by Jeff Sovern
Ralph was one of the original co-authors of the consumer law casebook I am now privileged to co-author. I met him when we were working on the third edition. He was a genial and gentle man, and absolutely brilliant. He was not only a great teacher of law students, but also a great teacher to law professors. Many of his contributions to the earlier editions of the casebook are still in the current edition, and even the parts he did not write were made better by his suggestions and his instruction about how to write a casebook. It's a blow to the world of consumer law that he is no longer able to participate in it. I will miss him.
Dee Pridgen, who joined the casebook team before I did and so had more time to work with Ralph, has sent along some comments. Here they are:
Tribute to Ralph Rohner, 1938-2020.
By Dee Pridgen, Professor Emeritus, University of Wyoming College of Law
Ralph Rohner was a giant in the field of consumer law and I am proud to have been associated with him over the course of my own career as a professor and scholar in the same field. I first met Ralph a few years after I graduated from law school at New York University, when I was hired at Catholic University law school in the mid-1970’s to teach Legal Writing for a year. Ralph was on the faculty there at that time, teaching consumer and commercial law. It was only later, after a stint at the Federal Trade Commission as a staff attorney in the Bureau of Consumer Protection, that I moved on to become a faculty member at the University of Wyoming and began my own academic career in earnest. At the Wyoming law school, I taught consumer law and started work on a treatise on the same subject. It was at this point, in the late 1980’s, that Ralph and his coauthor Andy Spanogle, invited me to join them as coauthors for a second edition of their casebook on Consumer Law, which was published in 1991. This was a transformative experience for me as I had the opportunity to work with these two pioneering scholars. The book is now in its fifth edition with two other excellent coauthors, Jeff Sovern and Chris Peterson. During this time, I was also familiar with, and often referred to, Ralph’s own Truth in Lending treatise, as well as his numerous scholarly articles on the subject. I was also grateful to him for hiring me as a visiting professor at Catholic University in the early nineties, to teach first year Contracts as well as Consumer Law.
What I learned from Ralph was invaluable. In the course of working with him on several editions of the casebook, I observed how gifted he was in the art of pedagogy. For instance, his discussion problems for the casebook were so interesting and well-crafted that they would stimulate students to probe the subject matter at hand in depth. He was also a wonderful colleague to work with on manuscripts, and never failed to make timely and relevant contributions to the ongoing versions of the casebook. He was up to date and relevant with case selections and notes, which form the core of any good casebook. Ralph was also both an advocate for sound consumer laws, as well as providing a balanced perspective on the subject through his associations with the banking industry. While I only worked at CU as a visiting professor for a year while Ralph was Dean, it was clear that he was a well-respected leader of the institution. He was also invariably kind and considerate toward me during my time at CU and during our work together on the casebook. My only regret is that the year I worked at CU in the 1990’s was the last year in the old dilapidated building prior to the move to the state of the art law school facility that could not have been built without Ralph’s unflagging efforts.
Ralph was a man of many impressive accomplishments as well as a person of flawless character. He will be missed.