Fall 2017


The Wide-Reaching Legacy of Professor L. Hart Wright

L. Hart Wright
Robin Wright with Professor L. Hart Wright

Robin Wright—a contributing writer for The New Yorker and a former correspondent for The Washington Post, CBS News, and The Times of London, among others—is no stranger to professional accolades. 

Wright, who has reported from more than 140 countries, won the National Magazine Award for her first piece, about Iran. She won the Overseas Press Club Award for outstanding reporting requiring “exceptional courage and initiative,” for her coverage of war zones in Africa. 

But when she penned “My Last Conversation with My Father” in the June 17 (Father’s Day) edition of The New Yorker, she reached a unique audience in a very personal way. 

Robin Wright is the daughter of former Michigan Law Professor L. Hart Wright, and after a link to the essay was shared with Michigan Law alumni, it struck a chord with many of the tax law legend’s former students. 

An outpouring of memories and fondness for Professor Wright praised his strengths as a father, his strict but engaging teaching style, and his respect for and encyclopedic knowledge of the tax code. 

When Robin received word of the tremendous feedback her story elicited, she wrote, “I’m thrilled that he is remembered at the Law School. He’d have loved it. He cherished the institution—and gave up many other opportunities because he loved teaching and he loved the University of Michigan.” 

Below are excerpts from a few of our favorite comments from alumni.

“I thought the piece was going to be about Professor Wright, only to find much of it was about one of my most important tasks: being a good dad for my daughters.”

—Jeffrey D. Keiner, ’74

“I can still hear him intone, ‘Gross income is all income from whatever source derived,’ something I repeated just last month when a friend indignantly asked me why her bonus from her employer had taxes deducted.”

—Susan Gzesh, ’77

“I wanted to do well in L. Hart Wright’s seminar—for myself and for him. It was the greatest academic experience of my career…Some teachers teach and others inspire by laying bare the true meaning of their subject in a coherent and unforgettable way. That was Professor Wright.”

—Bill Harman, ’66

“It is a wonderful tribute, and I can vouch for its accuracy.”

—Sally Katzen, ’67

“His colorful garb and personality brought the dreary issues vividly to life as he asked, ‘If you stood on top of the world, looked straight down and ignored all the fly specks, what would you see?’ His views from that perspective were always interesting.”

—Alan Hoffman, ’74

“He was a great teacher and immediately struck fear in our 1L hearts.”

—Diane Bower, ’80

“I can still remember his story of the day he went to the IRS because he was being audited. It seems that Professor Wright had previously written the manual used to train the young agent conducting the audit. He described setting down his papers and a sack lunch and telling the young man, ‘I hope you brought your lunch, too, because it is going to be a long day for you.’”

—Al Blixt, ’73

“Most touching. I always considered him one of the very best of my many good professors when I attended law school at Michigan. No surprise that he would raise a brilliant journalist daughter.”

—Ed Miller, ’53

“Professor Wright correctly viewed the tax law as an honorable set of laws necessary to raise the revenues to pay for the government that the voters, through their representatives, decided was necessary.”

—Tom Zaremba, ’76

Excerpt from song lyrics to “So Long L. Hart Wright,” sung to the tune of “Frank Lloyd Wright”: “…so long, L. Hart Wright I can’t believe the exam will be so soon. I may end up in ruin—so soon I remember—L. Hart Wright.”

—Jim Golden, ’80, and Tom Richardson, ’80

“I had a couple of buddies from Williams College come and stay with me before the 49ers v. Bengals Super Bowl at the Pontiac Silverdome, and they chose to attend an L. Hart Wright class at my urging. Then they got called on, and he wouldn’t let them off the hook either!”

—Greg McAleenan, ’83

“A great remembrance on Father’s Day…a reminder that there are all kinds of fathers and the word surely has meaning beyond the singular application. L. Hart Wright [embodied] precision, elegance, humor.” 

—Ben Barnow, ’69

Read Robin Wright's essay in The New Yorker.