At the Law School's May 17 commencement ceremony, Donald A. Tortorice received the Walter L. Williams, Jr., Memorial Teaching Award, an award conferred by the graduating class in recognition of outstanding teaching.
Trenton E. Brown '09 hailed Tortorice as "an outstanding professor, and proverbial devil's advocate of the law" and told the audience that the class selected him for the teaching award "for his contribution to all our lives as students, citizens, and soon-enough-to-be barristers."
In his remarks, Brown playfully imitated Tortorice and conjured up the feeling of "intimidation" that students in Tortorice's Consumer Law class felt at the start of the semester as the professor "abandoned the safety behind the lectern" to pose questions in a style that temporarily unnerved the class, but that effectively captivated their interest. Brown noted that a classmate said that what he liked best about Tortorice was his "ability to manipulate language and create legal argument."
Brown shared the "charge" that Tortorice used at the conclusion of his course - a charge which had a galvanizing effect on his students:
"At the end of each semester, [he] concludes his course with a charge. He charges his students to take the law and challenge it when we think it can be improved or can better serve society. This is a government and land of laws, not of men; but he contends that those laws are written by men and subject to change with the hands of time and the disposition of society. He encourages us, not simply to be the sharpest advocates of the laws that govern us, but also to be creators, innovators, and improvers of that law, for our own benefit, and for the benefit of society at large."
The award is named for Walter L. Williams, Jr., a member of the faculty from 1972 to 1991. Following his death after a long illness, a faculty resolution lauded his numerous contributions as a scholar of international law, professor and colleague. Williams taught with "enthusiasm, warmth and good humor," the resolution noted, and was loved and admired by students.