Campus, News, Obituaries

Mark Pettit, the “singing law professor,” dies at 71

Boston University law professor Mark Pettit died due to cancer-related complications on June 8.

Pettit, who had taught at BU since 1977, primarily taught classes on contracts and evidence law, but he could teach on almost any law subject, fellow law professor Jack Beermann said.

“Basically he could teach anything,” Beermann said. “When there was a hole in the curriculum, the dean would ask him to teach something new and … he could just do it because he was so good.”

Pettit also previously served as associate dean for administration and routinely chaired the LAW admissions committee, LAW Dean Maureen O’Rourke wrote in an email.

Pettit was loved by his students, Beermann said, often earning perfect fives on teaching evaluations in classes of more than 100 people.

Pettit would often let students write song parodies about his course material, and he would then sing them in front of his class, earning him the nickname of “the singing law professor.”

“He was sticking his neck out and letting the students know that they could also do something that would make them feel uncomfortable in order to get to the next level,” Beermann said.

Pettit “embodied the essence of a true teacher, not just a scholar,” former LAW student Al Gordon O’Connell said.

“You could always tell that his joy was being with students, being in front of the classroom, and imparting that knowledge and interacting with students to make sure that they got the most out of their experience,” O’Connell said.

Pettit’s approachable and supportive nature bridged the gap between law students and law professors, O’Connell said.

“He took what could feel like a factory setting with hundreds of students churning through the mills and turned it into a place where you felt like there was someone who saw you and wanted you to succeed,” O’Connell said. “And I truly believe that because of him, I did succeed.”

Pettit was a role model who was always willing to help his colleagues, O’Rourke wrote.

“He was extraordinarily kind and unassuming while being an absolute powerhouse teacher with a passion for his students, colleagues and family that was beyond compare,” O’Rourke wrote.

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