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In Memoriam: Edwin “Rip” Smith
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Wednesday, August 3, 2016
In Memoriam: Edwin “Rip” Smith
Barrier-breaking international and environmental policy professor was 66
-By Gilien Silsby
Update: Please join the law school community as we celebrate the life of Prof. Edwin “Rip” Smith at USC's Town & Gown on Dec. 8, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. RSVP to email@example.com
Edwin “Rip” Smith, a beloved USC law professor, and steadfast supporter of his students and colleagues for 36 years, passed away Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016.
A renowned international and environmental policy attorney, Smith, 66, joined USC Gould School of Law in 1980, and was the Leon Benwell Professor of Law, International Relations and Political Science. He was the school’s first tenured minority professor.
“Rip has been a valued member of our faculty since 1980, teaching international law to generations of students,” said Dean Andrew Guzman. “The Gould community has lost a longstanding and irreplaceable member of our family.”
Known for his infectious smile, generosity and easygoing style, Smith was admired and respected by his students, many of whom he stayed in close contact throughout the years.
“Prof. Smith was a phenomenal professor and mentor to me,” said Josh Lockman ’08, a lecturer at USC Gould. “The opportunity to co-teach a class on international law alongside him was an honor and extraordinary opportunity I will never forget.”
|Prof. Smith joined the law school faculty in 1980. He was admired and respected by his students, with whom he remained in contact throughout the years.|
USC Gould Prof. Rebecca Brown said he had a “deep and authentic commitment” to his students. “It inspired me; he sought to infect them with the passion he felt about the topics that fascinated him, even when his twinkling eye revealed that he didn’t expect them necessarily to feel it.”
Smith, who earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University, also studied environmental law and was “keenly interested in the health of the oceans,” said USC Gould Prof. and former Dean Scott Bice.
“Environmental law was a relatively new field and Rip was one of the pioneers in the field. His interest in environmental issues led him to expand into international law, as the oceans, of course,affect many countries and addressing ocean health required international cooperation and treaty responses.”
|Rip Smith (right) with longtime friend and colleague Ron Garet.|
USC Gould Prof. Ron Garet who has known Smith since they were undergraduates at Harvard, said he was a cherished friend and colleague.
“Rip was a colleague on whom I relied, and the institution relied, for wise judgment on hard questions,” said Garet. “We grew up on the same beliefs about what our law school stands for and about how fortunate we are to live and work at such an extraordinary institution. And Rip’s life and work, and his grace say much about why our hearts feel loss at this time and also feel so thankful for the gifts bestowed on us.”
|Prof. Smith joined admitted students at Gould's annual Law Day in 2016.|
Before joining USC, Smith was an associate at Rosenfeld, Meyer & Sussman, a staff attorney for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a research associate with the Institute for Marine and Coastal Studies. While on the faculty, he spent a year as a Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Serving as U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Special Counsel for Foreign Policy. Smith was appointed by President Clinton as a science and policy advisor to the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and lectured internationally on United Nations-NATO cooperation in peacekeeping.
|Colleagues say that Smith's optimism was inspiring, even in the face of distressing world events.|
Alexander Capron, who joined USC law in 1985, said Smith’s optimism was inspiring even in the face of distressing world events.
"His involvement as a lawyer, public servant, and advisor to national and international officials made him a realist about the barriers to extending the rule of law into international relations, but his natural optimism left him hopeful that human progress in foreign relations was possible,” Capron said.
“Above all, as a person, Rip was one of the kindest, most generous, and least pretentious people I’ve known across nearly five decades in the academy, and I and all his colleagues at the law school are going to miss him very much.”
Comments & Tributes
Professor Lorraine Elliott, Academic Council on the United Nations System Chair, members of the ACUNS Board, and all ACUNS members
I first met Rip at the AALS hiring meeting when I was a candidate. It was the last interview of the second day, and whatever energy there was in the room came from Rip, with his enthusiasm for scholarship, teaching and USC Law. A few months later, Rip was in DC for meetings, and he invited me to have dinner with him. At that dinner, Rip took away my anxiety about moving across the country and starting an academic career and turned it into excitement for the road ahead. As an expert on international law among other topics, Rip was a wonderful mentor for me -- a young scholar at the time writing about international trade and looking to expand my portfolio. Rip would be the first to congratulate people on any success or to encourage them when they hit a bump in the road. Rip was a joy to learn from whether the subject was a technical legal topic, current events, or how to live a good life.
Rip was intelligent, committed and warm, with a good sense of humor. I remember sitting around the faculty club one day eating lunch with colleagues when the question of Rip’s nickname came up. Rip told us he came by it the same way Indiana Jones came by his. We looked around quizzically, then someone asked, were you named after the family dog? Rip just smiled. I guess I’ll never knew whether Rip was named for his dog or he was just pulling our legs. There is much I am thankful for and remember fondly from my years at USC, and Rip is central to many of those good memories.
Michael S. Knoll
Professor, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Professor, University of Southern California Gould School of Law (1990 – 2000)
I am as heartbroken as his other friends to learn of the loss of Rip Smith, who had a USC joint faculty appointment in International Relations. I was fortunate to know this smart, kind, dedicated man beginning in the 1980s. I remember well the period a generation ago when he and I worked energetically though unsuccessfully to recruit Anne-Marie Slaughter to USC Law and IR. I remember his leading a national research program to bring scholars of international law and international relations together and induce them to pay more attention to one another, which they did. Later I headed the IR undergraduate honors program, and when I had a student interested in international legal issues, I knew Rip would not hesitate to spend scarce time advising them too. In recent years we saw each other occasionally off campus at Council on Foreign Relations seminars. Especially given how much he had to bear in his life, I feel his cheerful grace and generosity still shine as a powerful inspiring light.
USC Professor Emeritus of International Relations
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