Life lesson: Despite serious health setback, Professor in a class of his own

By Chad Gromek & Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Philip Prygoski's passion and commitment to teaching have earned the Cooley Law School professor national recognition and, perhaps more importantly, lifelong friendships. Although no longer in the classroom, Prygoski continues to teach life lessons in perseverance following a stroke he suffered approximately a year ago.

In 2011, law practitioners across the U.S. recognized Prygoski when "What the Best Law Teachers Do" selected him for its nation-wide study of the country's top college law professors. The selection confirmed Prygoski's dedication to teaching and he responded by saying, "Being selected for inclusion in this study is an honor. I enjoy the ever-evolving dynamics of the law and feel privileged to share my knowledge with students and members of the legal profession." Harvard University Press will publish "What the Best Law Teachers Do" in the fall of 2013.

Prygoski is considered among the nation's elite law professors because he invokes a "passion to learn" in his students. Oakland County's 48th District Court Magistrate Peter Mansour studied law under Prygoski in the late '80s, and considered him "like an older brother."

Said Mansour: "He gave everything of himself to me and the other students whenever we needed some help. His willingness to share made you want to learn."

The Ingham County Bar Association was a beneficiary of Prygoski's generosity. For 30 years he and Cooley Professor William Weiner presented an update on the most recent term of the United States Supreme Court at the ICBA Luncheon Lecture Series.

Dubbed the Phil and Bill Show, Prygoski presented the civil cases of note while Weiner covered the Criminal docket. Local attorneys, law students, judges and fellow professors all attended the noon events, which were very popular. Prygoski's last appearance, his 30th, was in November of 2011.

Last month for the 34th time in his career, Prygoski was honored during the 2013 Thomas M. Cooley Law School graduation ceremony with the Stanley E. Beattie Teaching Award. Each year the graduating class votes this award to the law professor who, in its opinion, made the greatest contribution to the students' legal education.

Prygoski's daughter, Alicia, gave the acceptance speech on his behalf. Alicia conveyed her father's devotion to his students when she quoted him saying, "Every minute I have spent with you, the students, has been well worth it. This award is not just mine; it's yours! All of you contributed to it. Without you, and thousands of students before you, I could not be the professor I am today."

Prygoski was unable to give the acceptance speech himself because on March 21, 2012, while lecturing to a constitutional law class on Cooley Law School's Ann Arbor campus, he suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke. The tragedy left him paralyzed on his left side, and caused significant cognitive damage. He and his family are still struggling with the stroke's aftermath that has taken Prygoski away from what he loves most, teaching.

All of Cooley Law School's campuses are feeling the effects of his absence. Nate Milner, a teaching and research assistant to Prygoski, expressed his admiration for the Cooley professor.

"Professor Prygoski was a cut above the rest because he helped those around him regardless if they were his student or not," Milner said. "He wanted to help everyone."

After years spent offering help to others, Prygoski now finds himself in need of aid. The medical bills for Prygoski's rehabilitation are beyond his family's capabilities. Anyone interested in assisting with his recovery can visit the "donation" link at http://www.philsstrokerecovery.com/.

Published: Mon, Mar 4, 2013

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