E. Donald Shapiro, Dean Emeritus (1931-2010)

E. Donald Shapiro, Dean Emeritus (1931-2010)


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The New York Law School community mourns the passing of E. Donald Shapiro, Dean Emeritus and Joseph Solomon Distinguished Professor of Law, who passed away on December 27, 2010.

Dean Shapiro made significant contributions to the field of legal medicine throughout his long and illustrious career in private practice, as a professor of law, and as a law school dean. He was one of the pioneers in health law who transformed the field into an important and academically respectable part of legal education. From his landmark casebook to his cutting-edge scholarly articles, Dean Shapiro contributed greatly to the improvement of the legal profession’s response to medical science challenges, specifically in the areas of DNA, pharmaceuticals, and bioethics.

Born in 1931 in York, Pennsylvania, Dean Shapiro graduated from Dickinson College in 1953 and went on to attend Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1956. He joined the faculty at Boston University School of Law, where he co-authored Law, Medicine, and Forensic Science (with William J. Curran), his influential casebook on law and medicine. In 1960, he joined the University of Michigan, where he served as Associate Dean for Continuing Legal Education at the law school as well as Professor of Social Welfare at the school of social work. He later became the President and Director of the Practising Law Institute in New York City.

From 1973 to 1983, he served as President, Dean, and Professor of Law at New York Law School, leading the School through difficult economic times. He was named the Joseph Solomon Distinguished Professor of Law in 1982, serving in that role until 2000 when he was also named Dean Emeritus. Dean Shapiro is credited with helping to build an outstanding faculty, ushering in a more modern approach to legal education, and taking the first steps leading to the Law School’s establishment of a campus, including its new academic building, in TriBeCa. His love of the institution was felt long after his departure as dean.

“Don loved New York Law School and expressed to me on many occasions his tremendous pride in our school,” said Dean Richard A. Matasar. “He consistently offered his support to me, asked about his faculty friends often, and constantly sought out information on the many graduates of the school he taught and led for so long. He will be warmly remembered by our graduates and missed by us all.”

A lifelong teacher, Dean Shapiro taught at several other institutions, including Oxford University, where he served as a visiting fellow and supernumerary fellow of St. Cross College. While at Oxford, he delivered the Sacks Memorial Lecture and presented the keynote address to the Royal College of Medicine. He was also a visiting professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bar-Ilan University (Israel), Harvard Medical School, The University of Buckingham School of Law (England), California Western School of Law, and New York University.

In recognition of his scholarship in legal medicine, Dean Shapiro received honorary degrees from the following institutions: New York Law School (LL.D. 1973), Dickinson College (LL.D. 1975), York College of Pennsylvania (H.L.D. 1980), Oxford University (M.A. 1986), and California Western School of Law (LL.D. 2010). He served on several corporate and nonprofit boards, including Frequency Electronics, Inc. and Loral Space and Communications, Ltd. Among his many honors and awards, Dean Shapiro received the Lifetime Honorary Membership Award from the New York Law School Alumni Association in 2001, and the Law School’s Smith Distinguished Scholarship Award in 1982.

New York Law School is grateful for Dean Shapiro’s leadership as a dean and professor, for his dedication to his family, and for his many accomplishments. We extend our condolences to his wife, Merle, and his children and grandchildren.

Note: On April 29, 2011, then-Dean Richard A. Matasar and Merle Shapiro hosted an event for the New York Law School community celebrating the life of Dean Shapiro at the Law School.

E. Donald Shapiro, Dean Emeritus (1931-2010)