Professor Hugh Ault – Reflections on BC Law and More Hall

I started teaching at BC Law in 1968, so the Class of 1969 and I are contemporaries. In fact, I still remember very well that first class, where I had a lot of Law Review guys who were testing a new young (28!) professor.

I have fond memories of More Hall, where I began my law career, before coming to BC Law, by taking the bar exam there in 1966. What I remember most about More Hall was a confessional next to Peter Donovan’s office which had been converted into a broom closet; also, the main classroom still had a crucifix on the front wall, which was covered up by a big Boston College banner whenever there was an event open to the general public.

When I came to BC Law, I was literally the junior on the faculty and the then-senior faculty–Dick Sullivan, Emil Slizewski, and John O’Reilly–were wonderfully supportive of the new members. Jim Smith was particularly kind in helping me get my bearings. He and I used to play squash together in the now- demolished Roberts gym, and he was as tough on the squash court as he was in Torts class. My first classes were a challenge as I wasn’t much older than some of the students, especially those who had been in the military, but I enjoyed it then and continued to enjoy it for the next 44 years.

During those early years, Vietnam was roiling the U.S., and there were several demonstrations at BC–one in particular involving an attempt to stop Dow Chemical from interviewing on campus. There were some sporadic attempts at organized strikes, and I remember a particularly contentious faculty meeting with the student leaders when one of the students passed me a note saying “Professor Ault, this too shall pass.” And he was right; things did calm down and soon we were off to Stuart and the Newton Campus.

Dick Huber succeeded Father Drinan as dean soon after I arrived and he provided outstanding leadership. I was young and brash at the time and didn’t fully appreciate how skillful Dick was, talking and talking and when the conversation was over you suddenly realized that you had lost your wallet to the pleasant man from Iowa. Dick did much to give BC Law its principal character: a sense of humanity and community. His personal touch with people, his ability to listen and find solutions, and above all, to treat people with respect, are still evident in the school.

For myself, I continued to teach at BC Law until 2012 when I took emeritus status. It was a wonderful place to spend my career, with great support for research and scholarship, pleasant colleagues, and–above all– rewarding relations with students.

My own specialty was international tax and on a sabbatical year in 1997, I went to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris to work on tax policy issues. I had an offer to stay at the OECD but didn’t want to leave BC Law and was able to work out an arrangement to continue to teach in the fall semester and work at the OECD for the rest of the year, which was a perfect compromise. After my “retirement,” I am continuing to do more or less the same things I did before, but no more classes, which I miss, and no more exam grading, which I don’t miss.

I hope to see all of you at your 50th Reunion this fall.

~ Hugh Ault

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