This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Summer/Fall 2021 (Vol. 90, Nos. 2–3), pp. 66.
Stuart Duhl, former chair of NCBE’s Board of Trustees (1991–1992), passed away on April 28, 2021. The following is a tribute to Stuart written by Isidoro (“Ike”) Berkman, who chaired the NCBE Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2002.By Isidoro (“Ike”) BerkmanThere is a Yiddish word, mensch, that neatly encapsulates Stuart. The word essentially means a “human,” but over the years it has acquired a secondary meaning: a “good person” in an expansive sense.
And that in a word was who my good friend Stuart was: a real mensch!
Stuart had many facets to his life. To the bar examining community, he was chair of the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar, then a member of NCBE’s Board of Trustees and eventually its chair. But there was much more to his commitment to the legal profession: he mentored many young lawyers starting their professional lives; he taught part-time first at Northwestern’s undergraduate School of Business, then at Loyola University School of Law; and he wrote numerous professional articles—all mensch-like activities.
I first met Stuart when he appeared at Northwestern Law School in Chicago at the beginning of my second year. He had just transferred from the law school at UC Berkeley, then known as Boalt Hall, because his mother had recently died, and again being the mensch that he was, he felt an obligation to return to the Chicago area to be with his father and young sister while he continued his law studies.
After we both graduated from Northwestern in the mid-60s, he at the top of his class, we pursued the typical path for young associates and then partners at our respective Chicago firms. Although we lost touch for a while as we became more involved in our professional lives, eventually I moved to the West Coast to pursue my new law teaching career and became involved in the California Bar Exam, which is how Stuart and I reconnected in the early 90s. He was then chair of NCBE’s Board of Trustees, and I was chair of the California Committee of Bar Examiners (CalBar).
We at CalBar had decided to discontinue using the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) for financial reasons. Stuart called me and asked if he could come out to L.A. to meet with us. He and NCBE’s then-president, Frank Morrissey, talked with us, and we were able to continue the California-NCBE relationship. That is what a mensch does for the good of the profession.
When I joined the NCBE Board of Trustees a few years later, I saw firsthand what a hardworking—and smart—board member he had been. I tried to follow his path. Of course, the MBE story is only one example of Stuart’s ability to be tenacious without being pushy—a big difference! He was truly an inspiration.
On a more personal note, one thing that Stuart was not able to do was “rescue” me from our attempt to travel together to Cuba with our spouses. As a returning Cuban national, I was turned back in Cancun by the Havana-bound airline, and despite Stuart’s and his wife Elaine’s attempts to intervene, the authorities would not let me and my wife travel to Cuba. Stuart did bring me back some excellent Cuban cigars.
Of course, the most important facet of his life was his family life, with his longtime wife Elaine and their two sons—Gregory (law professor) and Joshua (investment firm partner)—and his five grandchildren. His grandchildren were always a good audience for Papa Stuart’s magical bedtime and other stories.
Needless to say—but I will say it anyway—Stuart will be sorely missed not only by his family but also by his many friends, professional colleagues, clients, and all of us in the bar examining community. And of course, his golf clubs will be missing him as well.
Vaya con Dios, Stuart. Your friend, Ike Berkman
Isidoro (“Ike”) Berkman served as chair of the NCBE Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2002.
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