Stan Wheeler Mentorship Award Winners

Year

Individual(s)

Basis for the Award

2014 Jacques Commaille
Ecole Normale Superieure de Cachan
Jacques Commaille is an extraordinary mentor.   As a pioneer in interdisciplinary studies he dedicated his career to building a field “from scratch” in which his students and colleagues could thrive.   Jacques inspired students to follow his lead, nurturing their scholarship and love of research while guiding and supporting development of their careers.  Former students described Jacque’s “contagious enthusiasm,”  “deeply passionate” engagement with their work, and “empathy and intelligence” that made him “an unparalleled mentor.”  One said, “He has the desire—and skill—needed to help students articulate that which they themselves want to do and then to help them bring this to fruition.”  Another wrote, “Jacques is the role-model who most often comes to my mind.”  All are qualities shared by the best mentors, but Jacques has given his students much more.  Over many years of effort Jacques has established research institutes, secured teaching positions, created publications and funded research projects, winning the hearts of students within his own country and from abroad while welcoming collaboration with colleagues across the globe to enrich these opportunities.  He and his former students have played an important part in establishing law and society in France as an internationally recognized field of teaching and scholarship.   For his extraordinary dedication to mentoring, Jacques Commaille is winner of the Law and Society Association’s Stanton Wheeler Mentorship Award for 2014.
2013 Lawrence M. Friedman
Stanford University

Lawrence M. Friedman has served as a beloved mentor to generations of students, colleagues, and scholars in the law and society tradition. Teaching over many years in a law school environment, he has educated and inspired not only his JD students but also undergraduate students and students in other graduate programs and professional schools. Students from outside the United States benefited from the international legal studies programs that Lawrence has helped to sustain. Colleagues near and far regard him as a model of “first-rate citizenship and institution-building for the profession at large.”

Lawrence Friedman’s mentorship goes well beyond inspiring others by outstanding teaching and brilliant and prolific scholarship. Many nominators wrote movingly of the way in which Lawrence Friedman took deep interest in their personal well-being and professional development. He offered trenchant advice and unflagging support that transformed their lives.

  • “I may not have found my place in legal education at all, but for Lawrence’s insightful tutelage and sheer tenacity in laboring long term as my mentor.”
  • “He believed in my potential as a scholar, perhaps even more than I did myself.”
  • “Without Lawrence’s support for my research and teaching ambitions, I truly do not know whether I would have been able to pursue the path that I have to this day.”
  • “His influence and his example impressed upon me the importance of doing everything I can to mentor my own students.”

For his outstanding mentorship of law and society scholars, Lawrence Friedman richly deserves the Stan Wheeler Mentorship Award.

2012 Valerie Hans Valerie Hans is a superlative mentor who has made enormous contributions to the development of young scholars from many disciplines, drawing them into the law and society field, improving their scholarship, and advancing their careers. “Mentoring is in Professor Hans’ DNA,” said one letter. “She is incapable of encountering a younger scholar without seeing potential in them and working to help them fulfill that potential.” In doing so, Valerie is remarkable not only for generously giving of her time and scholarly acuity, as all fine mentors do, but also for many “above and beyond” attributes and actions. Among them are the unflagging energy and dedication Valerie devotes to mentorship; her especially warm, kind, supportive personal manner; the frequency with which she co-authors papers with students and younger scholars; and her construction of numerous institutional mechanisms that integrate students from multiple disciplines and nations into the community of sociolegal scholars.

As just some examples of the latter, at Cornell Law School Valerie helped create a new JD/PhD program that trains students in law and social science, and created a committee that encourages current and former law students to pursue a teaching career – and helps them do so. She has co-founded and co-chairs two LSA International Research Collaboratives through which she helps young international scholars develop journal publications, travel to meetings, and (as one nomination puts it) does many “small acts of kindness.” A Cornell colleague emphasizes that Valerie’s “mentoring has well served not only her home institutions, but the entire field of law and social science.”

Finally, the intergenerational impact of Valerie Hans’s open-hearted style of mentoring is highlighted by a former student who wrote, “In our profession and in life, we all need a mentor, a guide, a teacher, a friend – someone to take our hand and lead us where we want to go but are too afraid, too unsure to go all alone. Dr. Hans has taught me this valuable lesson, something I am trying to model with my own students.”
2011 Kiyoshi Ikeda A “mentor of mentors,” Kiyoshi Ikeda imprinted a cross-cultural generation of individuals who played formative roles for the Law and Society Association in particular and in shaping the field in general. Nominations from former students and colleagues document an engagement with Ikeda spanning over 50 years. Their commentary portrays a man for whom mentorship is a way of life. Recognizing that Ikeda’s pattern transcended the traditional notion of academic mentoring, a longtime colleague emphasized that for Ikeda, “helping other people achieve their potential was at the very core of his life, and he expressed it in virtually every interaction.” His tenacious, yet thoughtful, shepherding helped advance promising students from ordinarily marginalized demographic backgrounds and showed how to use a discipline to improve lives. His generous mentorship was not limited to students in his classes, but extended to students in other programs and schools. His deep commitment could be seen in how he supported his students, whether this meant driving them to important meetings, helping them navigate the challenges of conducting research in unorthodox settings, or undertaking more orthodox mentoring tasks. A cohort of his early undergraduate mentees recall that he treated them with great respect, as collaborators and professionals.

Notwithstanding the pivotal importance of undergraduate education, mentorship at the undergraduate level is seldom given the credit or support it deserves in the academy. It also fitting to note an early connection between Ikeda and Stan Wheeler, who at Russell Sage was instrumental in funding a research project of Ikeda’s in Hawai’i that helped launch law and social science careers for the participating students. Ikeda’s mentoring was not limited to undergraduates; he helped found the Hawaiian Sociological Association and is widely acknowledged in graduate and published works on issues pertaining to heterogeneous groups. At the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Emeritus Professor Ikeda is appreciated for having achieved “change for the good without confrontation.” Fondly known as someone who “mentors everyone in sight – undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty,”
2010 Howard S. Erlanger As one nominator observed, “For the field of law and society, Howard Erlanger is a mentor par excellence. He has devoted most of his career to fostering excellent law and society scholarship by mentoring young scholars, and for that, the field owes him a great debt. There is a vast network of young, and now not-so-young, law and society scholars whose research, writing, and academic well-being have benefitted from incredibly helpful mentoring by Howie.” Howie’s mentorship is recognized both within the extensive University of Wisconsin system and the larger law and society community. Howie enthusiastically mentors numerous law and society graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin, including students in law, political science, and sociology. In 2004, Howie received the Underkofler Award for Distinguished Teaching (a career achievement award) from the University of Wisconsin system. As Review Section Editor of Law and Social Inquiry since 1982, Howie seeks out graduate students and young faculty to give them an opportunity to publish, reading drafts and helping them turn vague ideas into well-cited essays. In addition to creating and raising money for the Hurst Institute (an intensive biennial two week program for advanced graduate students and new faculty interested in legal history), Howie founded the Midwest Law and Society Retreat (a conference designed to offer graduate students the opportunity to participate in a regional conference) and the University of Wisconsin Aardvarks to mentor young law professors in the art of teaching. During his LSA Presidency from 2003-05, Howie established the LSA Connections Committee (to make young scholars feel welcome at LSA meetings and to connect them with senior scholars). He is a long-time supporter of LSA’s Graduate Student Workshop and Summer Institute and the more recently established joint LSA/ABF Law and Social Science Dissertation Fellowships.
2009 Robert A. Kagan
(co-winner)

Austin Sarat
(co-winner)
It is fitting that the inaugural award of the Stan Wheeler Mentorship Award should go to two of Stan’s mentees.  In a symposium that Bob Kagan and Austin Sarat organized (along with Patty Ewick) to honor Stan, they reflected on his legacy as a mentor:

“This…is but a small tribute to Stan’s extraordinary career and to the virtues of generosity and excellence, which have been combined so powerfully in Stan Wheeler the person.  We seek to recognize his deep and selfless investment in a generation of scholars who he did so much to nurture and his superb example of what it means to be a scholar.  We are all deeply in his debt.”

Austin and Bob emulated Stan’s generous spirit and channeled their energies to different sectors and activities within our intellectual community.

Bob Kagan was recognized by his students, colleagues, and by scholars spanning the globe, disciplines, and generations who described him as a devoted and unflaggingly generous mentor who creates for mentees an atmosphere of intellectual camaraderie and discovery.  They characterize him as a tough and demanding critic, with exacting standards and high expectations, and a reputation for consistently offering thoughtful, constructive, incisive and incredibly thorough comments – often on draft after draft. “He has a talent,” said one, “for getting to the heart of an argument, bringing fresh insights to bear and turning a sow’s ear into a purse.” Yet his personal warmth allows students to overcome the inherent insecurities of graduate school, as he takes every idea seriously, and draws the best out of us all by wrestling early thoughts into full works of scholarship.   Many commented on Bob’s creativity in helping them develop novel and innovative research agendas.  He demonstrates a genuine enthusiasm for the material and imparts a joy in taking on fascinating substantive and theoretical questions, a gentle push away from dull or stereotyped topics, and a willingness to take on old questions in new ways.  Through his advice, criticism, and encouragement, he has changed the course of their scholarly careers.  By his example, they have learned how to be better teachers and mentors themselves.

Austin Sarat has been lauded for his many contributions to the cultivation of new scholars both institutionally and individually.  He is recognized for creating and nurturing varied institutions that support or showcase new scholars – from the LSA graduate student workshop and summer institute, to a new professional association in law and the humanities and myriad publishing venues – and for serving on countless committees to find ways to support graduate students and young professors.  At the individual level, Austin is described as generous, responsive, energetic, always available, always willing to talk and to listen, even to those to whom he has no institutional ties or responsibilities.  Mentees commented on his invaluable professional advice and feedback on their work.  He shows an unwavering respect for students and colleagues; he elicits our achievement by exhibiting a remarkable faith in our capacity to think and work at the highest levels.  They also remarked on Austin’s commitment to creating, enriching, and extending interdisciplinary networks, in proactively welcoming in new scholars, introducing and connecting them with others, and providing opportunities for engagement.   As two nominators observed, “We marvel at how instrumental one person could be in forging an intellectual community; in populating that community with scholars at every level of development; in creating countless venues for the exchange of ideas and collaborative engagement; and in dissolving the sorts of barriers to exchange and collaboration that commonly isolate students and scholars working in such diverse disciplinary contexts.”