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Remembering law professor Alphonse Squillante

Few first-year law students in professor Alphonse Squillante's "Contracts I" class have forgotten "Papa Bear."

As one "cub" (as he affectionately called his first-years) remembers, "The first 20 minutes of his class nearly caused us to abandon all hope and quit school before we started," wrote Robert Martineau Jr., JD '83, in a 1999 Cincinnati Law Review dedicated in memory of Squillante.

On the first day of class, the "gentle giant" --who taught at UC from 1975-93 and died in '99 -- would call a student to the front of class to face questions from "Judge Squillante." To the dismay of his classmates, the capable student fired back detailed responses, discussing the facts and citing case notes, instead of wilting at the legal grilling.

"The rest of us watched in amazement, thinking we clearly had chosen the wrong profession," wrote Martineau. "After a few moments of looking at the sheer terror on our faces, Professor Squillante introduced the 'student' who had just given such an unbelievable presentation. He was not a first-year, but rather Squillante's research assistant."

Squillante used the ruse to challenge each in the class to put in the necessary work to be able to match his assistant's performance by the end of the year.

"It is easy to stand in front of the class and tell students you have to work hard to succeed in law school," according to Martineau, who later became Squillante's research assistant. "His vivid demonstration laid the challenge plainly before our eyes and ears, and we all saw how much work we had to do."

Students of the 1991 Cohen Award winner will recall, if nothing else, Squillante's size.

"First of all, he was big," writes Thomas Coffey, CCM '81, JD '87. "Not merely outsized, or ample, but truly of colossal proportions.

"Al Squillante had big hands, strong arms and a massive torso, which seemed custom made for carrying the copious loads of legal work he imposed upon himself. With one of his cherished cigars clamped in his teeth, Alphonse gave fresh meaning to the word 'imposing.'"

Getting ready for a Squillante class took serious preparation, as he treated the classroom like a courtroom and could be relentless in his questioning. And if he called on you, he expected an answer. "Pass" was not an option.

"Wobbly kneed, first-year students soon became confident advocates, all within the first semester of law school," his colleagues Jorge Carro and William Rands recalled in the Law Review. "Al worked their minds like a sculptor shaping clay into beautiful works of art."