Remembering Former Dean Howard Sacks

Remembering Former Dean Howard Sacks
February 26, 2018
Hartford, CT

Howard R. Sacks, dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law from 1967 to 1972, died Feb. 16, 2018. He was 96.

Under his leadership, the law school expanded its clinics, recruited faculty members of national stature, broadened the curriculum to cover more national and international issues, and adopted a more interdisciplinary approach to teaching law.

“If you look at the law school the way I found it in 1967 and the law school today, the differences are simply enormous,” Dean Sacks said in an oral history interview in 2010, citing the proliferation of scholarly events, clinics and law reviews. “The school has just changed much more, I think, than, say, Yale or Harvard. And what I did in retrospect is to lay something of a foundation, and my successors carried on not always in the same way, but with the same goals.”

Dean Sacks steered the law school through a time when national tumult over the Vietnam War carried over onto campus. When a law school clinic represented clients challenging state laws enacted to constrain war protests, he weathered threats that the state would eliminate funding for the clinical programs.

His successor, Phillip Blumberg, who is credited with engineering the law school’s move to its current location on the grounds of the former Hartford Seminary, praised Dean Sacks for a wide range of improvements to the law school. “We stand on the shoulders of giants,” Dean Blumberg often said.

“His was a life of public service and dedication to the law,” said the law school’s current dean, Timothy Fisher. “We owe him a great debt of gratitude for putting the UConn School of Law on the path to where we are today.”

Dean Sacks was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in political science. He enrolled at Yale Law School in 1941, left to serve in the Army in Europe from 1942 to 1945, reaching the rank of captain, and then returned to Yale and graduated in 1948.

He worked in private practice and for the federal Wage Stabilization Board and the Army Department Counselor's Office before joining the faculty of Northwestern University Law School in 1955. He also served as executive director of the National Council on Legal Clinics from 1960 to 1963.

After his tenure as dean at UConn School of Law, Dean Sacks remained as a professor until 1987, becoming known for his tough editing as a teacher of legal writing. He also served as a member of the Connecticut Board of Parole, a member of the national Board of the Legal Services Corporation, a labor arbitrator, and a special master for the U.S. District Court of Connecticut. He wrote books and articles about parole, arbitration, alternative dispute resolution, and ethical standards in state legislatures.

Dean Sacks moved to Chestertown, Maryland, in 2005, after the death of his wife of 50 years, Barbara Bevier Sacks. He was also predeceased by his dear friend, Jane Hellawell. He is survived by a brother and sister-in-law, Alvin and Helene Sacks of Bethesda, Maryland; three sons and daughters-in-law, Stephen Alden Sacks and Tomoko Sawada Sacks of Tokyo, Japan; David Bevier Sacks and Julie Barnett Abrams of Chevy Chase, Maryland; and Peter Wallace Sacks and Deborah Jacobs of Brookline, Massachusetts; a daughter, Susan Miranda Sacks Green of Rockville, Maryland; five grandchildren; and five nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at a date to be determined.