Although Akhil Amar ’80 LAW ’84 will not teach Constitutional Law next fall, undergraduates will still have the opportunity to take a course with the Law School professor when he delivers the prominent DeVane lecture series next year.
Amar, who was officially elevated to the prestigious Sterling professorship last Thursday, will present his lecture series on the United States Constitution during one semester of the 2009-’10 academic year. The University has traditionally offered the series as an undergraduate course, but it is also open to the public.
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“He’s one of the most distinguished members of our Law School faculty and a major Constitutional scholar,” University President Richard Levin in a telephone interview Monday night. “The DeVane lecture was something I had asked him to do a while back, and something we had spoken about.”
Although Amar said he is unsure of the course specifics in an interview Monday, he described the series as a “walking tour” of the written Constitution. Amar plans to structure the lectures around his 2005 book, “America’s Constitution: A Biography,” guiding his audience methodically through each article and amendment of the Constitution.
Amar has yet to invite guest lecturers, a traditional component of the series, to speak. He said the availability of speakers will depend on who President-elect Barack Obama appoints to his new administration in January 2009.
Amar said Levin invited him to the deliver the lectures last spring. He agreed, but on one condition: that he be given permission to teach another course at the Law School. Past DeVane lecturers have taught just the DeVane lectures and nothing else.
Law School Dean Harold Koh said Amar’s appointment as Sterling professor and invitation to speak at the DeVane lecture series are a testament to Amar’s outstanding scholarship, calling him one of the “great legal scholars of the generation.” Amar’s decision to teach an additional course next fall, Koh added, reflects Amar’s commitment to Yale, where he has spent his entire academic career.
“Akhil is very conscious that his citizenship in the University should complement his citizenship in the Law School,” Koh said of Amar’s commitment to teach both graduates and undergraduates. “Akhil is one of the rare people who sees the enterprise of being a professor from every angle — student, teaching assistant, professor and reader.”
Since 2001, all but one DeVane lecturer has been a Sterling professor at the time of the lectures or became one later. The exception was Gus Speth ’64 LAW ’69, dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, who lectured in spring 2007. Past DeVane speakers include Nobel laureate Sidney Altman, School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 and former Yale Law School Dean Anthony Kronman GRD ’72 LAW ’75.
Kronman, who presided over the DeVane lectures during Yale’s tercentennial celebrations in 2001, said the series symbolized the University’s commitment to spread its intellectual wealth to a wider audience.
Kronman added that for him at least, Amar was an obvious choice to give the DeVane lectures.
“By virtue of the breadth of his intellect, his passion for ideas and ability to communicate them effectively, I can’t think of anyone better than my dear friend Akhil Amar,” he said.
Established in 1969 in honor of William Clyde DeVane, dean of Yale College from 1939 to 1963, the DeVane lecture series covers a different topic each year it is offered. Last fall, Theater Studies professor Joseph Roach taught World Performance, which examined events in theater, dance, music and ritual, and highlighted social practices that bring together people from around the world as audiences.