YAM Notes: July/August 2016

By Martin M. Snapp, Jr.

Congratulations to Andy Beveridge, whose website, the Social Explorer Project, was named Best Law Website at the 20th Annual Webby Awards, which the New York Times calls “the Internet’s highest honor.” Social Explorer’s Threat to Representation of Children and Non-Citizens project examines the impact that the Evenwel v. Abbott Supreme Court case could have on representation around the nation—and still might, depending on further legal challenges. The plaintiffs argued that redistricting should be based on the number of citizens of voting age instead of all residents. Andy analyzed the effects of this change in his report, illustrating how state legislative and congressional districts would need to change and which groups would be most affected. It’s now used by hundreds of news outlets, community organizations, and political groups, making it possible to bring that fact home to communities across the country.

“Social Explorer has set the standard for innovation and creativity on the Internet,” says David-Michel Davies, executive director of the Webby Awards. “This award is a testament to the skill, ingenuity, and vision of its creators.”

Congratulations also to Lou Sirico, who was awarded the 2016 Burton Award for Contributions to Legal Writing Education, one of the profession’s most prestigious honors, on May 23 at the 17th annual Burton Awards Program and Gala at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The award is bestowed upon the finest law school teacher who has promoted and advanced legal writing. Described by his colleagues as a “giant in the legal writing community,” Lou previously received the 2007 Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing, the highest honor bestowed by the Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute.

Finally, Randy Alfred files this bittersweet report: “Gordon Kerr flew in from Florida. Tom Laughlin flew in from Virginia. Chuck Lidz flew in from Massachusetts. Rick Taft flew in from Ohio. Lanse Crane flew in from Colorado. Bob Schuster flew in from Wyoming. I flew in from California.

Andy Walker was ailing in Ashland, Missouri. We’d learned just weeks before that Andy has Stage 4 cancer. So we rented a house nearby for the weekend of April 14–17. We came to visit Andy and his wife Kate and support them. And we came to visit one another as well, and to support one another.

“We’d been a tight cluster together in Morse College. Over the years, each of us had stayed in touch with at least one or a couple of others, and some had been in touch with most of us. If anyone had remained in touch with all of us, it was probably Andy, now a retired professor of sociology at Stephens College.

“We spent Thursday night settling in at the rented house, catching up on career, retirement, family, and health news. (You’ll have to wait for next year’s reunion book, or the reunion itself, for details of this.) And we talked about Andy, and we planned our visits for the following two days, because we did not want to overwhelm or exhaust our weakened friend. When we visited the next day, we figured on talking with Andy in small groups of just two or three.

“Andy surprised us. Once we arrived, there was no way he’d let us peel off, even to the next room. He held court for the whole gang on the sun-drenched back deck of his house in a forest clearing. When he tired after a few hours and needed a nap, we visitors headed down to picnic at a nearby spot on the Missouri River. Kate even packed a picnic cooler of all we needed for a hearty lunch.

“We returned in late afternoon, and it was then the group organically turned into smaller sets of two or three people, talking with Andy, talking with Kate, talking with one another. We’d brought some drinks, and Kate had stocked up on food and drink as well. And as the evening wore into night, we again clustered around the outdoor table for what could only be described as a party. And we remembered again that where Andy is, there a party is.

“We returned Saturday for a similar round of conversation and discussion, much of it deep and little of it shallow. Imagine what your late-night college talks would have been like if you’d had the experience and wisdom you do now. When dinnertime came, we had takeout Chinese and Kate’s homemade soup, in the dining room—on Andy and Kate’s Yale Wedgwood, no less!

“Kate told us that Andy hadn’t been so energetic in a long while, and that she, too, was buoyed up by our group visit. We visitors agreed that the experience was also a great positive experience for us.

“And Schuster didn’t let it end there. Andy had expressed great admiration for singer-songwriter Tom Rush, who it turns out is a friend of Bob’s in Wyoming. So, just a week later, Schuster and Laughlin (another fan) showed up in Ashland again . . . with Rush in tow. Bob wrote us that it was special and meaningful for all, including Tom Rush.

“Much discussion the first weekend had revolved around not just Andy’s situation, but our own mortality as well. Andy’s time may be short, but that is true in some respect for all of us, including you who read these words. We all have fewer years ahead of us than we have behind us. Concretely, that means fewer springs, fewer summers, fewer Christmases.

“Andy wrote his doctoral dissertation about the sociology of time, titled ‘It’s About Time.’ But time is not the only measure. Less time need not mean fewer joys. The days are rich. You have friends. You have family. You have neighbors. Treat them well. Treat them with kindness and with gratitude. Indulge the pleasures of which you are capable. Visit. Attend the 50th reunion in New Haven next year, but arrange little ones, too. Seize the day, friends. Seize the hour.”