‘Everybody’s favorite teacher’

Leslie Ridgeway • February 9, 2024
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A years-long friendship struck over a love of quirky humor and commercial law is the inspiration for an endowed scholarship for JD students at USC Gould School of Law.

Ron Martinetti (JD 1982), at the encouragement of his wife, Ky, has established the Martinetti Family Endowed Scholarship Honoring Professor Allan Axelrod. Axelrod was a highly regarded professor at Rutgers University who, as a visiting professor, taught over a period of 10 years at USC Gould. An expert on contracts, bankruptcy and commercial law, Axelrod’s influence led Martinetti to a successful legal career and enriched Martinetti’s family’s life in many ways.

It was the case of a wealthy woman donating her fortune to her cat that sealed the bond between student and teacher.

“One day I brought him that case, and he loved it,” Martinetti says. “Allan liked offbeat people. In addition to having a great analytical mind, he was very witty, didn’t take himself seriously, and he loved irony. He would recommend a novel and say the writer was an ‘ironist’— that was his highest intellectual compliment.”

Martinetti shared a love of the classic novel “Ivanhoe” with Axelrod, as well as strong opinions about academics in their area of scholarship and teaching. Martinetti remembers drawing the ire of the dean at a law school where he was teaching by remarking that a certain scholar was an “idiot” in the classroom.

“I told Allan, and he said [the scholar] is an idiot,” Martinetti says. “That’s the person he was. My classmates and I saw him as one of a kind. He was everybody’s favorite teacher.”

Axelrod was a visiting professor at law schools all over the country, as long as they were in cities that had a chamber orchestra, Martinetti says. His wide-ranging experiences and connections gave him the long view that led him to urge Martinetti to spend his third year of law school as a visiting student at the University of Chicago, where Axelrod said one of the best scholars in contracts was teaching. Axelrod even wrote a letter of recommendation, Martinetti says.

Martinetti and his wife made the decision to create the endowment after learning that the USC Gould Class of 1982 was creating a scholarship in the name of Class President Patrick Jordan. They could think of no better way to recognize an unforgettable mentor than by honoring his example.

“He was very special to my wife and me; and we both miss his friendship and wise counsel,” says Martinetti, who is of counsel at Bazan, Huerta and Associates, Inc. “Often in my practice, instead of looking before leaping, I would wonder, ‘How would this sit with Allan?’ And then — of course — I’d go ahead and leap. He would not have had it any other way.”

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