Beloved UI Professor of Law passes away

BY KEVIN SVEC | JANUARY 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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Randall Peter Bezanson, known as Randy, was a father, scholar, and renowned professor at the University of Iowa. On Jan. 25, he passed away after a long battle with cancer.

“He was very engaged with his colleagues and students,” said Carolyn Jones, UI dean emerita and professor of law. “He was truly committed to the University of Iowa and to the state of Iowa.”

His commitment to life never faded.

“Over the long years of his illness, two characteristics stood out: his vitality and courage facing great odds,” Jones said.

Born in Cedar Rapids, Bezanson attended Northwestern University in 1968, then came to the UI College of Law in 1971. He also served as Editor-in-Chief of the Iowa Law Review.

Upon graduation from law school, he clerked for appellate court Justice Roger Robb and then for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun.

In 1973, Bezanson returned to the UI and joined the faculty. He served as assistant to the president for Legal Affairs in 1976, and then vice president for Finance and University Services from 1979 to 1984.

“He was a known for his subtle understanding not only of the law, but of the English language,” said Visiting Professor James Leach, one of his former colleagues in the law school. “He wrote and spoke with clarity and logic that captured the humor as well as pathos of the subjects and circumstances reviewed. He will be much missed.”

Bezanson made many contributions to the UI community. One of his big projects was the construction of the Boyd Law Building.

“[Bezanson] was a stellar professor of law, great educator, and superb scholar,” said Willard Boyd, UI professor of law and president emeritus. “He immediately took hold, was intelligent, and had inherent good judgment.”

In 1988, Bezanson left for Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia to become the dean. Upon completion of his deanship, he returned to Iowa again as a visiting professor in 1994 and a full-time faculty member in 1996.

Bezanson had a passion for teaching, and in 1998, he was named the Charles E. Floete Distinguished Professor of Law and became the holder of the David H. Vernon professorship in 2006.

“He was devoted to rigorous writing and analysis, feeling those were the foundations of education,” Jones said. “We are believers here at the College of Law in that underlying insight and his influence will be felt going forward.”

Bezanson’s area of expertise was on constitutional law and the First Amendment. He was recognized in 2009 for earning the Provost Award for Teaching Excellence, which is the UI’s highest teaching honor.

However, Bezanson wasn’t just a leader in the UI law community. He also left a footprint outside of the law school. He drafted statutes on issues relating to the mentally handicapped and life-sustaining procedures. He was a member of the American Law Institute and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

Bezanson, a father of two and grandfather of five, didn’t just influence the UI.

“My father has had a profound impact on my life,” son Peter Bezanson said. “I learned from him the value of being a true thinker. Not a sort of mushy, relativistic, open mindedness, but rather a mindset that forces you to constantly question the evidence you have for the positions you hold.”

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