Hans Smit ’58 LL.B.
January 7, 2012
Hans Smit ’58 LL.B. was a distinguished Columbia Law School professor and a leading scholar and practitioner in several fields, including international arbitration. He passed away on January 7, 2012, at the age of 84.
The author of numerous influential academic works and U.S. Supreme Court amicus briefs, Smit mentored generations of Law School students and directed programs that helped burnish Columbia Law School’s reputation as a global hub for the study of international law.
Born and raised in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Smit earned an LL.B. and LL.M. from the University of Amsterdam. He proceeded to practice in The Hague and New York City before earning a master’s degree from Columbia in 1953 and graduating first in his class with an LL.B. from the Law School in 1958.
Smit joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 1960, assuming directorship of the Project on International Procedure, which attracted top legal minds to the Law School, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59.
During the next several decades, Smit served as the director of numerous Law School projects and programs, including the Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law, which Smit led from 1980 to 1998.
Smit founded the Columbia-Leiden-Amsterdam Summer Program, which for almost five decades has given law students and practicing lawyers from around the world the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands for one month of intensive training in American law. He was also the driving force behind the J.D./Master in French Law Program, which is offered jointly by Columbia Law School and the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.
A man of eclectic pastimes and tastes, Smit was keenly interested in the Middle Ages and collected 14th- and 15th-century art and furniture. He was also an accomplished water polo player who narrowly missed an Olympic spot with the Dutch national team.
Smit, who was made a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion by Queen Beatrix in 1987, is survived by his wife, Beverly, and his children, Robert H. Smit ’86 and Marion Smit.