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Howard

Howard Lesnick

d. April 19, 2020

Howard Lesnick, 1931-2020 Howard Lesnick, the Jefferson B. Fordham Professor of Law Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania Law School died on Sunday, April 19, 2020, in hospice care after a brief illness at Foulkeways at Gwynedd, in Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Howard Lesnick was born into a Jewish family in New York City in 1931, the grandson of immigrants. Over the course of his career he inspired three generations of lawyers and law students to join in struggles against oppression and economic dispossession, and to view their work as an occasion to aspire to justice. As devoted to his family as to his work, he was an ardent source of regard, support, and love for his wife, children, and grandchildren. Howard Lesnick was raised in the Bronx, New York and Bangor, Pennsylvania. He earned a BA in History from New York University in 1952 and an MA in History from Columbia University in 1953. He served in the United States Army from 1953 to 1955, and returned to graduate from Columbia Law School in 1958 as Editor in Chief of the Law Review. He practiced as an attorney for a year, then served as a U.S. Supreme Court law clerk—one of the first Jews to do so—for Justice John M. Harlan,1959-60. Howard Lesnick began his career as a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1960. Over the next five and a half decades, Howard Lesnick taught and wrote in the fields of Labor Law, Income Security, Immigration Law, Professional Responsibility, and Religion in Legal Thought and Practice. He published dozens of influential articles in law journals, and five landmark books on moral education, professional responsibility, and religious consciousness in the law. During 1967-1969 he served as the founding director of the Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship program which trained the first generation of American legal services attorneys. As supervising director of Penn Law's clinic he expanded its work to encompass the emerging field of prisoners’ rights. In 1972 he helped to found the Society of American Law Teachers. In 1975 he designed a curriculum for the Bryn Mawr School of Social Work training social service professionals to work with legal systems. Beginning in 1978, Howard Lesnick served as an Impartial Umpire under the AFL-CIO Internal Disputes Plan. In 1982, Howard Lesnick left the University of Pennsylvania Law School to become the founding academic dean at the City University of New York’s Law School at Queen’s College. Under his leadership, CUNY Law established a course of study to prepare lawyers for careers in the service of human needs. Since then, CUNY Law has trained over 1000 lawyers and remains a flagship law school for public interest advocates. Howard Lesnick returned to the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1988 as the Jefferson B. Fordham Professor of Law. He helped to found the school’s Center on Professionalism. In 1989, Howard Lesnick was the architect of Penn Law’s Public Service Program. Under his guidance and advocacy, Penn Law established a pathbreaking requirement that every student undertake 70 hours of public service before graduation, and exponentially expanded opportunities and support for public service. In the last quarter century, over 6500 Penn Law students have completed more than half a million hours of service. In 2009, Penn Law established the Howard Lesnick Pro Bono Award, to honor a sustained career commitment to public service and/or pro bono work in the private sector. Over the course of his career, Howard Lesnick served as a member of the board of directors of the Center for Law and Human Values and Philadelphia Community Legal Services, on the advisory board for the Journal of Law and Religion, and as visiting fellow at the Center for Law and Social Policy. Among other awards, Howard Lesnick received a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship, the Society of American Law Teachers Distinguished Service Award, the Community Legal Services Equal Justice Award, the American Association of Law Schools Deborah Rhode Award for contributions to public service, and University of Pennsylvania Law School Beacon Award. A great many students, colleagues and mentees have been inspired by Howard Lesnick’s life and work. In addition to his professional accomplishments, Howard greatly enjoyed literature, live music, nature, and the life of the city. A lifelong drive to integrate skepticism with wonder led him to appreciate many philosophical, spiritual, and aesthetic modes of inquiry. He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Carolyn Schodt; his brothers and their spouses, Irving and Sheila Lesnick and Alan and Molly Lesnick; his children and their spouses, Alice Lesnick (daughter of Natalie Lipson Lesnick Schweitzer) and Robert Goldberg, Caleb Schodt and Carolyn Ingram, and Abigail Lesnick and Jonathan Marvinny; and four grandchildren, Lillian Goldberg, Lowell Nottage, June Goldberg, and Dylan Schodt. There will be a private graveside service with interment at Plymouth Meeting Friends Cemetery in Plymouth Meeting, PA. A memorial gathering will be held in Philadelphia at a later date. Contributions in memory of Howard Lesnick are welcome; the family suggests Community Legal Services and The Miquon School.
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