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Mrs. Ernst Lampé

Waltrud Lampé, widow of Ernst Lampé ’41, met her future husband in 1950. Waltrud had survived the terrors of World War II; Ernst was a lawyer on the staff of U.S. High Commissioner for Germany John J. McCloy, on a two-year assignment to help reorganize several German companies as part of the overall Marshall Plan.

The assignment brought Ernst back to Germany for the first time in almost two decades. He had left his homeland in the mid 1930s to pursue graduate studies at Oxford and the University of Barcelona. In 1937, he enrolled at Harvard Law School. He was personally sponsored by Paul Cravath, a founding partner of Cravath, Swaine and Moore. When Ernst’s funds were cut off by the onset of the war, Cravath loaned him the money to complete his degree.

After the nation returned to a peacetime economy, Ernst began his career as a corporate lawyer in New York City. But only a few years later, the combination of his legal education and his German language skills landed him a job on McCloy’s legal team—and helped him cross paths with his future wife.

“We met at a party,” Waltrud recalls. “We developed a nice friendship, which lasted most of his two years in Germany. And then, four weeks before he was going to leave, he asked me to marry him.”

Among the qualities that drew Waltrud to Ernst were his powerful intellect and inquisitive nature. He spoke five languages. He read incessantly. “He loved books,” Waltrud recalls. “I have hardly a photograph of him where he doesn’t have a book in his hands.”

Ernst died in 1982, and Waltrud began looking for an appropriate way to memorialize him. In 1984, she established the Ernst Lampé Memorial Book Fund at Langdell Library, and made additional contributions to the fund on a regular basis.

And Waltrud Lampé has found another way to honor her husband’s memory: she has stipulated in her will that a percentage of her estate will go to Harvard Law School. “I just felt that I wanted to do something to symbolize his strong feelings for the Law School,” Waltrud explains. “The School meant a great deal to him, and over the years has come to mean a great deal to me, as well. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from remembering my husband in this way, and I know he would feel exactly the same way, too.”