Hans Smit Celebrated as "Leading Light" at the Law School

The Columbia Law School community and those close to the gifted and memorable scholar recently honored his remarkable life

Spring 2012

Family, friends, colleagues, and students of Professor Hans Smit ’58 LL.B. gathered recently at Columbia Law School to commemorate the distinguished and colorful Dutchman, a towering figure in the field of international arbitration and comparative law who passed away on January 7, 2012, at the age of 84.

Speakers at the memorial service recalled Smit as a preeminent scholar and arbitrator, a delightfully exacting and inspiring educator, and a fierce athletic competitor.

“This is a terribly sad day for all of us,” Dean David M. Schizer told the crowd. “Hans was a defining presence in the field of international arbitration and, of course, a leading light for the faculty.”

One of Smit’s most prominent former colleagues, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59, praised him as an exceptional man with interests and expertise that ranged from water polo, to fine art, to home renovation. “Hans, those who experienced him as teacher, colleague, writer, or bon vivant would confirm, was a man of many strengths,” said Ginsburg, who worked with Smit on a Law School international procedure project that he launched and oversaw.

Smit, who founded the Columbia-Leiden-Amsterdam Summer Program in 1963 and served as director of the Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law at Columbia Law School from 1980 to 1988, left an indelible imprint on his students, said Professor Michael I. Sovern ’55.