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September 29, 2009

The Chairman of the Good Life Committee: An Interview with Bob Lacy (Part II)

This is the second in a two-part interview of the late Professor Emeritus Frank Robert Lacy conducted by Professor Emeritus Don Brodie.

MR. BRODIE: This is November 25th and I am in Bob Lacy’s office. Let’s see, you decided to retire in May of ’86 although was really partial retirement.

PROFESSOR LACY: There was a change in the law, to the effect whatever the law was that you could not require people to retire at age 65. They either raised it to 70 or took the cap off altogether. The university at that point was very much concerned about a whole lot of people, overage, overpaid people, loading up the rolls and so a package of inducements was worked out to induce people to retire. If you would take the pledge anytime after 60, I think, if you would promise to retire at 65 you got an immediate raise of 6% or something like that, and the guarantee that you would have part-time employment after you retire. The part-time employment means that under the PERS rules you could work third time and still draw your fall pension. And considering that up until this year there was no state tax on PERS money, you came out very well. If you were getting more or less the maximum Social Security as most of us would be and had built up a good PERS retirement, and worked part-time there was hardly any change in your take home pay at all. So anyway, that was what I did. And for five years, up until last May, I taught the first year course in civil procedure which was about a third time. I assumed that would be the end of it, and I had enjoyed it very much. It was two days a week, two two hour sessions which I don’t particularly like, but nevertheless two days a week for four months of the year and the rest of the year off, at pretty much the same money I’d been earning all along, which was delightful. So I thought it would be fun to see if I could continue and I went to see Maury (Holland) last winter and said I know I’m not entitled to work anymore, but can you hire me as an adjunct or something. And so he said “Oh yes, be glad to have you,” and so we worked out a deal. Then the ABA told us we had to reduce the size of the student body. I figured well, there goes my job. I assumed if we reduce the size of the freshmen class, we would no longer have double sections. But it didn’t work out that way. When I came back from Europe last summer it developed that Fred had gotten sick. Maury said, “well, how about teaching full time,” which I was kind of reluctant to do. But I have. Well, theoretically full-time it really isn’t, you know. It turned out it was not possible to schedule two sections of Civil Procedure at different hours. When Fred and I each taught half the class, of course, we met at the same time. But if I was going to teach Section A and Section B, there’d have to be four meetings and there just was no way to work it out. So I’ve had one big section, which I have not been too pleased with, really. In some ways, I kind of started out with the idea that 120 isn’t all that different from 80 or 90. But it really is, I really don’t have any feeling of personal contact with members of the class. I’ve enjoyed this less than I have in the past.

MR. BRODIE: Prior to this double-dip, so to speak, when you came back in the past, did you feel that you had any different approach or attitude toward teaching after being away?

PROFESSOR LACY: Maybe not toward teaching, but there were no longer any other distractions such as committees or faculty meetings, and that is the delightful part of retirement. So I was able to put my entire effort into teaching. I really felt, and still feel, I guess, that up until this year, that it was some of the best teaching I ever did, just for that reason. I felt that my obligation was to come down and teach that class and that’s all I have to do. And I really enjoyed it.

MR. BRODIE: When you weren’t teaching, the other 8 months of the year, what were….

PROFESSOR LACY: Well, let’s see. In ’87, ’89, ’91 we went to Europe for about, six, seven months I guess. And in the other years we essentially stayed around. In ’88 and ’90 we took trips to the southwest in January and February. Other than that we were around here, played a lot of golf, fishing, that kind of thing.

MR. BRODIE: Have you gotten back to Austria?

PROFESSOR LACY: Yes, we’ve always gone back to Austria. We usually spend a month in England on our way home. And we spend some time in France and Italy and so forth. But basically, we base ourselves in Austria.

MR. BRODIE: Have you noticed any changes since the world has changed so much. Has it permeated the ….

PROFESSOR LACY: In Europe, you mean?


PROFESSOR LACY: Things get more crowded. Of course, the big thing, you notice, if you have been going to Europe since the early 1960s as an American, the dollar has steadily depreciated. The prices have gone up. The people in Austria, at least, have had a tremendous gain in prosperity. These are boom times in Austria. When we started going, ’62, that was some time after the war, but they were still suffering from the war. The living standard there now, if anything, is higher than in America, I think.

MR. BRODIE: In your community activities in the Eugene area, you’ve been involved with music and the arts in a variety of ways.

PROFESSOR LACY: Yeah, I was president of the Oregon Mozart players from about the spring of ’83. That was their second year of operation. I was on the board until just last summer. I was chairman of the board or president whatever the position was until about 1987 when we went abroad. I guess I resigned as president at that point. But I was very active on the board up until this past summer. That’s the only thing in recent years, at one time, for quite a few years, I was on the Maude Kerns board. But that’s long ago.

MR. BRODIE: Are you a musician?

PROFESSOR LACY: No, absolutely not. I wish I was, but I’m not. No, my function was organizational, fund raising. The Mozart Players are a corporation, a nonprofit corporation. But its organized more or less as a cooperative in the sense that the players have a lot of control. The players vote on who will be the music director, the conductor, soloists, repertory and so forth which you usually do not find. Ordinarily, orchestras are run on despotic lines, the conductor really does everything of that sort. But the Mozart Players haven’t gone that way which is, I think, a strength of the organization. It’s why people, really very fine musicians, have been willing to stick with the Mozart players even though the pay scale is pretty abysmal. It’s improved a lot, but at the start, it was half or less of what they got for playing for the symphony or the opera. But they had a voice in what happened, and maybe most important, they got to be soloists. We’d bring in some guests artists as soloists from time to time, but mostly it was the members of the orchestra. So if you’re in the orchestra, it means every three or four years, maybe oftener than that, you get to be a soloist. If you are a musician, a serious musician, that’s quite a bonus.

MR. BRODIE: Are you doing anything in that area now in the music or arts area?

PROFESSOR LACY: No, I paint a little.

MR. BRODIE: You were on Maude Kerns Board.

PROFESSOR LACY: Yes, that again was not as an artist, that was as a community member. But I painted some of the things on my wall here in the office. I have a little studio out in my back yard. Actually it’s been a year since I’ve been in it, but when I am not otherwise occupied, I do a fair amount of painting, on a Sunday painter basis.

MR. BRODIE: In your many years of teaching, what would you identify as being some of the significant changes in legal education that you’ve seen.

PROFESSOR LACY: I think I probably still teach the same way I did when I started out. I like the case method, I’ve never been inclined to get away from it really. There’s been lots of changes in the law, but as far as method of teaching, I don’t know th
at I would be able to say any great changes, as far as I’m concerned. I hope I’m doing it better, but I don’t really think I’m trying to do anything different than I was.

MR. BRODIE: How about in law students? Have you noted any changes over the years?

PROFESSOR LACY: Yes, certainly. The quality took a tremendous, leap. If you look back to the 1950s, and compare, the quality of students we had and with what we began to get, say from the early ’70s on, there was a very great increase in quality. They are much better prepared. I don’t know that they work as hard. I don’t think they do, you don’t have the fear factor. You know, we used to have a terrific mortality rate and that really did scare them. Some of them some of them didn’t care, of course. But I think most really did work harder than now. But as far as their maturity level and prelaw education, there’s a lot of difference. Most of our students now come to us, and this has been true for quite a long time, at age 25 or 26. Whereas I think when I started teaching, well, when I started teaching quite a lot of them were veterans which would have added three or four years to age, but those who weren’t veterans came right out of college. So they would be 21 or 22. And we still get some of those, of course. I think the great majority of our entering students are several years out of college. And many have been doing pretty interesting stuff for three or four, or sometimes 10 or 20 years before, they come to law school. So they’re probably more serious and they just know more.

MR. BRODIE: Do you find the level of class participation to be about the same?

PROFESSOR LACY: Well, this I think is a function of the size of the class. Now, when I was at the dinner the other night, the Board of Visitors dinner, I was talking to some people that I had in the early ’70s when we had a large section and small sections for each first year course. These were people who had been in one of my small sections and that was the best fun of all. There with only 20-25 people, you really got a very high level of participation. But you get up to 80 or 90 and now 120 and there are an awful lot of people who are entirely passive. This is to some extent my fault. I don’t hound people who don’t want to talk. I’m not going to waste time trying to force them to, maybe I should. But, I depend in large part, on those willing to volunteer, it tends to be the same small group. Where there were only 20 in a class, I don’t think I did any more hounding than I do now, but it seemed it was easier if you were sitting around a table to speak up than if you were one person in a class of 90 or 100, just a kind of an anonymous face out there. So I don’t think there is as much class participation but that’s because I have, since retirement or even before, had nothing but big classes.

MR. BRODIE: Do you have any plans for the immediate future. Is it back to Europe for a while?

PROFESSOR LACY: No, I’m going to teach again this spring. I’m going to teach Oregon Practice. We weren’t planning to going to Europe this year anyway, but, I definitely won’t be now.

MR. BRODIE: You’ll be pretty much full-time all year then.

PROFESSOR LACY: It will be. It will be one course each semester.

MR. BRODIE: Sounds like a little painting coming up.

PROFESSOR LACY: Well, maybe. I’ve written an article this year, too, I’m not going to get involved in that next semester. I hope I will have a little more time left. On the other hand it’s a course I haven’t taught for five or six years, so it may be even more work.

MR. BRODIE: Any other reflections?

PROFESSOR LACY: Oh gosh, I don’t feel very cosmic today. It’s all been awfully pleasant. The best thing that ever happened to me was the day that Orlando called me up in Iowa 40 years ago and asked me to come out here. I don’t know what would’ve happened to me otherwise but I can’t imagine it would’ve been as nice and enjoyable and rewarding as what did.

MR. BRODIE: Thank you very much.

Related Links:

The Chairman of the Good Life Committee: An Interview with Bob Lacy (Part I)

Oregon Law Remembers Longtime Faculty Member Bob Lacy

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