Professor Clark Byse, deceased

I have often envied Mrs. Tilton her detailed knowledge of spiders, but I had no idea she had experienced the Socratic method.

Byse was a slightly-built man who never raised his voice, yet students trembled in fear of him. Heaven help the unprepared student, because Byse wasn’t about to. In one famous instance, he called upon a hapless student to state the facts of a case.

“Umm, I’m sorry,” confessed the suddenly ashen-faced unfortunate, “I have to admit I haven’t read it.”

“That’s OK,” said Byse with terrifying calmness, opening his pocket watch and putting it on the podium in front of him. “Read it now. We have all the time in the world.”

And so the doomed youth sat there for ten or fifteen interminable minutes, reading the appellate opinion with the weight of his classmates’ 400 eyes upon him, damning the day he ever crawled forth from his mother’s womb. …

And yet there was really no need for fear. To profit from Byse’s lectures one really had to do only two things. First: read, and think about, the materials. But that goes without saying for any course, I’d say. Second: stop worrying about looking the fool. Under the Socratic method, you are never right (and if on occasion you are, the lecturer will change the facts so that you’re suddenly wrong). Get past those two humps, and Byse would help you to an understanding of how contracts work, and why. I can’t imagine how many thousands of students he helped over the years. We shall not see his like again.

Obituary here.

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