The Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Every year, the graduating class selects a faculty member to receive this distinguished award.

About the Award

The Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching was established in 1993 in memory of Professor Willis Reese, Charles Evans Hughes Professor of Law and director of the Parker School of International and Comparative Law. Reese’s passion for teaching and dedication to his students was legendary. The prize is awarded annually at graduation by the graduating class to a professor who exemplifies excellence in teaching at Columbia Law School. 

List of Winners

2020 Bert Huang
2019 Zohar Goshen
2018 Edward Morrison
2017 Eric Talley
2016 Olatunde Johnson
2015 Jessica Bulman-Pozen
2014 Gillian Metzger ’96
2013 Conrad Johnson
2012 Robert J. Jackson Jr.
2011 Trevor W. Morrison ’98
2010 Alex Raskolnikov
2009 Suzanne B. Goldberg
2008 Philip M. Genty
2007 Carol Sanger
2006 Zohar Goshen
2005 Ariela Dubler
2004 Samuel Issacharoff
2003 Robert A. Ferguson
2002 David M. Schizer
2001 Kellis E. Parker (in memoriam)
2000 Curtis J. Berger (in memoriam)
1999 John F. Manning
1998 John F. Manning
1997 Harvey J. Goldschmid ’65
1996 Harvey J. Goldschmid ’65
1995 Anne Alstott
1994 Gerard E. Lynch ’75
1993 Paul Shechtman


 

Spotlight May 6, 2020

Archival black and white photo of Willis L.M. Reese sitting at a desk in front of a bookshelf.
Early Career

Star Student

Graduated first in the Yale Law School Class of 1938.

Early Career

Law clerk

Clerked for Judge Thomas W. Swan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. 

Early Career

Intelligence Officer

Served as a captain with the U.S. Army’s Office of Strategic Services during World War II.

Columbia and Beyond

Professor

Joined the Columbia Law faculty in 1946, became a professor in 1948, and named the Charles Evans Hughes Professor of Law in 1957. He was known for his  “booming voice, his directness, the incredible agility of his mind, the esoteric nature of his hypotheticals . . . combined with a total lack of pomposity and a manifest and unqualified dedication to the law made his classes an experience that his thousands of students will always remember,” in the words of his colleague Hans Smit ’58.

Columbia and Beyond

Innovator

Played an integral role (along with Columbia Law Admissions Director Frank H. Bowles) in devising the first standardized law school admissions test. Administered in 1948, it ultimately became what we know as the LSAT.

Columbia and Beyond

Institutional Leader

Directed the Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law from 1955 to 1980.

Local Leader

Public Official

Elected mayor of Hewlett Bay Park, New York. 

Local Leader

Champion of Underserved Communities

Served as director of the New York Legal Aid Society from 1951 to 1971 and chairman of the Community Action for Legal Services in Harlem and the Bronx from 1967 to 1970.

Global Leader

Delegate

Represented the United States nine times between 1956 and 1985 at the Hague Conference for Private International Law.

Global Leader

Scholar

Pursued his academic interests in international law and conflict of law, as chief reporter for the American Law Institute’s Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Law, which a distinguished British legal scholar, who’d taught at Harvard Law School, called “the most impressive, comprehensive and valuable work on the conflict of laws that has ever been produced in any country, in any language, at any time.”

Legacy

Legal Legend

Honored upon his retirement in the Columbia Law Review (Vol. 81, No. 5) with a “Resolution of the Faculty,” which described him as “a great character, with great character” and included essays by his colleagues. Michael I. Sovern, then-president of Columbia University, wrote of Reese’s teaching style, “Every part of him participated in the dialogue—endless arms and legs, a body that looked like an exclamation point except when it curled over the lectern to form a question mark, a voice that modulated between the shrill and the raucous. He was uproariously funny, endlessly interesting, a master teacher. Socrates would have acknowledged him a peer, but not at first sight.”