the fundamentals of a constitutional law course, Prof. Schlam helped me develop insights into court decisions, tempered with a healthy sense of skepticism.

Nancy Blount ('79): I was in the second class which started at Lewis University. I took Constitutional law with Professor Schlam and he was one of my favorite professors. His class was always lively and interesting. An issue that was much in the news the year that I took his class was the issue of the Nazis marching in Skokie. He said that they had a constitutional right to do so. I could not understand his view at that time nor how he could feel that way. It was a memorable discussion and that day is as fresh in my mind as if it happened last week. I came to know that a constitutional right might not always be popular but it is a constitutional right nevertheless. I admired Professor Schlam and thought him one of a kind. Since graduating, anytime that my law school experience comes up, Professor Schlam's name, and the stories, are usually mentioned. He left a lasting impression. My condolences to his family for their loss.

Jay Juhani Kiiha ('00): Larry and I had the sort of relationship where I would receive a really long letter out of the blue a couple of times a year just checking in to see how I was doing. It was informal, but we always managed to stay in touch. Larry always had the greatest stories. Whether it was drinking gin straight out of the bottle with Junior Wells while sitting on the curb in front of the Checkerboard Lounge; running into Allan Ginsberg at the NYU Law Library who asked Larry if he could locate the section on "Space Law;" or pulling out a rubber chicken and poultry hook in class as a physical exhibit relating to a railroad trespass case, the man was the very definition of a raconteur. Love him or not, he kept your attention; moreover, Larry was whip smart. I cribbed a bit from him about "constitutional law being a delicate tin plate of a penumbra of interests balanced on the head of a pin," recycled it in a myriad of briefs, and used it as a talking point for years for my own business law students, only to later have him deny that he said such a thing while at the same time promising to steal it back and take credit for the same. He knew the name of every single musician to play with Chess Records up through 1970, loved the Stones and Dylan and could tell you all about the layout of the City Lights Bookstore when it was at its prime.  Larry really let you know him, not as another dry lawyer, but as a real mensch.

The world will be a less bright place without my friend. I hope his journey is an easy one from this point forward.

Cathy Reif ('10): Professor Schlam was a kind and interesting person. He was knowledgeable and took a personal interest in his students. He encouraged his students, and made sure they learned. His enthusiasm and love of the law showed in his teaching. The other memory I have of Professor Schlam is that he dressed very nicely and he once told me that his male students were starting to ask him for advice on how to dress for interviews so they would look smart and professional - they thought he was a good role model for snazzy dressing!

He was a good teacher and will be missed.

Rob Larsen ('86): "Hi, I'm Mick Jagger and will be teaching you Criminal Law." So began my first class at NIU College of Law. So sorry to hear of his passing. He was a great teacher and a great person. I had not been in contact with him since I left NIU in 1986 but he came back into my life about 11 years ago and helped to save it. I am eternally grateful. Rest in Peace.

Hon. Kathleen Kauffmann ('90): I was a law student at NIU Law from 1987 to 1990.  Professor Schlam was an interesting and thought-provoking law professor. Most recently, I saw Professor Schlam at the Illinois Annual Judicial Conference last October. We had a chance to catch up and I very much enjoyed our conversation. As a juvenile judge for many years, I so appreciated his contributions as the Professor-Reporter on the Judicial Juvenile Law Benchbook. Professor Schlam was a true believer in juvenile justice reform - his contributions will be greatly missed.

David Courtright ('13): Professor Schlam approached his students on a personal level and pushed them to a professional standard. He made ambitious endeavors practical especially in the context of constitutional law. I will fondly remember the way he captivated my attention by recanting dirty stories of having to pay a clerk to get his case called, or how cow's milk is really bad for us. He wore his affection on his sleeve. He was candid to our benefit -- not his. He bucked the widely accepted when unsupported, and he could identify the collective conscious, ever-changing, that framed our laws. I will miss him.

Adrian Hochstadt ('85): The news leaves me with great sadness but also rekindles some wonderful memories I have of Professor Schlam. He gave me my first legal job, to assist him with his “of counsel” work with Harvey Walner, a Chicago law firm, during my second year of law school and the subsequent summer. Not only did I earn some badly needed income, but I got to brief  real world cases, mostly personal injury appeals I recall. More important, Prof. Schlam mentored me and gave me valuable advice on approaching the law and behaving like a lawyer, but also not to be afraid to challenge the status quo and be creative. His colorful stories of his legal beginnings made me realize that there are many paths available in this profession and there isn’t a one size fits all lawyer prototype. You can be yourself and “do it your way.”

Oh, and he was a hell of a teacher too. He did a great job of teaching Con Law. I will miss Larry and always be grateful for the opportunity he gave me as well as his wisdom and friendship.  

Michael Salnick ('78): It is with much sadness to learn about the passing of Larry Schlam.  He was an outstanding professor, mentor, and someone I considered a friend.  He was there at the very beginning of the Lewis University College of Law and hung in there to watch our school grow and transform in to the respected institution it is today.  I have only good memories of the "Lewis days" at Route 53 and Roosevelt Road.  Larry was one of the "go to" people back in the day.  His enthusiasm for the school, not to mention the great turquoise jewelry and pony tail, were legend.  He got it, and was able to encourage those of us at a fledgling law school to hang in there....that things would be okay.  You knew he genuinely cared and did everything he could during the difficult times to let everyone know we were getting a great legal education.  He even lent his name and coaching skills to the "Grand Schlammers," a softball team the prelaw students organized in the summer of 1975, along with the infamous "Vihon's Peons."

I was glad to have kept in touch with him over the years and less than a year ago, we exchanged some emails about victims and the work he was doing in Illinois.  As a criminal defense lawyer who occasionally represents victims, we spoke about the victim's rights amendment in Florida and how victims impact the criminal justice system.  Larry was a great advocate and voice for victims. 

It was exciting that my son, now a practicing lawyer in our firm, had Larry when he was a first year law student at Northern Illinois.  My son was so influenced and impacted by Larry, that he not only did well in his class, but because of that transferred to another law school here in Florida.  Larry's influence resulted in my son working as a prosecutor for five years and being very sensitive to victim's rights.  When I last saw Larry at a reunion a few years ago, he told me "I sent your son to Florida State Law School."

Rest in peace my friend.  You will be missed.

Bob Arnold ('86): I was saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Larry Schlam.  Although it’s been 30 years since I took his classes, I still have vivid memories.

In the fall of 1984 I had him for Constitutional Law, a subject I came to really love.  Many of the concepts he taught us, and his unique manner of conveying them, have never left me. 

I remember like it was yesterday his explanation of “due process.”  He told us that notions of due process have been fundamental to human interaction since the dawn of time.  I’m sure we all looked confused by that, so he elaborated.  “What does the concept of due process mean?” he asked.  No one was willing to hazard a guess.  “What did God say to Cain in the Garden of Eden?”  More silence from we students.  He went on, “God said ‘Cain?  Where’s your brother?’”  We still didn’t get it.  “Notice!  An opportunity to be heard!  That’s due process!” 

Brilliant.  I have never forgotten that.  RIP Professor Schlam, and condolences to your family and friends. 

Joe Robinson ('81): Professor Schlam was brilliant, and a good lawyer.  The two don’t always go hand in hand. I had the privilege of working as a clerk for Professor Schlam my second and third years of law school.  He was demanding yet understanding, critical yet encouraging, professional yet personally friendly.  He taught me a lot about what would be expected of me in the “real” world, and did not mince words in saying so.  I appreciated him while I was at NIU, and more so after I left.  He remained supportive and a source for me after graduation.

He was funny, possessed of a sharp wit and liked to laugh.  Despite our completely different backgrounds, he was a friend then and remained so.

My condolences extend to his family and to those at NIU.

Matthew A. Doss ('01): On Monday, my director asked me to develop some curriculum to provide junior adjudicators some guidance regarding Due Process. As I started the work yesterday, Professor Schlam’s “Schlamogram” immediately came to mind. This memory prompted a brief respite from my day as I looked back and recalled his unique character and friendliness demonstrated in class. Today, I am counted among those who express sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues, especially his former students. May he rest in peace.

Thomas M. Benson ('03): May his rubber chicken also find a proper resting place.

Julie Neubauer ('07): So sad. Thanks for teaching me the joys of Con Law, sir. May you find that justice is always served in the afterlife.

Lawrence A. Stein ('93): He was a force, that lives on in me and his numerous other students.

Marissa Hanson ('09): RIP Mr. Schlamtone.

Danielle Blanks ('14):  I am very sorry to hear this. He will def be missed. My sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.

Jeff Ammons ('10): Prof. Schlam was one of my favorites. RIP.

Steve Whitmore ('05): He will be missed. Condolences to the family. Hopefully the Schlamtones can perform at any service.

Christine Janis (3L): While I never had him as a professor, his influence extended well outside his classroom wall. He will be missed.

Sarmistha Banerjee ('14): My deepest condolences to Prof. Schlam's family. I learnt a great deal from him as his research assistant. He will be missed.

Sarah Walsh (3L): Deepest sympathies and prayers to my law school family. May Professor Schlam rest in peace.

Michael Hantsch ('10): Professor Schlam was a great teacher, academic, and mentor. I learned much working for him and I know I won't be alone in missing him.

Kimberly Shefts ('03): He was a wonderful professor. Condolences to his family. It is too bad future students will not have the chance to learn directly from him.

Austin Moore (1L): I didn't have him as a teacher, but he did compliment me on my walking and texting skills. Seemed like a great guy.

Kenya Jenkins-Wright ('03): I am so sorry to hear this news. He was a wonderful professor and a great person.

Cassandra Hirth (1L): I had the privilege of consulting with him regarding some personal matters last semester. He was a great and enthusiastic man. I'm very disappointed that I won't be able to learn from him via the classroom. Condolences to his family. He is already missed.

Meaghan Ring Alexander ('04): I remember Professor Schlam for his unbounded enthusiasm in the classroom, which during my time as a student at NIU College of Law could be shown by both intentionally inflammatory comments and light-hearted (false?) promises of a shorter exam if he could field a new doo-wop group from among his current ConLaw students. Ever persuasive, he got some of us to take the bait, and we had a lot of fun sprinkled with light humiliation. Whether the exam was shorter, we may never know.

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