By Andrew Cohen
During the recent John and Elizabeth Boalt Lecturers’ Award ceremony, Berkeley Law Interim Dean Melissa Murray gave each of the three recipients a commemorative clock because, as she put it, “good teaching is timeless.”
The award celebrates lecturers who have served the law school for 20 or more years and taught 20 or more semesters. This year’s recipients were Alameda County Public Defender Charles Denton, Golden Gate University Law School Professor Janice Kosel ’71, and Rossmann and Moore founding partner Antonio Rossmann.
Guest speaker Richard Frieshtat, the director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Teaching and Learning, hailed the recipients for their commitment to improving their craft.
“Teaching is a continuous effort, a destination never reached, a process never realized,” he said. “The criteria for this award is longevity, but the key ingredient for longevity is keeping things fresh in your class and continually innovating what you do to meet the needs of your students.”
Denton, who brings to the classroom more than 33 years of experience as an Alameda County Public Defender, has litigated thousands of motions and hearings and tried nearly every type of criminal case. A frequent lecturer on trial practice and a leading expert on criminal law and procedure, he is currently president of the California Public Defender’s Association.
At the ceremony, Denton thanked Professor Emerita Eleanor Swift for hiring him. He also shared excerpts from a July 1997 letter he wrote after his first semester at Berkeley Law.
“`Teaching has been a useful tonic for the stress of being a public defender,’” read Denton, who teaches Criminal Trial Practice. “`I’d really like to blend the two worlds if I could.’ I feel the same way today as I did back then.”
Kosel, who teaches Secured Credit and Commercial Transactions, is a former member of the Uniform Commercial Code Committee, the California State Bar’s Family Law Specialization Exam Writing Committee, and the Legal Assistance for Seniors’ Board of Directors.
“My daughter firmly believes that the best financial decision I ever made was enrolling here in the fall of 1968,” Kosel said. “I got a great education courtesy of a number of master teachers for $450 total, $150 per year. Your students are the intellectual elite of the world, engaging and engaged. Honestly, not a day goes by that I don’t learn something from them in my class.”
In addition to Berkeley Law, Rossmann has taught at Stanford, UCLA, and the University of Tokyo. He litigated some of the west coast’s leading water and land-use proceedings, and in 2010 was named one of California’s top 100 attorneys by the Los Angeles Daily Journal. In 2012 and 2013, he consulted on water resources law to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome.
Rossmann, who has taught Water Law and Land Use, recalled how a faculty member’s maternity leave opened the door to what is a now a 30-year chapter in his life. “(Professor Emeritus) Joe Sax called to say how’d you like to teach at Boalt?” Rossmann said. “Like many of Joe’s ideas, it turned out to have more of an enduring value.”
The enduring value of Berkeley Law’s lecturers, who play a growing role in educating students through the pragmatic lens of concrete experience, was celebrated alongside the honorees themselves.
“There’s no one way to be an excellent teacher at UC Berkeley other than to have an authentic sense of self-identity,” Freishtat said. “Ultimately, we teach who we are.”