New York, May 21, 2014—Columbia Law School Professor Philip M. Genty, director of the Prisoners and Families Clinic and the Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison Moot Court Program, received a Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching from Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger at the university’s commencement ceremony on May 21.
Genty was one of five professors selected to receive the prestigious award among more than 500 nominations from across the university community. An expert in prisoners’ rights, family law, clinical education, and legal ethics, Genty has long been a standout in the classroom. In 2008, Columbia Law School students awarded him the Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and in 2013, 2007 and 2005 they voted him “Public Interest Professor of the Year.”
Professor Philip M. Genty applauds student competitors at the 2013 Paul, Weiss Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Finals.
“Dedicated to the underrepresented, Professor Genty has spent his professional career reaching out to those who do not have the means to navigate through an expensive and complicated legal system on their own,” Columbia Law School Dean David M. Schizer wrote in a letter in support of Genty’s nomination. “Philip Genty’s contributions to the Columbia community, and to the population far beyond, are gigantic.”
In the Prisoners and Families Clinic, which Genty established in 1996, Columbia Law School students operate at the intersection of the criminal justice, family court, and child welfare systems to inform incarcerated parents about their rights and responsibilities. Accompanied by Genty, they visit maximum security men’s and women’s prisons to teach family law to inmates, and, more recently, have taken on clients who suffer the so-called “collateral consequences” of the United States’ reliance on mass incarceration.
Students and alumni expressed their admiration for Genty in letters enthusiastically supporting his nomination.
“Professor Genty is a committed and inspiring role model,” wrote Peggy Cross-Goldenberg ’01, the supervising trial attorney at the Manhattan office of the Federal Defenders of New York who was a student in the clinic in 2001 and now serves as a lecturer at the Law School. “He could be ‘Exhibit A’ for the saying, ‘actions speak louder than words.’ As a practicing attorney and a teacher, I try to emulate his client-centered and constructive approach to problem-solving in my interactions with clients and students.”
Irisa Chen ’14, the 2013-2014 executive director of the Paul, Weiss Moot Court Program, wrote in her letter that Genty instills in his students “a sense of competence and know-how.”
“Without Professor Genty’s personal investment and cultivation, I would not be as prepared for the legal profession as I am today,” Chen wrote. “His ability to develop his students’ understanding and ownership of their own work and capabilities is a talent that has touched many of us at the Law School.”
A passionate supporter of and leading innovator in clinical and legal ethics education, Genty has traveled to law schools in Central and Eastern Europe to help develop clinical programs, taught courses on legal ethics in Israel and Romania, and participated in several conferences on legal education around the world.
Columbia University President Bollinger said in his letter notifying Genty about the award that Genty exemplifies “the ideal of the great teacher.”
Established in 1996, the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching honors the best of the university’s teachers for the influence they have on the development of their students and their part in maintaining Columbia’s longstanding reputation for educational excellence.
Genty is the sixth Columbia Law School professor and second clinical law professor to receive the Presidential Teaching Award in the program’s 18-year history. Past recipients include Professors Carol B. Liebman (2012), Susan Sturm (2007), Carol Sanger (2001), Robert Ferguson (1998), and Gerard Lynch ’75 (1997).
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