Dunne, Computers and the Law professor, dies at 59

Robert Dunne, a computer-science lecturer popular among students for his course on computers and the law, was found dead Saturday in a vacation cottage he was renting in Rhode Island. He was 59.

The cause of death is not yet known, according to the state medical examiner, although police say they believe Dunne died of head injuries sustained in an apparent fall down a flight of stairs.

A caretaker of the house Dunne was renting on Block Island found the lecturer on Saturday morning and called police at about 9:30 a.m., said Vincent Carlone, the chief of the New Shoreham Police Department. Dunne, who joined the Yale faculty in 1999, was pronounced dead at the scene.

“As you can imagine, we are all in shock,” said Avi Silberschatz, the chairman of the Computer Science Department.

Word of Dunne’s death began to spread throughout the department over the weekend. It was not clear exactly when Dunne died, but Carlone said it appeared he fell down the stairs from the cottage’s second floor and struck his head on a tile floor shortly before he was found Saturday. The cause of his death is awaiting further study, said Annemarie Beardsworth, a spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Health.

But Carlone said police believe his death was an accident. “You could see clearly what happened there,” he said. “There’s nothing to indicate anything other than a fall down the stairs.”

Dunne, an attorney by trade, joined the Yale faculty in 1999 and was later named a senior lecturer. He served as a co-director of Yale’s Center for Internet Studies and was a fellow of Silliman College.

An expert on Internet crime and digital privacy, Dunne was particularly well-known for his thrice-weekly lecture, Computers and the Law, which was among the University’s most heavily enrolled courses. In 2006, the Yale chapter of Phi Beta Kappa awarded him the William Clyde DeVane Medal, the highest honor conferred for undergraduate teaching at Yale.

Silberschatz said it was not yet known whether another faculty member could be recruited quickly enough to teach Computers and the Law this fall as scheduled. But he said he intends for the course to remain as one of the department’s offerings.

Dunne, who Carlone said was vacationing on Block Island by himself, was divorced and had one daughter, Silberschatz said. She could not immediately be reached for comment.

Check back at yaledailynews.com for further updates.


  • 2010

    RIP Prof. Dunne

  • Anonymous

    Professor Dunne was a compelling and kind professor. He will be dearly missed.

  • Sad former student

    Professor Dunne was a wonderful teacher and mentor. His sense of humor and kindness were evident both inside and outside the classroom. All of his students loved him and he will be missed. RIP.

  • Pat Grimm

    Professor Dunne will be missed by all.

  • Anonymous

    RIP. Bob was the best. he prepared countless students for the real world.

  • 2008

    Bob Dunne, you will be missed.

  • 0Y8

    Taking comp law was one of the best decisions of my undergraduate career. And I have about 48 sets of other people's notes to prove how funny he was year after year after year.

  • 2008


  • 2005

    We love you and we'll miss you.

  • 2009

    Bob Dunne was a fantastic lecturer. He was an asset to the Yale community. He will be dearly missed.

  • Kyli Hanson

    Bob Dunne was one of our favorites. He will be truly missed.

  • Kat Duffy '00

    Bob was the best professor I've ever had, and in the 10 years that have passed since I took his class, he became my mentor, my advisor, and a truly beloved personal friend. He's the only faculty member from Yale I invited to my wedding this October. We were so lucky to have him at Yale, and I'm so grateful to have had him in my life. I just can't believe that we lost him so soon.

  • guest

    Bob was one of the best professors I had at Yale. We will all miss him so much.

  • 2009

    This is odd. Professor Dunne missed a few days of our Comp Law class Freshman Year also because of a similar fall down the stairs.

    My blessings are with his family.

  • CompLawFan

    Bob Dunne was a legend, he had the best class in the undergraduate curriculum and it showed by the number of students who took Computers and the Law each semester. He will be remembered for his great lectures and easy going personality. We will miss you professor Dunne.

  • A Berkeley Student, Class of 2008

    Bob Dunne was really awesome. He totally changed (and improved) my Yale experience. I can't imagine how different my life would have been without his three classes.

  • 2008


  • Yale 06

    God Bless him - Bob Dunne was an outstanding professor and a great guy - he will be missed by all of Yale.

  • kkt

    There will never be another like him. Bob Dunne was one of the most amazing teachers in our generation.

  • Matt Bloom, 2005

    Professor Dunne really was one of a kind.

    I took three of his courses and was TA for four of them. I am deeply saddened by this loss.

    He was probably the most known and best liked professor for the Yale undergraduate of the 00's. He was a genuinely kind man, with a humble disposition and a quick wit.

    He cared about his students more than most. He was extremely interested in the wellbeing of his students, and made an effort to know them even as he taught hundreds of students every semester.

    And through his position in the computer science department, he prepared his students for law school better than anyone. Countless times in law school, I knew a case or an area of law because I remembered it from Computers and the Law, not because I knew it from a law school course.

    Prof. Dunne will be deeply missed.

  • yale 05

    i can't believe it. bob dunne was the best teacher i had at yale, and such a wonderful guy. he will be very much missed.

  • diane

    It is planned to happen across the street from me.

    They will have to shoot me first and have to prove that I am not allowed on private property, walking my dog.

    Please post their scheduled times if you know them, so I can be there to deter them.

    Thank you

    Ridgefield resident.

  • Alex Roelof

    Bob, we all miss you. Many of us first came across you having heard that you teach an easy and enjoyable class at Yale called Computers and the Law. Indeed, you are one of the few professors at Yale to realize a basic truth about human psychology - people try harder after praise more than they do after censure.

    While the formal topic of your classes dealt with the legalities of technology, the legal primer you gave everyone instilled in us an appreciation of our legal system no less valuable as a component of the Yale liberal education than history itself. For countless students, you transformed the stereotype of the lawyer from jargon-loving technophile eager to reach into other people's pockets to an intellectual and one of the chief definers of values in our society. You taught us to peel away the lies of those seeking to use the law as a disbalancing weapon and a shield for their own iniquity. No longer do file sharers that took your class believe that they are criminals.

    From our student perspective, in your placement of teaching at least on the same level as your published works and research, you are a model for the faculty at Yale. That all professors at Yale would have the same priorities as you is a Yalie's unrequited dream.

    To quite a few of us, you were so much more: mentor, supporter, friend. We will remember you forever.

    There is a longstanding facebook group in honor of Bob Dunne called "We Love Bob Dunne."
    Do a search if the link doesn't work. I invite everyone to join us in remembering Bob.

    Also, Bob was in the final stages of writing a textbook on Computers and the Law so students around the country could learn from his unique course. I, as I am sure many others, would like to see his work published. If you know anything about the condition of the manuscript or his family's plans for it, please let me know - alex.roelof<at symbol>yale<dot>edu