Post Date: December 7, 2005

David Westfall, who held the John L. Gray and Carl F. Schipper, Jr. professorships at Harvard Law School, died earlier today, surrounded by his family. He was 78.

Westfall possessed wide-ranging expertise in labor law, family law, and estate planning. He was the author, co-author, or editor of a number of scholarly publications. His volume on family law was published in 1994, and the fourth edition of his casebook and supplement on Estate Planning Law and Taxation (with George P. Mair and Rebecca Benson) appeared in 2001.

In a statement to the Harvard Law School community today, Dean Elena Kagan said: “Before he became a colleague, David was a teacher of mine, and he was always exceedingly generous to me. I will miss him, as I know a great many of you will. David served this school devotedly for 50 years, and we should all be grateful.”

He joined the Harvard Law faculty in 1955, and became a tenured professor of law in 1958. In 1980 he assumed the John L. Watson, Jr. chair, which he held until 1983, when he became the John L. Gray Professor of Law. Since 1996, he had also occupied the Carl F. Schippers, Jr. chair. When the Law School instituted its new 1L section program in 2002, Westfall was one of the first faculty members to sign up to be a section leader. He continued to serve in this capacity until the year before his death.

“David was not only a strong academic colleague, he was also a perfect gentlemen and good friend to many,” said Visiting Professor Peter Murray. “His willingness to listen, his open-mindedness, his helpful advice and his understated humor have endeared him to generations of students and friends alike.”

Westfall received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Missouri in 1947, and received his LL.B. in 1950 from Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Harvard Law Review. He practiced law at Bell, Boyd, Marshall & Lloyd in Chicago, from 1950 to 1955.

Professor Westfall was a member of the American College of Trust & Estate Counsel, and was an Assistant Reporter to the American Law Institute from 1961-66. From 1964-68 he was a consultant to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Since 1991 he had served as a member of the ALI’s consultative group on the principles of the law of family dissolution.

A memorial service at Harvard Law School will be scheduled for after the new year.