Haywood Remembrances: Alumni
Haywood Remembrances: Alumni
Tracey Bing-Hampson 0 1
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1 Tracey Bing-Hampson , Gilma Camargo, Paula DiStabile, Sheila Dugan, Kim Dvorchak, Linda Geary, Marty Glennon, Khalick Hewitt, Jaribu Hill, David Hyland, John Hynes, Shoshanna Malett, Bob Rose , Joy Rosenthal, K. Jacob Ruppert, Steven Salsberg, Nancy Schaef, Jeff Schwartz, Ira Sessler & Eleanor Stein , Haywood Remembrances: Alumni, 10 N.Y. City L. Rev. 83 (2006). Available at:
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Tracey Bing-Hampson, Gilma Camargo, Paula DiStabile, Sheila Dugan, Kim Dvorchak, Linda Geary, Marty
Glennon, Khalick Hewitt, Jaribu Hill, David Hyland, John Hynes, Shoshanna Malett, Bob Rose, Joy
Rosenthal, K. Jacob Ruppert, Steven Salsberg, Nancy Schaef, Jeff Schwartz, Ira Sessler, and Eleanor Stein
This article is available in City University of New York Law Review: http://academicworks.cuny.edu/clr/vol10/iss1/6
I met Haywood in September 1993. As the Dean of the Law
School, he welcomed me with his warm smile. He walked
throughout the building asking everyone, "How are you?" and "Is
everything ok?" Although he was always busy, when he stopped to talk
to you, you were his only concern. He lived in the moment; always
Haywood loved children, and I am blessed to have a photo of
him holding my daughter, who was about nine months old at the
time. He applauded me for being a wife, mother, and student.
He was a phenomenal professor. I dropped my Wills class to
take Race and the Law. It was amazing to watch him bring out the
best in everyone in class. He invited the class to his home in New
We discussed fellowships and careers throughout our three
years of law school, and he wrote a thoughtful two-page letter of
recommendation on my behalf. I still have a copy.
Haywood loved to dance. He and Jennifer were at the
National Lawyers Guild New York City Chapter dinner; he had on his
blue suede shoes, and they "cut a rug."
Haywood made you feel like someone special with something
to offer the world. I wasn't worried about passing the bar. I was
focused on continuing the tradition of excellence he demonstrated
on a daily basis. He was a hero, mentor, educator, and friend. He
inspired me to be a voice for the voiceless. Thank you, Haywood!
I met Haywood at law school orientation. At the beginning of
classes, he invited the whole class to a reception at his home. By
then, he knew all of our names and something about each student.
Haywood's open-door policy allowed me to frequently visit his
office and consult about student events and movement activities.
He often offered to give me car rides into the city, which provided
me with the opportunity to talk more with him.
He once tried to persuade me to become a candidate for U.S.
Congress, and I reminded him that I was committed to Latin
America. He did not give up easily.
When the invasion of Panama took place, Haywood
encouraged my trip home with the National Lawyers Guild on a
factfinding mission. He knew about my history of persecution under
the dictatorship, and he showed concern for my safety and family.
The last time I saw Haywood, I was already working at the
Center for Constitutional Rights and was very much involved with
international human rights and civil rights cases. Haywood was
excited about his trip to South Africa. We spoke while I walked with
him to the conference room. Before going into the meeting he
said to me, "Gilma, I am very proud of you." I gave him a hug and
said thanks. I never forgot that moment-that was the last time I
saw Haywood. I think of him often, miss him greatly, and above all,
I try not to disappoint him.
Seriously considering an application to CUNY Law School, I
had my first encounter with an LSAT prep book about three weeks
after the birth of my son, just about the same time I had my first
encounter with Jennifer Dohrn during a postpartum visit. That the
nurse midwife, who radiated serenity, compassion, and intelligence
in her practice, happened to be married to Haywood Burns was an
interesting coincidence. Months later, Haywood was roaming the
halls of CUNY as we scurried from task to task on the first day of
orientation, feeling intimidated and uncertain. As he did with
many of my new classmates, Haywood stopped me in the hall to say
hello, extended his hand, and warmly asked how I was doing,
radiating an uncommon but familiar serenity, compassion, and
intelligence. Haywood assured me that I would be as well taken care of
at CUNY Law as I had been by Jennifer. He welcomed us into law
school, into the CUNY Law family, and even into his home. He
brought into this world and nurtured a very special cohort of
attorneys, and his serenity, compassion, and intelligence burn as
brightly now as they did on my first day of law school.
-Paula DiStabile, 1991
Our class had already graduated before Haywood came on
board. But I recall the warmth I felt toward him at every reunion I
attended. He was a treasure, and he is still missed!
To me, Haywood Burns is synonymous with CUNY Law
School. He embodied everything CUNY stands for-advocacy,
activism, altruism, and so much more. Haywood inspired me and
countless others to follow his example by developing first-rate legal
skills so that we could use the law in the service of poor and
oppressed people. He has a place in history among the ranks of the
truly great activist lawyers, and I feel so fortunate to have shared a
few incredible years with him at CUNY. And he was so much fun! I
will never forget Haywood's warm and welcoming presence, his
wonderful smile, and the way he took to the dance floor at a school
party. Haywood: A Rockin' Revolutionary.
Haywood memorably spoke to the incoming freshman Class of
1990 and said, "At most law schools, they say to the incoming class,
'Look to your left; look to your right; and one of you will not be
here next year.' Here we will do everything possible to have each
of you here next year and at graduation." I thought that spoke
volumes toward the philosophy of CUNY Law and Haywood's
character. As time went on, the Class of 1990 hit some rough spots.
Haywood's thoughtfulness toward resolving of our problems,
however, make him one of my best memories of CUNY Law.
Shanara Gilbert was my third-year House Counselor. I
admired Shanara for her even temper and skills as a lawyer. When I
heard Haywood and Shanara were killed, I was in the middle of a
trial in the Bronx. As it turned out, the judge was good friend of
Haywood, and I learned of their deaths when she called a recess
for the day. It is difficult in life to maintain vision and principles. I
have a picture of Haywood in my office to remind me of someone
who did just that.
I saw a picture in a newspaper of this middle-aged guy with
wild hair playing basketball with some younger-looking adults. The
caption said he was the dean of a very unique public law school in
New York City, and he was playing in the annual
faculty-studentalumni basketball game. I was drawn in! I hadn't played basketball
since high school, but if the dean of the law school was playing ....
During my third year, I interviewed with the Federal Public
Defender in San Diego, California. Despite my excellent clinical
experience with Shanara Gilbert and Soffiya Elijah in the Criminal
Defense Clinic, I didn't immediately get a job offer. Haywood
called the Public Defender on my behalf; the offer followed
shortly. That was the beginning of my professional career in
criminal defense of the indigent accused, more than twelve years ago.
To say that I am forever in Haywood Burns' debt would be an
understatement. Even cooler than his basketball playing or his
hooking me up with my first public defender job, however, was his
enthusiastic participation in the Electric Slide at those silly little
dances at CUNY Law. Nothing but a smile comes across my face
when I remember Haywood Burns!!!
I first met Haywood Burns when my law society at Brooklyn
College was seeking a speaker for our law day. My advisor told me
that the society was having difficulty getting this Black law professor
from the Urban Legal Studies at City College to do it. Since the
professor was extremely busy, I called the program and made an
When I met Haywood Burns I explained my law society's
dilemma: We had never had a Black law professor speak at our law
day (this was 1978 or 1979). Haywood accepted the invitation, and
I asked him about his transportation costs. He answered, "No
costs. I am taking the train to Brooklyn." Then he said to me, "By
the way, we have a law program here at City; maybe you might be
interested." He explained what the Urban Legal Studies Program
was about and asked me if I had any lawyers in my family. I said
that my cousin had a private practice in Canada. Haywood asked
his name, and I was shocked when he said, "He is a friend of
mine." So I told him that I would think about the program.
Haywood was a sensation at my law day event; the law students
loved him and his lecture. I was impressed that Haywood Burns,
being so popular, was such a simple person. He actually took the
train to my college. He made time for the event because he felt it
was important for the students to have a Black law professor speak.
Needless to say, I transferred from Brooklyn College to the Urban
Legal Studies Program, even though I had to give up one year of
credits to do so.
At City College, Haywood was always helpful to the students in
the program, even when we disagreed with him politically. After
City College, I applied to CUNY Law School and was accepted.
When our Dean Charlie [Charles Halpern] left, I contacted
Haywood to find out if he would apply for the deanship. He asked to
meet the students first. I, Bob Zuss, Susan Sangree, and others
arranged to have Haywood speak, and again the students loved him.
Haywood was accepted and became the first African-American
dean of a New York law school.
The legal world lost a scholar, humanist, and leader; but I lost
-Khalick Hewitt, 1986
You CAN'T SEE IT, IT'S ELECTRIC!
In fairness to all the stories that will be told to honor this
Prince of a Man, I will not even begin to tell one fraction of the
inspiring moments that come to mind when I think of my mentor,
teacher, brother, and, above all, friend, Haywood Burns. There
really are "fellow travelers," who meet the world head-on and dare to
make it a better place. They engage in discussions, make plans,
keep promises, and pass on the gifts of courage and commitment.
They walk arm-in-arm in times of battle against the tyrants and false
rulers. They chant, sing, stomp, and slide toward the fall of a status
quo that is anti-people and hostile to historical truths. I see
Haywood as I have always seen him, walking-no, running-toward
justice. I see him even now defying prison walls and putting a
human face on the suffering of imprisoned African-American men
in Attica, who were stripped of their dignity and brutalized under
the "color of law." I see him zealously advocating in courts of white
supremacy. I see him in South Africa, taking final breaths in
preparation for his everlasting journey.
For those of us who grapple with the question of whether
there is a higher power-a force, a God, deity, or Supreme
Being-even we skeptics must put Haywood down as the exception to
our guarded views. We must at least entertain the possibility that
perhaps there really are saints or angels who walk among us.
Surely, in the realm of legalese, Haywood must be regarded as the
statutory "will," not the "should;" the "and," not the "or." Haywood
was deliberately genuine in his righteous optimism. Many times,
we were privileged to see him bring together those who might not
have otherwise sat in same room. Under Haywood's guiding,
supportive, never-controlling hand, leaders were born and movements
After several years of not seeing Haywood, I caught up with
him at a fundraiser for one of the Panther 21. I performed with my
band; Haywood, who had many lives, read some of his powerful
poetry. I saw Haywood as he was leaving, and we exchanged a huge
bear hug. I told him I planned to go to law school. He looked at
me in a puzzled and somewhat parental way and said, "Why aren't
you coming to my school?" Ever the rebellious child, I said, "I'm
more than forty years old and this is my fifth career. I cannot go to
an unaccredited law school. I need ajob when I graduate and am
competing with twenty-year-olds." Haywood looked at me and said,
"We will be fully accredited; just come and check it out." I did and
the rest is, of course, history. As usual, he was right: CUNY was
where I needed to be.
Lest I continue to confuse the readership about the meaning
of the title of this tribute to my friend, Haywood was the best
dancer and he could really do one of my favorite line dances-the
Electric Slide. So, this is to you Haywood, from one dancing poet
Electric slidin' into poehy, fire words
Claimin' verse; justice chants
Electric slidin' where everyone could join in
Even if they didn't know the steps
I met up with you afteryears of toiling in
I met you after years of toiling in
You, always lookin' out for me
And other rebel-rousers
I see you dancing round and round with
Our loved ones, Kianga,* Luis, Bruce, Vicki Gray and Fannie
And the many thousands gone
Slide on. We'll meet you on the victory dance floor!!!
* Kiangawas my beloved youngest daughter. She passed away after a
sudden illness on February 6, 1997.
-Jaribu Hill, 1995
I will never forget how much Haywood treated us like his
family. I didn't realize just how much he cared about us as individuals
until the night in 1992 when he and his wife Jennifer showed up at
a Village club to watch my then-boyfriend perform. I think I
mentioned the date and place in passing during a student/faculty event
weeks before; he actually remembered. Haywood and Jennifer
stayed for the whole set, and when I tried to thank him for coming,
I'll never forget what he said: "This is part of your life. Of course I
wanted to come."
Haywood will always be one of my heroes as a lawyer, but,
more importantly, as a wonderful human being.
-David Hyland, 1993
I was a student in Professor Burns' final Constitutional Law
class. We were discussing the examination details one day, and I
asked him what would constitute a failing grade. Professor Burns,
a supporter of the pass-fail grading system, said, in good humor,
"Please don't use the F-word in my class."
Haywood Burns was, in the words of a classmate, a man with
bragging rights, but he never bragged. A colleague said of
Haywood that his convictions were not the flavor of the month-he was
a man of unyielding basic principles.
Perhaps the Rev. Calvin Butts said it best at Haywood's funeral
when he told the story of Job, whose enemies were saying terrible
things about him. Job said to God, "What am I going to do, the
whole world believes these lies-even my wife! Who is going to
God answered without a second thought: "Haywood."
-John Hynes, 1998
I remember Haywood as having an incredible memory and
being incredibly personable. My "Haywood memory moment" is this.
First year, 1987. Welcoming party at Haywood's house in
Manhattan. He personally greeted each and every one of us, and I clearly
remember him doing so since I didn't know anyone else there. I
remember the house being warm and welcoming. He came up to
me, and we spoke about what I had been doing in the years before
entering law school. I had recently quit my job as an assistant
editor at Marvel Comics. Haywood never forgot that and often
commented on my formerjob as he passed me in the hall or saw me in
school. I think he remembered everything I ever told him. I
remember his soft voice, his fuzzy beard, and his gentle manner.
In the early 1990s, thousands of Haitians fled their homeland
for the United States after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was
ousted in a military coup. Some of the Haitians actually made it to
the United States and applied for political asylum. Others were
intercepted at sea and detained at the now-infamous U.S. military
prison camp in Guantdnamo Bay, Cuba. A group of CUNY Law
students started the CUNY Haitian Refugee Project to assist
Haitians with their asylum claims and to publicize their plight.
Haywood was a strong supporter of the project and a participant from
its inception. He directed us to foundations which provided the
funds to get law students to Florida, where the need for asylum
assistance was greatest. He attended some of our meetings and
guided us in press outreach. When some of us went on hunger
strikes in solidarity with Haitians hunger strikers in Guantinamo,
Haywood joined in as well. He was encouraging, nurturing, and
full of ideas. Yet, despite Haywood's stature as Dean and a civil
rights leader, to the unknowing observer he would have appeared
to be just another student participating in the project. He inspired
us then and continues to inspire my work as a civil rights lawyer. I
try to draw on his unflagging dedication to human rights; his
remarkable ability to relate to people of all stripes; and his subtle, yet
so forceful, style of persuasion, which is hard to describe and even
harder to emulate. I must assume that many others do as well. In
that way and many others, Haywood continues to inspire us in his
Haywood was still Dean during my first year at the Law School.
I assume others will write about his wonderful accomplishments as
a dean and as a professor, but there are two moments I would like
The first took place at a fancy dinner at Terrace on the Park to
celebrate the School's tenth year. We'd been working hard all
semester, and it was the dead of winter. That night the school had
hired a kicking live band, and we all got up to dance. It was a big
relief to be having fun together. I looked over to see Haywood and
his wife Jennifer dancing with each other. I don't think I have ever
seen two people so intense, so utterly happy. You could tell how
much they were in love just from their eyes.
The other thing that really struck me was Haywood's
officeinstead of diplomas, he had Ben Shahn's portraits of Cheney,
Schwerner, and Goodman on his wall behind his desk. These were his
credentials. He embodied the wonderful values of the Civil Rights
movement-nonviolent resistance; fighting together for the rights
of the oppressed; challenging power with strength, warmth, and
grace-every day of his life.
-Joy Rosenthal, 1996
I remember the day. April 4, 1996. I was visiting Main Street
Legal Services when the news arrived. After the pronouncement,
we fell deaf and all movement slowed as if in water. Those hurried
and haunted earlier years at CUNY School of Law suddenly
galvanized; the artist's oeuvre complete. An era had ended, and we all
Haywood Burns painted with a broad brush, forging and
contouring the school's legacy while never forgetting and always
appreciating the considerable reputation-building potential of the
student body. He wanted for us a place at the table with all other
law students so, with his blessing, Brian Germano (1993), Francisco
Guzman (1993), and I co-founded the CUNY Law School chapters
of the ABA Law Student Division, the ABA Student Body
Association, and the CUNY Law Review. In the fall of 1992, the founding
articles and bylaws of the CUNY Law Review were filed with the
Office of Student Affairs with the counsel and support of Haywood.
Funding was scarce, but he got us editing our first submissions.
Thanks to Haywood, I represented the Law School at the ABA
annual meetings, the New York State Bar Association Law Student
Council, and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York
(ABCNY) Committee on Law Student Perspectives, which was the
first time a law student sat on any ABCNY committee. We owe so
much to Haywood for ensuring our student voice with these
organizations. Unstoppable, he also co-produced with me CUNY Law, a
local legal talk show on cable-access television broadcast from
Haywood made being a law student fun and broadened the
experience exponentially. His work as an attorney, advocate,
leader, and dean were great, and heavy are the shoulders of any
dean that carries his mantle.
-K. Jacob Ruppert, 1994
I first met Haywood Burns twenty-four years ago, as a
candidate entering the Urban Legal Studies Program (ULS) where he
was Dean. He later became a huge influence in my life and a
significant reason for me to attend CUNY Law School instead of the
Kennedy School at Harvard, even before he became CUNY's Dean.
The story I remember so vividly was not how I came to know
Haywood, but, rather, the exact moments when I knew that I had met a
giant who would forever affect my life.
I was a seventeen-year-old freshman at ULS, and he gave a
guest lecture at our undergraduate Constitutional Law class. His
topic was the death penalty. It was not a lecture on law or
precedent. Instead, Haywood engaged in a conversation where he
shared with us his objections to the death penalty based on history,
law, facts, and ethics. I had written position papers against the
death penalty and thought there really was not much more to
learn. In the first two minutes, Haywood began enumerating and
articulating his objections by beautifully interweaving personal
observations and legal analysis; this continued for two fascinating
hours. He seemed to step out of the pages of history and
conversationally take each of us on a personal tour of the unusually cruel
and equally illogical and immoral practice. For years, I kept the
notes from that cherished lecture and even managed to quote
from it in front of Haywood. After the class, I shared with him that,
according to Jewish teachings, a Rabbinical Court that gave one
death sentence in 100 years was "deemed to be a murderous
court." This man, who had just delivered the single most
competent and complete discourse on a subject anyone has ever heard,
had the patience to intensely focus his beautiful intuitive eyes on
mine and listen to and thank seventeen-year-old me for sharing a
fact he probably knew. All these years later, I am still moved to
tears by the way Haywood demonstrated the grace, intuition, and
inspirational leadership that made this epic person a great teacher
I knew of Haywood Burns prior to my attending the Law
School; however, I had never met him until my enrollment at the
School in 1988. His name was already a hallmark in the social
justice movement, so anyone involved had to have heard of him. I
was honored to attend a law school where he led the helm. It may
well have been one of the reasons why I applied only to CUNY
School of Law.
I once went to his office to find a way to further honor the
great and notable personalities who had received honorary degrees
from the Law School. I have always felt that their names and faces
should be exhibited in a special place in the Law School, creating
something of a "hall of honors." I don't really remember why I
never pursued my idea further, but I do remember sitting with him
that day in his office. He was seated at his desk with his graying
Afro and his impressive, strong stature. Behind him were
remarkable sketches of Chaney, Goodwin, and Schwerner-three
Mississippi civil rights workers murdered in the Sixties. The sketches
were touching and fragile and the man in front of them a stalwart
of justice and strength. Our conversation was not long, but the
image of that moment lingers.
The honorary degrees we bestow from our honorable Law
School are all important and impressive; however, my life is
honored even more significantly by meeting, studying, and walking
the halls of the Law School with Haywood Burns and particularly
for sitting in his office on that memorable day.
-Nancy Schaef, 1992
Throughout my three years at CUNY Law, I was active in the
Public Interest Law Association (PILA), spending two years as an
officer. Haywood was a strong supporter of PILA, and during the
preparation for the 1996 PILA fundraising auction, I approached
Haywood for a donation. Having Haywood for my Liberty,
Equality, and Due Process course (a lecture class of 160 students), I was
understandably in awe of him, and I was very nervous about sitting
down with him one on one, especially to ask him to contribute to
our cause. I had never had any personal contact with him before
that meeting, but when I sat down in his office, he greeted me by
name! It was almost magical that he could know who I was out of
the sea of faces he encountered in our course and the others he
taught. I immediately felt welcomed and comfortable, and it was a
turning point for me as a new law student-from that moment on,
I truly felt like I belonged at CUNY. Haywood subsequently
became more like a peer to me-someone I could talk to anywhere
or anytime; someone who played basketball beside me in the PILA
Basketball League; someone who inspired me to contribute as
much as I possibly could to the CUNY Law community. Since
graduation, I have continued to support PILA; I have volunteered for
reunion organizing; and I became an officer of the CUNY Law
Alumni Association. I guess I can trace it all back to that meeting
with Haywood. To me, Haywood was CUNY Law.
-Jeff Schwartz, 1998
Others will be sending in stories and tributes about Dean
Burns that are warm, personal, and speak volumes about his life;
but in my short time at CUNY Law I really did not get to know
Dean Burns on any measurable personal level. Yet, his passing was
felt deeply and the void will not ever be completely filled. He was
MY dean and I will always feel a sense of loss. He was a man with a
large presence, but sensitive enough to know the value of a
reassuring smile. I always felt that he was the best example of the human
side of CUNY Law and that his involvement was crucial to the
future of the School. He will be missed by CUNY Law and all people
of the world who care about the betterment of the human
-Ira Sessler, 1996
I met Haywood in the great Civil Rights movement of the late
1960s, but we became dear friends when I attended CUNY Law
School and even dearer when he fell in love with and married one
of my closest friends, Jennifer Dohrn. Teacher, mentor, brother,
joker, dancer, we shared politics and-what was always dearest of
all to Haywood-family. He loved the Law School and its students,
and his time at the School brought together his life's work as a
teacher of those historically denied access to higher education,
scholar of racism and the law, and human rights activist.
There has scarcely been a day in these last ten years I have not
bitterly missed his profound and brilliant mind, his counsel, his
bear hugs and beautiful smile, his unrivalled selflessness. Michael
Ratner and I wrote a tribute to him in the Yale LawJournal after he
died, remembering "his boundless enthusiasm, his delight in
human variety, his unique capacity to listen and encourage, his
extraordinary charm and sweetness."' No one can take his place.
-Eleanor Stein, 1986
I Michael Ratner & Eleanor Stein, W. Haywood Burns: To Be of Use, 106 YALE L.J.
753, 755 (1997).