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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Remarks at the Department of Justice: John Sherman Award Ceremony for Former Law School Dean, The Honorable Robert Pitofsky

U.S. Department of Justice
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thank you Justice Breyer. It is an honor for me to be here today—and in such distinguished company—to recognize an extraordinary friend, teacher, scholar, and public servant, and a devoted husband, father, and grandfather.

I would like to offer a few reflections about Bob from these three perspectives for it is through these perspectives that I have known him over more than a quarter-century.

First, as a friend and colleague—I met Bob for the first time in March 1983 when he was selected to serve as Dean of the Georgetown Law Center. It was in the first months of what was my very first administrative role at the University, serving as assistant to our president, Father Timothy Healy. I was just starting – I was just out of college. Consider my good fortune that at the very start of my career I could look to Bob Pitofsky as an example for how one conducts oneself in positions of responsibility.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with him on a range of diverse and critical issues for the University, and I’ve come to know what all of us in this room deeply appreciate: Bob’s generous support and wise counsel…his ability to teach and inspire…and the way that he has faithfully pursued justice in the practice of law..

Bob has been an integral part of the Georgetown community for many years now, serving as a professor of anti-trust and constitutional law, and as Dean of the Law Center. In these positions, he embraced and helped define the way that we approach education at Georgetown—nurturing the mind, body, and spirit of our students. Bob might call this adding “buzz” or “spice” to the Academy and its work

As Dean, he emphasized scholarship, visiting professorships, and brown-bag discussions. He hired vibrant faculty, enhanced the clinical program, and built a community of lawyers and students connected and invested in each others’ work. He spearheaded the building of the new law school library—providing students with the space and resources they needed to best fulfill their future potential as lawyers. And he continued to teach antitrust law on Monday mornings at nine am—keeping the education of students as his central focus.

He continues to inspire and educate future lawyers in the fundamentals of law…and with the experience of a public servant—and to instill in them an understanding of the motto of Georgetown’s Law Center: “Law is but the means, Justice the end.”

Second, Bob has influenced so many through the integrity and authenticity that he brings to his work as academic and public servant. I believe it is an extraordinary privilege to live here in Washington. While we are all familiar with the excesses and the abuses that come with the proximity to and possession of power, I have also come to know a wide range of profoundly honorable women and men who serve our nation with dignity and distinction.

The most honorable I have met is Bob Pitofsky and he has served as both an inspiration and role model for me and I know countless others. It is with apparent ease that Bob has moved seamlessly from the academy to government and the practice of law and back again, distinguishing himself, and the places he serves with every move.

I know of no one who has balanced the call of service and the responsibilities that come with a life lived in the Academy like Bob. His anti-trust casebook, now in its fifth edition, has been the standard in the field for more than a generation. To sustain this work even while serving seven years as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission is a remarkable feat. Bob embodies the values of the academy.

He has said that, “I always had believed that an academic who spends time in government has almost an obligation to write an article about what you were doing and why you were doing it.” It’s probably not surprising that among Bob’s greatest contributions is his unparalleled ability to bring legal theory into the world…and the world into the classroom.

Third, his deep commitment to family—Bob and I, we get together from time-to-time, see each other on campus and often speak by phone; and, every year for more than twenty years, we meet for an annual dinner where the two of us just catch up. And every time we are together, Bob begins by sharing with me how things are going with Sally, their three children: Alex, David, and Elizabeth, and in recent years, with updates on their families and his grandchildren.

I first met Sally in the summer of 1984 when we were all guests of Father Healy at Georgetown’s study center in Fiesole, in the hills overlooking Florence. It is a magical place. This time together provided me with a perspective on the love that Bob and Sally have for one another. I have been in awe of their marriage ever since.

To say that Georgetown is proud to count Bob among our family is a great understatement. We are indebted to him for his leadership, his scholarship, his service and his example. Bob, I am truly honored to be with you on this day.

It’s now my pleasure to introduce to you: The Honorable Eric Holder.

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