Foreign Flavor WSU Distinguished Professor has taught in China, The Netherlands, and Ireland

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

John Dolan's long and illustrious law career was pure serendipity. The Distinguished Professor of Law at Wayne Law fell into law "strictly by accident," he says.

"I was planning to change my major to journalism and wandered over by the Illinois Law School. It was a quiet day, and a secretary talked me into applying. I took the LSAT, gave her the results a few weeks later, and bang: I was a law student."

It was certainly a good career move for the Massachusetts native, even if it took second place to his original career dream.

"Well, only so many boys get to play second base for the Red Sox," he says with a smile.

Dolan, who was a core board editor of the University of Illinois Law Review and a member of the prize-winning national moot court team, did a federal clerkship in Illinois and then spent 10 years in private practice. He became an associate professor at Wayne Law in 1975, partly at the urging of his law school classmate, Wayne Law Professor Alan Schenk. After becoming a full professor in 1978, Dolan was named Distinguished Professor in 2000.

WSU students, the Law School, and the University have honored Dolan -- who currently teaches first-year Property, Secured Transactions, Commercial Systems, and a seminar on Commercial Law -- with various teaching honors, including the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching, and Donald H. Gordon Excellence in Teaching Award.

"Wayne students are generally a pleasure," he says. "They come here because they are self-reliant, mature, self-starters. They don't come to Wayne for basketball or football. They know they can learn here and in the real world at the same time.

"No place in Michigan is better located for that kind of experience. We Wayne faculty have great respect for our students."

In the spring, Dolan was Distinguished Foreign Visiting Professor at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing.

"China was exhilarating, exciting, and exhausting! The students are charmers, anxious to learn, anxious to please. My wife and I enjoyed getting to know them and their teachers," he says.

He has also taught in The Netherlands, at the University of Utrecht and the University of Maastricht.

"We've taught three times in The Netherlands, the first time in 1982, the beginning of a lifelong love affair with that terrific country," he says. "We're bikers, and The Netherlands is bikers' heaven. It's also flower lovers' heaven and captured my wife twice. We established serious friendships with faculty there that endure to this day."

Dolan, who holds dual citizenship with the Republic of Ireland, also taught at University College Dublin, taking him back to his ancestral roots.

"My grandmother was born there, and some of my dad's cousins," he says. "We lived in Dublin for a semester. Dublin was founded by the Danes and built by the Brits, 'Second city of the Empire' with London the first. Great architecture, fabulous courts, grand theater -- and they say their restaurants have improved!"

Stateside, he has taught at Marshall-Wythe School of Law, College of William & Mary; University of California, Hastings College of the Law; Ave Maria School of Law; and at the University of Michigan.

A prolific author with several books to his name, Dolan currently serves on the Board of Editors of the Banking Law Journal; and as Foreign Contributing Editor for the Banking & Finance Law Review. Amongst his many achievements, he served on a U.S. State Department Advisory Committee on Private International Law in connection with the drafting of UN Convention on Independent Guarantees and Stand-by Letters of Credit.

While still in law school, Dolan married piano major Carole Ann Winke, and they have three children and 10 grandchildren. He and his wife enjoy canoeing, biking, cross-country skiing -- "all old-timers' sports are our favorites," he says.

Published: Wed, Nov 2, 2011

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