Eulogy for Professor Peter Donovan delivered by his friend, colleague, and former student, Professor Bob Bloom ’71

Professors Donovan and Bloom and Tom Carey at the 2006 Reunion.

Peter was my teacher, colleague, and, most importantly, my friend. He would fondly call me Bloom, and I’m honestly not sure he knew my first name.

Let me first mention Eleanor, or, as Peter would refer to her, Saint Eleanor. “Bloom, she puts up with me, and I’m not easy.” In his later years of teaching, as his health declined, Eleanor would call me to keep an eye on him when we went out of town for law school conferences.

He was so proud of his son, Mark, and Kristen, and especially his grandchildren. He also had a wonderful relationship with his brother, Walter.

During his 39 years of teaching, Peter contributed greatly to the law school, but the contribution closest to his heart was the oral advocacy program. He devoted so much effort and time to coaching his various moot court teams. He would work with his students, sometimes until 2:00 in the morning. The students hated this at the time, but now, looking back at their experience, they would say it was the highlight of their law school careers. For me, Tom Carey, Frank Herrman, Rosemary Daly, Zyg Plater and many others who continue to coach advocacy teams, Peter was a role model. We can hear Peter’s loud yet sage advice to students faced with a difficult question, “Find a safe harbor.”

Peter was my teacher during the second semester of my third year for a course in corporations. I was told that he tried to be scary, but he was not. I had, shall we say, long hair and was a leader in various anti-war activities taking place in 1971. Each class day he would call on me, and he would ask, if I may quote, “Radical! What does your sense of fair play and substantial justice dictate in this case?” Needless to say, I was unable to “foxhole”––never finding a safe harbor. This constant harassment was against the long-held tradition that third-year law students are supposed to be free from being called upon. But this did not stop Peter. He was plenty scary! It is interesting to note that Peter was ahead of his time for a corporations teacher because he interjected continually the theme of justice into a business course. I worked hard on the course. What choice did I have? At any rate, that May my mother met him at my graduation, and certainly one way to influence and gain the undying respect and admiration from a mother, and, in particular, a Jewish mother, is to say something nice about her son. Peter told my mother how I was such a fine young man and how well brought up I was. So my mother got home from graduation and told me how she had meet this sweet, lovable man. I was shocked when she told me it was Professor Donovan––the man who had abused me during my last semester at law school!

As a colleague and teacher, I learned much from Peter about how to conduct a Socratic dialogue effectively. Peter would say, “Where else can you teach a student by terror but in law school?”

As friends for many years, we shared BC basketball tickets with Bob Smith. Peter always had strong opinions about BC sports. As a matter of fact, he had strong opinions about most everything.

The Talmud, from my tradition, has a saying that goes like this: “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’” Peter had so many students who were his blades of grass, and I am proud to say that I was one of Peter’s blades of grass, and Peter was my angel.

When asked about his three best memories of his teaching career, he said, “That’s easy. My three best memories in this order are students, students, students.” We all knew he really was not scary because behind that facade of terror was a man with a huge heart and great kindness who cared about us all.

Peter was alway very proud of his Irish heritage. On Saint Patrick’s Day, which is my birthday, Peter would lovingly accuse me of being Irish. I recall his taking me to Callahan’s restaurant to get corned beef and cabbage. So, my dear friend, let me end with an Irish prayer:

May the road rise to meet you;
May the wind be always at your back;
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
And rains fall soft upon your fields;
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his Hand.

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