Law community mourns passing of beloved professor

Published: Nov. 30, 2011 at 1:34 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2011 at 2:06 AM HST
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Jon Van Dyke. Courtesy: University of Hawaii's William S. Richardson law school.
Jon Van Dyke. Courtesy: University of Hawaii's William S. Richardson law school.

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are few people in Hawaii more influential than Professor Jon Van Dyke. He was one of the original professors at the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law and the community there was shocked to learn of his sudden passing.

People came by the moot courtroom at the law school throughout the day paying tribute to Professor Van Dyke. There are pictures playing on a screen, a memorial book to sign and a lot of tissue boxes to grieve a man called nothing short of brilliant.

Professor Van Dyke was set to give a keynote speech at a conference in Australia. When he didn't show organizers checked his hotel room and found he had died peacefully in his sleep.

The news shocked the Richardson School of Law where he had been a fixture for 35 years. Some students said they came here specifically to learn from him.

"When I was looking at law schools I emailed professor van dyke and he got back to me and was so encouraging about this school and let me sit in on a few of his classes and was very kind," said Shannon Sinton, law student.  "I feel like this semester was really special for him because he co-taught a class with his wife. That was international law and I really feel for her and what she is going through"

"A brilliant teacher, a truly brilliant teacher and a scholar of remarkable depth and clarity. He could do it all. He really was skilled and outstanding in areas way beyond the kin of most of us and yet he was down to earth and he could teach with power point and class discussion at the same time which is almost unheard of," said Avi Soifer, Richardson School of Law Dean. "We have almost been speechless because there is so much to say. That sounds like a cliché but it's really true."

"He combined the three things I think are most important for being a teacher which are community service, teaching and scholarship. He was a mentor to me, he was great at all three, he was the best," said Williamson Chang, friend and law professor. "He and a few others were really the face of the law school, to the community and to the world at large."

"As a new lawyer going to practice in Hawaii in the future none of this would be here if weren't for people like Jon Van Dyke," said Valerie Dionne, law student.

"It was a really amazing semester with him in constitutional law and receiving the email last night was a surreal experience," said Zach Diionno, law student. "The school, the community, the state has lost this incredible person,"

"He is going to be very much missed. There is a big space to fill without him around," said Kylie Wager, law student.

"The strongest word he would ever use was 'yikes' and I could still see him saying it. He never uttered a profane word," said David Callies, friend and law professor, who's office sat right next to Van Dyke's for more than two decades.

Jon Van Dyke was an author, successful attorney and award-winning teacher. He also won the Presidential Citation for Excellence in Teaching from the University.

His legacy goes well beyond campus.  He and his wife helped get a $150 million settlement for Ferdinand Marcos victims in the Philippines.  They also successfully fought for a better habitat for Rusty the Orangutan.

He leaves behind his wife Sherry Broder and three children.

Professor Jon Van Dyke was 68.

Officials Remember UH Law School Professor Jon Van Dyke

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