File #3527: "soh-032_transcript.pdf"

Text

Oral History Interview of Richard Pizzano (SOH-032)
Moakley Archive and Institute
www.suffolk.edu/moakley
archives@suffolk.edu

Oral History Interview of Richard Pizzano
Interview Date: March 26, 2008
Interviewed by: R.J. Meurin, Suffolk University student from History 364: Oral History.
Citation: Oral History Interview of Richard Pizzano, SOH-032. Suffolk University Oral
History Project, Suffolk University Archives.
Copyright Information: Copyright ©2008 by the Suffolk University Archives.
Interview Summary In this interview Professor Richard Pizzano, an alumnus of both Suffolk
University and Suffolk University Law School, discusses his experiences as a student and his
career as a professor of law at Suffolk University Law School. He explains his views on
education in general, his philosophy on teaching, and the topics of grading and admissions. He
also speaks of the law school’s relationship with the surrounding community and focus on public
interest law.

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SOH-042 transcript
Subject Headings
Suffolk University
Universities & Colleges
Suffolk University – Law School

Table of Contents
Introduction and Personal Background

p.03 (00:03)

Personal Views on Education

p.05 (04:32)

Suffolk Education, Undergraduate and Graduate

p.06 (08:08)

Suffolk Career

p.15 (27:08)

Teaching Methods and Thoughts on Education

p.18 (33:55)

Discussion of Suffolk Law, Grading and Admissions

p.20 (41:04)

Suffolk’s Relationship with the Community

p.21 (44:53)

Interview transcript begins on next page

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SOH-033 Transcript
Interview Transcript

R.J. MEURIN: My name is Richard J. Meurin, and I will be conducting an interview with
Richard Pizzano. Can you please state your name?

RICHARD PIZZANO: Richard Pizzano.

MEURIN: Okay, let’s begin with where you currently reside now.

PIZZANO: I currently reside in the city of Boston; a part of Boston called West Roxbury,
Massachusetts.

MEURIN: Have you always lived there?

PIZZANO: Yep. I grew up in a nearby little community, Roslindale, which is right next door to
West Roxbury, both of which are part of the city of Boston.

MEURIN: Okay. Does your family descend from there, or what made them come here when
they came?

PIZZANO: Well, my grandparents came from Italy during the big immigration [wave] at the
turn of the last century. And they settled in that part of the city, when it was largely farm-type
land. And they built houses in that section. In fact on Sunday, I took my son around, and I
showed him some of the houses that my father helped build, his grandfather.

MEURIN: Interesting.

PIZZANO: An interesting history, yeah. They built them, and they lived in them. And they had
large family, only one of whom is still alive.

MEURIN: Oh, wow. So, did you go to high school in Roslindale?
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PIZZANO: I went to—I attended Boston Public Schools. I went through—Boston schools in
those days were quite good. And they provided you with a very good education. It was basically
for people in our situation, the public schools and the parochial schools. We weren’t the kind of
people that came from a background where were going to be able to afford private schools.

MEURIN: I understand.

PIZZANO: Like the kind of school my kid goes to these days. So, Boston Public Schools
provided me with a very fine education, very fine. They had real quality teachers. The
curriculum was a good well-rounded curriculum. It was—there was emphasis on languages.
Latin was required, Spanish, French were optional. And so they were really primarily the school
to go to. And so I went through the whole system, through high school.

MEURIN: And did that affect your career choice, your high school experience?

PIZZANO: No. What affected my career choice was the fact that I came from a blue collar
family. And my father was a machinist.

MEURIN: What type of machinist?

PIZZANO: I don’t know. He worked for the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the MBTA today,
and he repaired engines and that kind of thing. But I don’t know what you’d call that. And he
worked in the Everett shops. He loved his job; got up every morning, five o’clock, took public
transportation, came home every afternoon, five o’clock—it was like clockwork. And he was an
inspiration to me, because he really loved his work. He could do everything. He could fix
anything. He was a plumber. He was an electrician. He was a builder—he did everything. He
worked with his hands. And people back then, they wanted their kids—I think we still do—to
aspire to bigger and better things.

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And so, to their understanding, they wanted me to be a professional. And to that, it meant
lawyering or doctoring. There was nothing else in their viewfinder. So my uncle was a lawyer,
went to Suffolk Law School. He went nights during the war, the Second World War. And he
went and had a wonderful career. I didn’t think I was cut out for the blood and guts of practicing
medicine. I wasn’t aware of some of the other areas of medicine, like psychotherapy and that
kind of thing.

MEURIN: I don’t think most people really think of that when they think of being a doctor.

PIZZANO: No, no. And I think I could have done well in that field. But, so I decided to go to
law school. And that’s what actually drove my choice. Now, you ask a lot of the kids who go to
law school these days, they’re not going to know why they’re here, because these days, what
happens is, people find that college educations, they don’t necessarily prepare you to do
anything. You need something else. So my best friend’s kids, the daughter, after she graduated
from BC [Boston College], went to Suffolk Law School—came here. And she’s now a
successful lawyer. The son graduated from Newton North and went on to Cornell, graduated
fourth in his class. The kid still doesn’t know what he wants to do. He took a degree in some
kind of engineering and pre-med. So he gets out, and he gets a fabulous job at Raytheon, pays
him very well, and after a year and a half now, he’s applying to medical school.

So I mean, kids these days—I mean, we push kids so quickly. They don’t have time to sort of
form ideas of what they want to do. Law students are no exception.

MEURIN: Well, if you come from a family and you just want better for your kids, a lot of times
it’s about money, making money. You think medical, lawyer—the higher up professions.

PIZZANO: It is, it is, and you know either way, though, either way, lawyers work hard for their
money. And not everyone gets out of law school and gets the jobs for a hundred and sixty
thousand [dollars] a year. A lot of these kids get out, do public service work, for instance, for
thirty-three thousand [dollars] a year. Their debts are sky-high. The medical profession— these
guys—I have a lot of doctor friends. They work almost twenty-four hours a day, and with the
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cost of insurance and the cost of their overhead and so forth, you’re not making that much
money. The important thing—and I tell my kid this all the time—the important thing is yeah,
what we want for our kids is a little different than what our parents wanted. What we want for
our kids is we want them to have opportunities. We want the doors to be there, so that they can
open them. And I say to Richard, “You want to be a garage mechanic? That’s fine. If you want to
be a lawyer, that’s fine. If you want to be a doctor, that’s fine. Or if you want to be an engineer—
it doesn’t matter, if you’re happy doing your life’s work. That’s the important thing.” There are
so many people who get entrenched in situations, in jobs, and they’re just not happy. And I talk
to them all the time. They’re former students, come back here. And when they’re in their thirties
and forties, and if they’re married, they have homes, they have mortgages, they have kids—if
their families are lucky, the guy will go out and buy a red sports car. If not, they’ll get divorced.

MEURIN: They say money doesn’t always lead to happiness.

PIZZANO: It doesn’t. It doesn’t. It doesn’t. Absolutely not. I mean, my chosen profession,
which is to be a law professor—I could be out there making a lot more money than I make here.
We’re not doing poorly. We get paid well. But in terms of the potential, my earning potential, I
could be making four or five times, six times when I’m making here, outside.

MEURIN: No limit.

PIZZANO: No, there really isn’t. And the fortunate thing about lawyering as a profession, as
with being a professor, is that there is no end to it. So long as you have your health and you have
your mental ability, you can stay at it as long as you want, you know? So anyway, that’s how I
chose law. But I didn’t choose law before I went to college.

MEURIN: Did you go right out of high school into college?

PIZZANO: Yeah, I did. The expectation was—there was no one in my family educated at that
time, except for my uncle. And you know something? I think he probably didn’t have a college

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degree, because at that time, to come to law school, you didn’t necessarily need a college degree.
Now we’re talking the forties.

MEURIN: That was, it was based on internships, an apprenticeship, right?

PIZZANO: Not necessarily. No. There was that system, but that had to do with taking the bar,
that you could take it one way or the other—go to a school, or do it through an apprentice or
internship. No, I’m talking about attending law school, actually being a student at a law school.
You didn’t necessarily need a college degree in all of the law schools at that time.

So what happens to me is this, I wanted to go to college, because I wanted opportunities. I was
sort of leaning toward lawyering, but that wasn’t what drove me to go to college. So I applied to
all these fabulous colleges and— I was accepted at them. I guess I was a good student. I did well.
My first choice was B.C. I was accepted at Northeastern, at Georgetown, and at Suffolk. Now
how did Suffolk come into this?

MEURIN: Yeah.

PIZZANO: An interesting mix. B.C.—see at that time—we’re talking about the sixties now—
there wasn’t a lot of money around certainly not in my family, there was not a lot of money. But
I mean generally—government money, loans, and that kind of stuff. We didn’t have the
opportunities that you guys today have. Now there’s wonderful opportunities, but you graduate
heavily in debt. But nevertheless, it gives you the opening. We didn’t have that.

So B.C. told me—I applied for a scholarship. In those days, the whole, the aid thing was in the
form of scholarships. My father made too much money as a machinist for the MTA, so they
couldn’t give me any assistance at all. Now we didn’t know that. We thought we were—you
know, we thought we—you never know—I mean, you have no basis of comparison, so you
really don’t know whether you have a lot of money or not. But we certainly weren’t wealthy
people.

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And so, but anyway, I couldn’t go to B.C. So I don’t know what made me—my uncle had come
to the law school here. So I went up to the old building there then, which is now the Donahue
Building and I—it wasn’t Donahue at that point, it was still an older building. I think they call it
the Archer Building now. There was a guy there named Woodruff, I think. Donald was his first
name. My wife had the same experience with this guy. He was a very good guy, admissions guy.
I could be wrong on his last name, but it was wood-something. And he said to me, he says, “We
like to have people like you come to our school.” He said, “What’s it going to take,” he said,
“What’s it going to take to get you to come to Suffolk?”

MEURIN: Sounds like a real salesman. (laughs)

PIZZANO: Yeah. And you know, uncharacteristic for me, because I usually don’t talk this
way. I’m not—I’m very good at talking for other people, but I’m not so good at talking for
myself. And I don’t know where the words came from, but basically, my message to him was,
“Money. If you can give me some assistance, I’ll come here.” And they gave me a scholarship,
so that my college education didn’t cost me anything. So that’s how I came to Suffolk
University.

Now I mean, we’re not talking about a major university, as it is today. So I took a gamble with
the school, and they took a gamble with me. And I had a wonderful experience in the university.
I was the president of the student government association. I was fairly popular. I did well. My
wife was reminding me the other day about some of the teachers, because she had pretty much
the same teachers, even though she’s younger than I am.

MEURIN: She went to undergrad?

PIZZANO: Yes, she’s a double Ram too.

MEURIN: Oh yeah?

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PIZZANO: Yeah. But I mean, she was reminding me and my son about—or our son—about
my humanities teacher. You know, you had to take required courses. I don’t know if you still do,
but they were required courses. Was humanities one of them?

MEURIN: Yeah.

PIZZANO: Wonderful course. It was taught in those days by a woman named Florence
Petherick, Dr. Petherick. She was a terror, a total terror. She was as tough as nails. And she used
to lecture in the old auditorium, which is now the Walsh Theatre. And she would stand up there
on the stage, and she would teach us humanities. And then she’d give us these tests every, I don’t
know, every month or so. And that was tough. I mean, you sweated with that stuff.

And my first test, I remember, she would give the exams, and then she’d grade them—and she
had a lot of students—and then she’d come in, and then she’d have the books with her and leave
them on the stage. And then she’d stand there and wait for the students to come up and retrieve
their books. And she’d have them all in alphabetical order. So she waited for me to pick my book
up, because I was the one that always went in to her office and would ask a lot of questions—
what about this—because I was always interested in those things—art and humanities—and she
waited. I got an A on the first test, and she waited to see my reaction. And when she saw my
reaction, she said, “See?” And that’s all she said. So then I went and I sat down, I was very
happy, you know? That was my first A in college.

In fact, I did very well in the university. I had very good teachers. They were very good teachers.
I didn’t know too much about the backgrounds. Nowadays everyone’s so concerned with the
pedigree of people and what have they written, you know. What’s their scholarship like? And we
didn’t question those things. We had people who taught well, who did their—we had fabulous
teachers in English, Dr. Vogel, who I don’t know if he recently died, or if he—I just read
something about him not too long ago. He was a fabulous teacher. He taught all those literature
courses, a very committed guy. Dr. O’Neill, Professor Rand, we had for like world history. We
had a wonderful history department. So we had a group of wonderful teachers over there in the
university, and I did well. I graduated with honors. I did well.
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SOH-033 Transcript

MEURIN: Did you—was your experience at the law school just as good as undergrad?

PIZZANO: Oh yeah, that was fabulous. My law school experience was fabulous, because
again, I wanted to—I applied out to a lot of different schools. And I was accepted at a lot of
different schools. And again, my first choice was B.C. But what they did here was they had—and
I think they still have it—they have what is called a Trustees scholarship, for people who
graduate from the university who want to come to the law school. So you know, I did all the
tests, you know, whatever—the LSATs and all that stuff. And I did well. I got accepted to a lot
of different schools. I wanted to stay local. So like I said, B.C. was my first choice. But they
offered me this Trustees scholarship to come here, to the law school. And what that meant was
free tuition for the first year of law school.

MEURIN: Outstanding.

PIZZANO: I took—now, the tuition, by today’s standards—we’re talking thirty-eight thousand
dollars today. Back then, it was nowhere near that, but the dollar was different. And so it was just
as meaningful. I don’t even think they even give full scholarships any more today, because of the
cost of education.

MEURIN: I don’t think they do either.

PIZZANO: Because they still—I think they still have Trustees scholarships, but I don't think
they cover the full ride. So anyway, I get the Trustees scholarship. And then a lot of people will
come to a school and then transfer out from a school. Those are usually the people who couldn’t
get in to other schools in the first instance. I had no intention of transferring out. But what
happened to me was, at the end of the first year, I was first in my class. So now I’m eligible for
two scholarships, the Trustee scholarship, which could continue, or the Class Leadership
scholarship. So I don’t know which one it was, but anyway, the second year was free.

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And the same thing happened in the third year, because I was class leader in the third year. And I
graduated first in my class from the law school. And it served me well, this law school, (sounds
of adjusting the blinds) because I—what I ended up with is a faculty of twelve people, all men,
who were fabulous teachers—very committed to their students. And we had enormous
classrooms. I mean, we had hundreds of people.

MEURIN: In one classroom?

PIZZANO: Yeah. Our entering class was 250—a lot of attrition in those days, a lot of attrition,
because what the law schools generally were doing was taking people in and then sifting through
them and culling them out. That’s how they did it. So 250, and then we were down, second year,
to 125. We graduated sixty-six in the day division.

MEURIN: And that wasn’t the same building as we’re in today?

PIZZANO: Yeah.

MEURIN: It was?

PIZZANO: No. This building is just [in use since] 1999.

MEURIN: Okay.

PIZZANO: This building we’re talking about was the old Archer Building. The Archer
Building is the building on Derne Street, the brick building, the original building. Here, I have a
picture of it. You probably know it. It’s this building up here. You remember this building?

MEURIN: Okay, yes.

PIZZANO: That’s the Archer Building. That’s where our classes were. We had two
classrooms, two classrooms, and two or four tables in the library, the college library.
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MEURIN: Did you use those as classrooms?

PIZZANO: No, we used that as our library.

MEURIN: Okay.

PIZZANO: So college and law school students were in the same library, except there were four
tables reserved for law students—hundreds of law students. So the classrooms were very large.
And we had people teaching us—well our present president was one of my teachers, first year
teacher and second year teacher, Dave Sargent. 1 He was one of the most fabulous teachers you’d
ever want to come across. Have you ever heard him speak?

MEURIN: No.

PIZZANO: He’s a fabulous speaker. He’s an inspiration to me. In fact, they asked me to give
the main— the keynote speech, whatever, at a memorial for a colleague of mine who used to be
registrar here. And I said I would do it. So—this was last year, I think. So I got up—it was
downstairs in the meeting room downstairs—and when I walked in, who’s sitting right in front of
me in the front row, is Dave Sargent. And then the other guy is this John Fenton, who’s still on
the faculty here—two of the most inspirational speakers you’d ever come across, and it was a
terribly daunting experience to speak in front of them. And so after I finished, Dave came up and
said, “That was fabulous. You know, you did a great job.” And I said, “Dave, you have no idea
how difficult it was to do that in front of you.” Because Dave is an outstanding speaker. I mean,
he’s an outstanding speaker. And he was a fabulous teacher.

And so, I had twelve men teaching here—as I say, no women in those days—twelve men
teaching me, and they rotated. They taught all the subjects. And in those days, all of the courses

1

David J. Sargent graduated from Suffolk Law School in 1954, then served as a law faculty member from 1956 to
1973, dean of the law school from 1973 to 1989, and was president of Suffolk University from 1989 until his
retirement in 2010. OH-016 in the Moakley Oral History Project is an interview with President Sargent.
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SOH-033 Transcript
were required courses. We had the opportunity to choose one or two elective courses in our three
years of law school.

MEURIN: Over the entire three years, or per year?

PIZZANO: Over the entire three years. The curriculum was fixed and rigid. And everyone took
the same courses.

MEURIN: So everyone got the same exact experience and education when they graduated,
then.

PIZZANO: That’s correct, that’s correct. In my third year of law school, they started the Moot
Court Program, which would give students the opportunity to take a legal problem and pretend
they’re arguing issues before an appellate court. That’s what Moot Court’s all about,
distinguished from trial court, which has students playing the role of trial lawyers. This is an
appellate procedure. And when we did that—and I was the first one who headed up this Moot
Court program as a student, because I was also the president of the Student Bar Association,
which was the big student organization in those days. We had no law review when I was there;
law review didn’t start until the following year.

So when we started this Moot Court program, we used to have students—every student had to
participate in it. And we had meager facilities, so what we used to do is take wastebaskets and
turn them upside down and put them on a desk. And a student would put his papers or her
papers—his papers. There were only five women in the class. Can you believe this? As a
podium, we would use upturned wastebaskets to argue cases. It was only ten or fifteen minutes,
but it was a tough experience for a kid to do, you know, to stand up and do it in front of faculty.
It was always the same faculty that did it, because there were only twelve of them.
And the dean—the year I came to the law school, the dean died, Fred McDermott. 2 I didn’t know
him. He was from B.C., and he had cancer apparently. And he died when I came to the school.
2

Frederick A. McDermott, served as the dean of Suffolk Law School from 1956 to 1964.
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And he was replaced, ultimately, by—well, there were a number of acting deans. But ultimately,
he got replaced by Don Simpson, whose father, Frank J. Simpson, was the dean of the Law
School at one point. So the son ultimately succeeded his father. He was a tough old guy. He
smoked cigars, and he read reports. In those days, there used to be booklets that came out that
would have opinions from courts all over the country. So he would—whenever you’d go in
there, to his office, you’d see him sitting behind his desk with a cigar, rolling his cigar, and he’d
have one of the Reporter series out. And that’s all he did. I guess there was nothing to running a
law school days. It’s certainly nothing like what it is today. And he was an old military guy. I
don’t remember what rank he was or what branch of the armed forces he was in, but he was an
old military guy, high placed military guy, and this was the Vietnam War. But I’m sort of
jumping ahead on my story a little bit. I’ll come back to that.

So I come to law school. I do well. I stand out in the crowd. And in my second year of law
school, I’m in evidence class with Professor Fenton, who since has become Judge Fenton, John
E. Fenton. Now his father was the president in those days, John E. Fenton [Sr.], and then the son
is John E. Fenton, Jr. And of course because I was a class leader, and I was the head of the SBA
and the Moot Court and all that, I was known to these people. So the father John Fenton, who
was also a Judge—was a wonderful man, wonderful man—I had a relationship with. And the
son, who’s still here, upstairs—a fabulous guy, and an older guy, because in those days, you
know, when you’re twenty—because I was young when I graduated from high school, so I was
young—and so when you’re twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, whatever I was, thirty-three is old,
you know? So I mean, like this was my mentor, my older guy, you know? Now thirty-three is—
that’s not old.

So I walked in one day after class and I said, “Professor, how do you become a law professor?”
And he said, “Why do you ask?” He’s a very friendly, very outgoing—do you know him?

MEURIN: I’ve never met him.

PIZZANO: He’s a wonderful man. He’s a very friendly, very outgoing man, and very interested
in students. He loves the school. He loves the school. And the whole family’s given to the
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school. I mean, the three mainstays here would be Judge Donahue, 3 whose son Malcolm 4
became a friend of mine when I came on the faculty; he since died—the Fentons, and Sargent. I
mean, these are the mainstays. And there were others along the way, but these were the three
principles, in my memory.

So what happens is, he said, “Why do you ask?” I said, “Because you know, I think I might be
interested in doing that.” He said to me, “What the hell for?” And I said, “Well you know,
professor, you look like you really enjoy your work. And it’s a wonderful thing, to be able to get
up in the morning and go to a job that you really love doing.” And so that sort of stuck with him.
And he watched over me, I think.

That was second year. Third year came and went. As I said, I was doing Moot Court for the first
time—Moot Court for them—helped them out with that. I did well in school. I was the head of
the Student Bar Association. Wouldn’t you know? They made me an offer.

MEURIN: To teach here at the law school?

PIZZANO: To teach, yeah. And so, I was going to be the thirteenth faculty member. And I
don’t exactly recall how it happened, but the offer came and I’m sure John was instrumental in it.
And I was hired, first year, as an instructor. And then after that, they made me an assistant
professor, and I made it up through the ranks. And so they said to me—they made me the offer,
and of course I accepted. And I also had an offer to be a clerk in the Supreme Judicial Court for
the justices there. And Suffolk, in those days, wasn’t getting many offers like that.

But I chose teaching. I’m glad I did, too, because it’s now my life’s work. But I chose teaching
because I thought it was an offer that wasn’t going to come around too often in life, you know?
So I accepted their position, and they said, “We’ll give you easy courses to teach.” They gave me
3

Frank J. "Daisy" Donahue (1881-1979), Suffolk Law School class of 1921, served in several state and local
political capacities, including Massachusetts Secretary of State, before being appointed to the Massachusetts
Superior Court in 1932. He was a life member of Suffolk’s board of trustees and served as treasurer of the
university from 1949 to 1969. Suffolk’s Donahue Building at 41 Temple Street is named is his honor.
4
Malcolm Donahue was a member of the law school faculty member from 1953-2001 and law school associate dean
from 1973-1990.
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civil procedures, one of the most difficult courses in the curriculum to teach. They gave me this
crazy course we used to teach called legal methods. They give me agency. They throw me into
an agency class, a fourth year evening class. These are all men who are twice my age. John E.
Powers, 5 the president of the Massachusetts Senate, was there, Nick Buoniconti, the football
player was there.

MEURIN: They were your students?

PIZZANO: They were my students! Patriots’ players! People that I used to look up to as
athletes. Buoniconti, who’s still around—he’s in the news a lot, you know. He played for the
Dolphins for years.

MEURIN: And how old were you when you started teaching—

PIZZANO: Well, how old was I? I mean, I graduated from high school when I was seventeen. I
went to four years of college; that’s twenty-one. I must have been about either twenty-three or 24
twenty-four. I was real young. I was a young twenty-three, I think. I’m not sure, because they
started—you know, in those days, you could start school very early, so my wife and I both
started very young in the school—four, four something. But anyway, so I was a kid and there I
am, teaching people who I read about in the newspaper, you know. I’m teaching them agency.

But to the credit of every one of them, they were very kind, very respectful. I was just a kid. I
mean, I hadn’t even passed the bar. I took the bar that—I graduated. That was the other
interesting thing. I graduated first in my class, didn’t graduate with honors, because I didn’t
make the standard. I graduated with an eighty-three-point-something average from the law
school. You had to have eighty-five to graduate cum laude from the law school.

So the following year, when I’m on the faculty board. What the hell—there’s something wrong
with this system, guys. And here’s a guy who graduates first in his class, and he doesn’t get
5

John E. Powers (1910-1998), a Democrat, represented South Boston in the Massachusetts House of
Representatives from 1939 to 1946 and in the Massachusetts State Senate from 1947 to 1964. He served as Senate
President from 1959 to 1964.
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honors? And so they, that year, they dropped it down to eighty-three for cum laude. Nowadays, if
you’re the top in your class, you get summa cum laude, it’s automatic. But see in those days, the
grading was very low, very low. So the grade inflation stuff hadn’t set in yet. So first in my class
with an eighty-three-point-something average was good. I mean, it’s good to be first, but you
know, eighty-three is—

Well, I took the bar. They all told me I didn’t need—all the faculty they said “You don’t need the
bar review courses.” Well, I took the bar review course that just started up that year. And a friend
of mine who was on the faculty, retired—Brian Callahan—set me up to be the agent for the bar
review. And I said to him, “What does it mean to be the agent for the bar review?” He says, “It
means you get a free tuition for the bar review.” So that’s when I put my name up on the bulletin
board.

So that’s what I did. I took the bar, and in those days, you took two days, a written exam, all
essay questions. Nowadays, they have this multi-choice format.

MEURIN: The computer grid ones.

PIZZANO: Yeah, for one of the days. They call it “multi-state format.” But in those days, it
was all essays. I took it over at B.C.—jackhammers blaring away, because they were building
the dormitories over there at B.C. It was at the old B.C. Law School. It was hot as hell. Nobody
complained. Nowadays, they’d have lawsuits everywhere, you know? [laughter] But in those
days, nobody complained. Everybody just sat there and took the bar exam. And also, what you
did, you had to pass it. But then you also had to pass an oral interview. And the notoriously
difficult guy was the chairman of the board in those days, was a man named Powers, Chairman
Powers. I don’t know what his first name was. That’s all they ever called him was Chairman
Powers.

So we go for the oral interviews, and who do I happen to get but Chairman Powers. And the
interviews were conducted over in the old courthouse, up here on Pemberton Square. And he was
sitting up where the judges sit. And he looked down at me, and he said, “Mr. Pizzano, do you
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know why I’ve asked you to come in here to be interviewed by me?” And I said, “No sir, I
don’t.” And he said, “Because”— and it turned out I got the highest grade on the bar exam that
year. So I think I did pretty good, considering the fact that what would I have done, had I not
passed the bar exam? I would have had to have faced people who were students, some of whom
were my contemporaries. They knew me from law school.

But I passed. And I’ve been here ever since. It was the Vietnam War. That was the story I started
telling you. And don’t I get a draft notice, for I think it was the first year I was teaching—maybe
first or second year. Jesus, they were drafting me. If you moved, they’d draft you. And so I had
to go—teaching in those days was draft deferrable. And so I went in. I had to go to this old
military codger, Don Simpson, with his rolling cigar, and talk to him about a draft deferment.
[laughs]

MEURIN: And he was in the military, right?

PIZZANO: Yeah, he was an old military guy. [laughter] And I wasn’t exactly sure of myself,
going in after him. But with him, it was a matter of the fight. And what was right was right, and I
was entitled to the deferment and damn it, they weren’t going to screw around with me. So he
had all kinds of battles with my draft board and all this stuff. And everything worked out fine in
the final analysis. I guess I took the Bill Clinton route out of the Vietnam War. And that’s it. I’ve
been here ever since.

The Fentons have been a very big influence in my life. I was a tough kid, you know? When I
started teaching, the grades were all very low. And I followed suit. In those days, you’d flunk
thirty-eight percent, roughly, of your classes—D’s and F’s, yeah. And we all did that, you know?
We all did that. I remember the Judge, John’s father, called me into his office, the President’s
office, and he said, “My boy, remember this now. The sign of a good teacher isn’t the number of
D’s and F’s he gets. It’s the good grades that he gives out.” And I sort of—I took it in a bit.

And I’ll tell you, over the years, I’ve come to realize that he was right, that it’s—the good
teacher isn’t the one giving the D’s and F’s. The good teacher is the guy who inspires his
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students to learn, helps them to learn, helps them along, motivates them, and interacts with them.
And having a child who’s now thirteen brought that home even more to me, because it’s one
thing to sit on this side of the desk, where I am, to give a C to you and say, ‘Well, a C’s a good
grade.” But from where you’re sitting, the C’s not a good grade.

MEURIN: No.

PIZZANO: It’s like, my kid gets a C in woodworking a couple of years ago. Now the guy, he’s
known as giving C’s out, Mr. Mulligan. But I said, “Richard, go to Mr. Mulligan.” I get to know
the teachers over there. He’s a nice guy. I said, “Go to Mr. Mulligan. Tell him that your dad”—
he knows that I’m a teacher—“You should speak to him. Ask him what you can do to improve
the grade.” “Oh, I could never do that, Daddy.” I said, “Richard, that’s what teachers get paid—
that’s what we get paid to do.” So he did, and the guy gave him some instructions. Basically, my
kid talks too much; takes after the old man. And he ended up getting better grades after that.

So I think, you know, the good teacher is somebody like John Fenton, who inspires his students,
who’s there for them, and so forth. And that’s what I’ve sort of done in my career. That’s where
I’ve come to now. So, I’ve become one of the more popular teachers here that people want to
take my courses, because I don’t go into these corporations from the dull, boring perspective. I’m
in there talking about everything.

MEURIN: Is that what you teach, Corporate Law?

PIZZANO: I teach Corporate Law. And it’s not a required course. It’s a course that you can
choose. These days, you can pick and choose what courses, and you can pick and choose the
professors. And my classes are always 100, 120 large, including in the summer school. I have the
largest summer school class. And you make it interesting for students. And that helps them to
learn.

So what else do you need to know? Because—did I tell you anything—is that the kind of stuff
you wanted to hear about the school?
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MEURIN: Well yeah, that’s good stuff. Just, I guess the only thing we really didn’t covered is
Suffolk’s relationship to the city itself, and the state.

PIZZANO: Well, Suffolk has a grand tradition. First of all, the wonderful thing about Suffolk
Law School—and I think the university to a large extent, too, but I’m going to speak to the Law
School—was the fact that it provided opportunities to people who didn’t otherwise have
opportunities. We were talking earlier about the importance of the LSAT scores.

MEURIN: Yes.

PIZZANO: Now, at one time, they weren’t as important as they are now, because what we’re
playing in education these days is a competition game. We have to compete with all other
schools. The same thing in grading. You know, in my son’s school, which is Dexter, they say the
average grade at Dexter is a C+. If you get a C+, you’re doing very well at Dexter. Yes, but
people graduating from other private schools are getting A’s. So the same thing happens here.
Some people on my faculty have the mentality whereas if you get a C, that’s a good grade. No it
isn’t, because at Harvard, they’re graduating people with straight A’s. At Northeastern and B.U.,
they’re giving A’s out, not C’s. And our kids are competing against these kids. So things change
over the years.

MEURIN: Because you don’t think that an employer’s going to sit there and take into account
the classes that they took, just look at the letter grade they have.

PIZZANO: No, absolutely. And they’re going to look at the schools. You know that the schools
are ranked by the U.S. News and World Report. We’re not a first-tier law school. We’re a
wonderful school. I’m proud to be associated with this school. We have a fabulous faculty. We
do a marvelous job. But we’re still third tier, sometimes fourth tier. And we’re graduating kids
with averages that are sort of in the middle, and they’re being compared against first tier
graduates with high grades? No, you can’t do that. So it’s the numbers game. It’s the competition
game. That’s what explains all these beautiful facilities that these laws schools are building. It’s
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attracting people to your school, to your facility. You can’t let the boat leave the dock without all
the seats being filled. So we have to attract people.

Now, in the old days, we weren’t so caught up with those numbers. So you had a kid coming in,
and he didn’t quite make the grade. So we’d give him a chance. Doesn’t happen very frequently
any more. Every once in a while, it might happen that you might come to me, and I might know
you or your family, and I’ll put a little note in the file. And if there’s a question that it can go
either way, maybe it will go in your favor because of some intervention. But it’s very hard these
days, very hard.

And so Suffolk would take people, in many instances, that wouldn’t have opportunities
elsewhere. But they became fabulous lawyers. I could name of some of them. I mean, there were
even people that would flunk out of this school, and we’d give them a second chance, which is
unusual. And we’ve always had a heart. I think we still do. I think we still bend over backwards
to help the students. We have a committee here which deals with students who don’t make it in
law school. Their grades aren’t satisfactory. Under our present standards, if you’re below a
certain level, you get automatically dismissed. You never see another human being about this
issue. You’re out. You have a chance to reapply in a year, year and a half, but you’re
automatically dismissed. If you fall within a certain range, you can come before a committee,
and I’m on that committee. And this committee meets during the summer, and it’s sad to see
young people with a host of different problems. And really, it really is—it’s very touching. And
even young people have problems, and serious problems. And we go out of our way and try to
help them.

So Suffolk still is a school of compassion, a school of caring, and we graduate people who go
out, and largely local people, although we’ve now got a diverse population. And they’re out there
throughout the United States—but largely, at least a few years ago, local—who went in to
government, go up to the State House, the City Hall, and so forth. So they serve all levels. And
that’s what lawyering’s all about. It’s service to people. So there’s a big connection between
Suffolk and government, both state and local government. Not to mention the fact we’re
physically located here. And people like Tommy Menino—the governor, I don’t know. This
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governor, I don’t know. But I know Tommy Menino. I’ve known the other governors here.
There’s a spot for Suffolk in their communities, and they realize the importance of the school.
Look at what we’re doing now, where you are, the college. They’re expanding all over the place.
And they encounter the opposition and the local—

MEURIN: The Beacon Hill residents—

PIZZANO: The Beacon Hill Civic Association. That whole place where we were was a dump
before we started inhabiting the area. Now it’s all become very classy, and that’s good. There’s a
whole neighborhood got lifted up. But now, all of a sudden, they think they’re too good for us
and we’re not good enough for them, you know? But it’s always been—people from the Law
School particularly—have become prominent lawyers, prominent judges. I mean, I don't have
statistics, but you look at judges in Massachusetts, a tremendous number of judges. I went for
jury duty three years ago.

So they kept asking questions, if you did this—I kept putting my hand up. The judge got
annoyed with me. She said, “Come up here.” I mean, they had to do with things that might
disqualify me from being a juror. Now why anyone would want a lawyer on the jury, I don’t
know. Why anyone would want a law professor on the jury, I don’t know. Because what do I do?
I lead 120 people. And who wants me, I mean, the control guy that I am, because that’s what I do
for a living.

But okay what was my big thing? It was a case with six lawyers on each side, a private citizen
versus MBTA. The judge goes—I walk up. I approach the bench. All twelve lawyers: “Professor,
how are you?” They’re all shaking my hand and so forth. She goes, “What?”—I taught them all.
She goes, “You don’t think you’re going to be impartial?” “How can I—I know these people!”
Not only that—my father worked for the MBTA. He’s still getting a pension from the MBTA.

MEURIN: Let me guess: they let you go? [laughs]

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PIZZANO: Of course they let me go! Of course! Like in the afternoon, they call me for a
criminal trial. One of my best friends is Dan Connolly, the district attorney here. They say to me,
“Why should you be--?” “Why? You want me on this jury? Dan Connolly’s a friend of mine. He
comes to my house. Our kids play together. It’s crazy.” But see the judge made the comment in
the morning session, when she said me, and I said, “I taught these people.” The judge said to me,
“Then you really could be disqualified from jury duty forever, because given the fact that half of
the lawyers in Massachusetts are Suffolk graduates, you would have taught them all.”

She’s right! We graduate a lot of people who become prominent Massachusetts attorneys. And
they’re people who are out there in the trenches, you know? They’re out there in the trial courts,
and they’re doing their jobs. Anyway, I get very passionate about this school, because I love this
place, and I think we do a wonderful job. We’ve got a lot of new faculty here now, a lot of
faculty who have tremendous pedigrees—you know, who do this and do that, who write this and
write that. Some of them can teach, and some of them can’t. You get the old war horses, like Joe
McEttrick, like myself, like Barry Brown, like Bernie Keenan, like John Fenton—we can teach
to large groups, large numbers of people.

Along the way, I went over to Harvard. I was a visiting scholar there for a year, back in ’79 and
’80. I’m still not sure what that is, but it’s a very select thing, I think.

MEURIN: Does that, so I mean, you taught over there?

PIZZANO: Well, I participated in the teaching of things over there. I was basically given a
faculty office, faculty access and stuff. And I would attend classes, and I would participate with
the teacher in the classes. It was an interesting experience. But my only point in telling you that
was—although it makes me eligible to be in the Harvard Club, which means I pay dues to buy
dinner—but my only point in telling you that was, I didn’t find any appreciable differences
between the students in those classes at Harvard Law School, back in ’79 and ’80, and here.

MEURIN: That was actually one of my questions, so—

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PIZZANO: I didn’t see it. In fact, if anything, I see students at this law school are much more
motivated, particularly the evening division students. They’re not here for play.

MEURIN: Do you think it’s because of their backgrounds, that they might not have the money
that they have over at Harvard?

PIZZANO: I think so, although some of the students that go here now drive better cars than we
do. So I don’t know how true that is. In the evening division, I think it’s truer, because you’ve
got working people, family people. They’re not just here for the hell of it. They’re here because
they really want this education, and they want the degree.

The problem these days that I have with students is, they’re not always fully prepared, but that’s
largely a result of outside pressures on them. They work. Even day students, limited to twenty
hours of outside work, they work. And people are being pulled in all different directions, because
they graduated in debt, up to one-hundred thousand dollars. That’s a lot of dough.

MEURIN: Yeah, so they have to think about repaying that.

PIZZANO: That’s a lot of dough for kids, you know. It’s a tremendous burden to graduate, and
then to have that debt. You know that you’re going to be working for a long time to repay that
debt. Now fortunately, I didn’t have that. But my kid, I’m sure, will, at some point. So far, we’ve
been able to pay his tuition, which is—[laughs] every time my students here complain about the
cost of education, I tell them at one point, they were paying the same tuition that I was paying for
Richard in kindergarten and first grade, you know. That’s private school education around here.
Nowadays, we’re thirty-eight [thousand], I think Dexter’s now twenty-seven [thousand] or
something like that, so it’s—but still high. That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of money.

But no, our students stack up amongst the best—they’re the best lawyers, I think. We’re not
training them to go to the State Department to be Secretaries of States. We’re training them to be
lawyers, and to work in the community. Now we’re— [Meurin sneezes] Bless you—ahead of the
profession. Now we’re emphasizing even more public interest stuff. So that we have the Suffolk
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Public Interest Law Group, which is a group of students that’s come together. They raise money,
and then for students that go out during the summers and work for nothing in the public sector,
they give them some remuneration out of this fund. And one of the ways they raise money is by
auctioning off things. They have their auction. They just had it. And we, some of us, will donate
things. I donate a lunch at the Harvard Club. And you know, they’ll auction it off. Students will
want to do it. Or you have students to your home and so forth.

So there’s a lot of public interest stuff going on now. That may be my five o’clock appointment.

END OF INTERVIEW

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