John Gardner at Home

Memories from Chantal Thomas

The news of John's passing left a wake of great sadness and profound reverence for the measure of the thinker and the friend that the academy has lost. Others, much more qualified than I, will testify to John's brilliance and to his contributions to the philosophy of law. For my part, I want to testify to John's warmth, generosity, and breadth. I encountered John only a handful of times over the course of our shared time in academe, and yet I truly felt, as I know many did, that I could count him as a colleague and fellow traveler. Each of those few times is distinctly memorable for me, and, each time, I learned something important, not only about law but about life. I always felt that, should I want to discuss something, anything -- a puzzle, a problem, a topic of interest -- with John, he would gladly take up the matter with me, roll up his sleeves, and see what we could discover together. Somehow he was able to make me feel that what I had to say was worthwhile, and worthy of his curiosity.

Over time I realized that this was one of John's very great gifts, and one which he bestowed to countless scholars and students. He simply gave - of his time, his interest and his intellect. As a small example, I recall chatting with John just before he was to deliver a distinguished lecture in conjunction with his distinguished visit at Cornell (where I teach). He was considering how he would present not only his own thoughts, but also how he would draw upon points that each of the colleagues with whom he'd spent time at Cornell had made in his discussions with them. This struck me as absolutely characteristic of John -- engaged, thoughtful, vigorous, and incredibly gracious. We have indeed lost so much, but for having known and observed John, all of us, who were privileged enough to do so, were also privileged to witness someone for the ages. My thoughts and deepest condolences go out to his loved ones.