When I showed up at law school, I expected that I would, once again, rise to the top, that I'd be the best of the best. So I went to the first day of class and waited for my opportunity, the moment when I could raise my hand and offer the deep thought that everybody else had failed to consider. It never really came though. In fact, when I raised my hand in law school, I was likely doing it to gain permission to use the restroom, rather than to offer any valuable addition to the class discussion. I wasn't special any longer, at least not in the academic sense, but instead was surrounded by a school full of students who were just as good at the whole thinking thing as I was, if not better.
There is perhaps no better example of the normalcy of higher-level thinking that abounded at law school than S. If I were my grandpa's age, I'd say that S was "smart as a whip" while sucking on a butterscotch candy. One of my most humbling experiences during the three years in that bastion of smarty-pants came at the hands of S. We were about halfway through a semester, and S had been making me feel somewhat silly and entirely inadequate for most of that time. Then it got worse. As I was struggling to grasp an impossibly confusing concept, I glanced over at S and saw him taking the plastic wrapping off of his textbooks. Again, we were halfway through the semester. As it turns out, me plus textbooks was no match even for S without textbooks. I was a pitiful, inconsolable lump for at least a month after that tragic event.
For better or worse, I became accustomed to no longer being the top dog, or perhaps even a dog at all. It was tough, absolutely an adjustment, but I think it worked out in the end, and I hope I'm better for the experience. Being the best at something would be awesome, but being surrounded by the best also has its benefits. Because of law school, because of people like S who pushed me and challenged me, my best became a whole lot better, even if it wasn't as good as the next person's best. I can live with that.
Take, for example, DV. When I began law school, he was a lowly (sense my sarcasm) associate professor, teaching eager 1Ls the basics of Torts (including intentional infliction of emotional distress, which is, for reasons known only to a different professor, taught to only half of those eager 1Ls) and Foundations of Justice, a class "designed to equip students to discern and articulate the connections between law, social justice, and morality." He was my professor only briefly, but I thoroughly enjoyed being in his class, if not for the subject matter, then simply for the opportunity to watch him speak, teach, and lead.
By the time I graduated, less than three years later, DV was running that school. More specifically, DV became the Dean. Hence, the D before the V, not that I'd ever call him V, at least without an R before it. This somewhat sudden rise in DV's stock isn't entirely surprising though, considering he's been honored in just about every way a law school faculty member could be honored, including being named to The National Jurist's list of "23 Law Profs to Take Before You Die." So when I showed up to meet DV at Brit's Pub a little late, I wasn't quite sure if I should wander around trying to find him, or simply say to the host, "I'm looking for the Dean," and expect them to give me the red carpet treatment. I was looking forward to trying the latter, but then DV popped up and spoiled the fun hypothetical going on in my head.
As famous as DV may or may not be getting though, he still had time for me, both personally and as part of this project. That is something that I appreciate. I don't have any other law school deans to which I could compare him, but it's hard to imagine one that is kinder, more concerned with his students' well-being, or more suited for fame than my dean, DV.