Beloved “singing professor” inspired thousands of students throughout his four decades at BU Law.
Professor Mark Pettit Jr., known to many as the “singing professor” for his playful renditions of classic and contemporary songs in his first-year Contracts class, passed away on Friday, June 8, 2018 after a long and hard-fought battle with cancer.
A dedicated member of the Boston University School of Law faculty since 1977, Professor Pettit taught thousands of students in the areas of contracts, evidence, consumer law, and professional responsibility. He twice served as associate dean for administration and annually chaired the admissions committee.
Professor Pettit’s incomparable teaching style introduced props and law-themed parodies of Top 40 hits to entertain 1L students in his Contracts class. The idea grew out of poem a former student wrote about a case under discussion. More poems followed, until a few years later a student brought in a song to be sung to the tune of The Brady Bunch. The practice continued from there, and many students and alumni recall fondly the Pettit classics, “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Nose,” “Breach It,” “Smoke Ballin’,” and “Statute of Frauds.”
In a 2007 interview with NPR, Pettit said his “shtick” was “really about breaking the tension in class.” And that “his willingness to embarrass himself in front of students encourages them to take more risks as well, and they participate more in class.”
His methods paid off. He was a beloved professor who in 1993 was recognized with the Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest honor for faculty at Boston University. He received a Silver Shingle Award for Service to the School in 2001, and at this year’s Commencement ceremony, Dean Maureen O’Rourke and the BU Law community honored him with the Michael W. Melton Award for Excellence in Teaching. He also received awards from the dean for his service and teaching.
Earlier this year, Professor Pettit’s current students paid tribute to him with a song of their own:
Before joining the BU Law faculty, Pettit served as an associate at the New York City law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore and as a clinical fellow and staff attorney for the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago. He was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School in fall 1999 and spring 2001 and was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Evidence Law.
“It is hard for me right now to find the words to express how much Professor Pettit meant to me and to the School of Law. I treasured his friendship and, like many of our faculty and students, considered him a role model,” Dean O’Rourke says. “As much as his humor and warmth inspired his colleagues and law students for decades, it is his goodness of heart that we will miss most. I send my deepest condolences to all of us and especially to his beloved sons, Eric, Andy, and Tim, and their families. We will never forget him.”
We will hold a memorial and celebration of Professor Pettit’s life this Friday, June 15, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. at Marsh Chapel at BU followed by a reception in Barristers Hall. All are invited to attend.
Professor Pettit’s family has generously established the Mark and Elaine Pettit Scholarship Fund at the School of Law. To donate, please visit our BU Giving page.
Sign the guestbook and view the entries below.
I was fortunate enough to have taken both my Contracts and Professional Responsibility classes with Prof. Pettit and I cannot put into words just how much I learned from him. Pettit was a man that I truly respected and my deepest condolences go to his friends and family.
Joseph Duquette (’19)
Professor Pettit was far and away my favorite professor in law school. He was an inspiration day in day out and his legacy will be remembered and cherished by all those who had the honor of being in his classroom.
Farhad Amid (’03), McKuin Frankel Whitehead LLP
Stuart Hurowitz (’92)
Always great memories of Contracts and Evidence with Pettit. Very sorry that my son (class of 2022) will miss out on having him for first year Contracts.
Kevin G. Chapman (’86), Dow Jones & Company
I just want to express my sadness to his family on the passing of Professor Pettit. RIP.
One of the best professors I’ve ever had the privilege to know. He was incredibly caring, dedicated to teaching his students in such creative ways, and truly a joy to learn from. It is truly a loss to the BU Law community and the world at large. He will be so very missed.
May his memory be a blessing.
Anat Maytal (’09)
Professor Pettit was a wonderful teacher but, even more, he was a truly lovely human being. I am at a loss for words at the enormity of this loss, and am sorry that his light has been lost to the world.
My condolences to the Pettit family. RIP to an intelligent, compassionate and supportive mentor – the entire BULS community will miss this great man.
Sharon Gerstman Chapman (’86), BULS
I am sure I won’t be the only one to write that I am having difficulty expressing in words how much Professor Pettit means to me. He was exactly, precisely, the definition of what I expected and dreamed of in a law school professor– he had high expectations, was demanding, and was tough, but he cared deeply and obviously about his students, was dedicated to them actually learning (to the point where I heard him answer the exact same question in office hours three times in a hour without losing any patience or becoming agitated or annoyed, as I certainly would have), and brought levity into the classroom to bring a perfect balance to what is otherwise a hectic and hazy 1L experience. I was fortunate enough to have a bit of a relationship with Professor Pettit outside of the classroom, singing the “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Nose” duet with him during my 2L and 3L years, and was fortunate to learn Evidence from him (in addition to 1L Contracts), which was one of my very favorite law school classes.
I count my blessings for having been able to learn from and know Professor Pettit. He was a spectacular professor and a lovely man. He is missed.
Jaclyn Reinhart (’17)
Professor Pettit was by far my favorite professor because of his striking charisma, kindness, and humor. It was self-evident how much he loved to teach and how much he cared about his students, both academically and personally. My deepest and sincerest condolences to his family and friends.
Christina Denbow (’19)
My takeaways from Professor Pettit’s class at BU Law are:
1. A sense of humor is invaluable;
2. Being kind is essential and it doesn’t cost anything;
3. Family is key;
4. Friends are also key;
5. Tell good stories to help illustrate your point.
Nobody will ever forget the Green Hornet examples, his many class props, and the lovely stories he told about his kids. It was so different from other professors and such a welcome relief. I am so sorry he is gone from us, but it was such a joy to know him.
Eileen Morrison (’86), Law Office of Eileen Morrison
Brandan Ray (’18), Former Student
Mark was just the nicest person on the faculty. He never uttered a bad word about anyone at the school. Despite all of his achievements, as well as his unrivaled popularity among the students, Mark was a modest man – an uncommon trait among faculty. I got to work with Mark on the Admissions Committee. He knew everything about admissions, and his voice will be greatly missed. The law school will not be the same without him.
Robert Volk (’78), BU Law Faculty
He was an inspiring teacher, and person. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, colleagues and fellow students, he will be missed.
Yevgeniy Yalon (’17), Dechert LLP/ BU Alumnus
Mark Pettit was a wonderful person whose absence leaves a huge hole in the heart of BU LAW. He was a generous colleague, a terrific teacher, and the kindest individual one could hope to know. Mark was a quiet leader, demonstrating that leadership during his chairmanship of the Admissions Committee. He was a great supporter of the law school’s public interest initiatives and served as the faculty advisor to the Public Interest Law Journal.
Condolences to his family, whom he loved above all else.
Wendy J. Kaplan, BU Law Faculty
Terribly sad to hear of Prof. Pettit’s passing, but what’s more important is the life that he lived. He was kind, brilliant, and modest. He was my professor for a full year in contracts as a 1L, then again for evidence in my 2L year. In my practice, I can honestly say that I think of Prof. Pettit almost daily as a result of his teaching.
David Eagleman wrote that there are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time. I think it’s safe to say Prof. Pettit’s memory will live on long after his passing, as he has touched so many lives, in such meaningful ways. Rest in peace, Professor. You will be missed.
Benny Ortiz (’06)
Professor Pettit inspired me to reimagine what was possible in legal education.
I came to BU Law after spending several years studying how to use drama as a teaching tool as part of my undergraduate studies in theater education, so it was a delightful surprise to find out that my 1L contracts professor incorporated songs into his curriculum — I took it as a sign that I had made the right choice to come to BU.
Not only did Professor Pettit’s songs help us all to remember those many cases, but his willingness to attempt singing all these student-written “masterpieces” dissolved the fear and tension inherent in 1L classrooms and, at least in my case, contributed to an environment of collaboration over competition.
Professor Pettit was also incredibly kind and genuinely cared about his students. I was amazed when I returned to BU Law more than 10 years after taking his course that he not only remembered who I was, but even remembered little thinks, like my involvement in a community theater group during law school.
He leaves behind a legacy of truly exceptional greatness in legal education and I feel so very lucky to have had the opportunity to be his student. I will forever be inspired by him to think outside the box to discover new ways to engage students in a law school classroom.
Christina Rice (’07), Director of BU Graduate Tax Program
To all the Pettit Family,
Mark was a beloved colleague, and mentor. He was generous with his time, an exemplar of excellence, and the best among us. I am grateful to have worked with him, and only wish I could have worked with him longer. When on the fence about the opportunity to come to BU, or to take a more lucrative position in DC, it was videos of your father singing to students, and being sung to by students, that turned the tide towards BU. I will always be grateful to him for being that model of excellence that brought me here.
You are in my thoughts and prayers,
Gerry Muir, BU Law, colleague
Mark Pettit and Dan MacLeod were by far the two most outstanding law school professors I had at BUSL. Maybe it was 1L nerves, but Mark rose among all other professors with his wit and energy. I was happy to continue a relationship with Jim for many years after graduation. A shockingly sad loss among Section D Class of 1990 I can tell you that.
Ed Goddard, (’90), Kindred Healthcare
Professor Mark Pettit unequivocally placed students first. He pushed us and expected a lot. He also understood and respected the tension between excitement and pressure we felt entering BU Law as 1Ls. His singing, combined with his pure love of the contracts and evidence law, brought a bit of whimsy to what was undoubtable a stressful time for many students.
His teaching made BU Law a better place. I count myself lucky to have taken Prof. Pettit’s Contracts course, and I know I’m a better lawyer and person for having known Mark Pettit.
David Rod (’12), UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency
As an incoming 1L, I already knew I was lucky to have Professor Pettit as my Contracts professor. He lived up to his reputation that year (and the following years in my Evidence and Consumer law courses). His songs and his teaching style were engaging and endearing. But what I’ll remember him for most was his complete compassion in the loss of our classmate 2L year. My heart is with his dear friends and family. May the same compassion he showed surround them all now.
Katherine Hiner (’09)
I find myself humming Professor Pettit’s Contracts tunes even now as I study for the bar. All of my condolences to his family and friends – he will be sorely missed.
I have the privilege of being taught by Professor Pettit for both contracts and evidence. He was one of the best teachers I’d ever had. He had a way of making very dry material come to life. His lessons were clear, thoughtful and memorable. And more than that, he was a compassionate, funny man who was truly a pleasure to know. I can’t imagine the school without him.
Jen Lunsford (’09)
Great person, generous teacher, and always encouraging to us as students. I think of the lessons he taught us about legal ethics very often. My condolences to his family and many friends and colleagues.
Alex Mooradian (’15), Glickman, Sugarman, et. al.
Best regards and my prayers for Pr. Pettit and my family. I enjoyed him greatly as a professor.
Bertrand FB (’07)
Mark is the teacher we all want to be, the colleague we wish we could be, a cheerful, patient, caring mentor to students, faculty, and friends. I count him a saint, our saint.
David Seipp, BU Law Faculty
Being kind is more difficult that being clever. Professor Pettit was both, and he will be missed. Condolences to the Pettit family.
Alicia Ryan (’04), Fenwick & West LLP
Condolence to Mr. Pettit’s family.
Duo Liu (’17), The Kasen Law Firm, PLLC
My first day – first class – was Contracts with Professor Pettit. His kindness, friendly demeanor and absolute love of the Red Sox are things I will never forget. In particular, I will never forget a debate he and I got into regarding the UCC and how he “rolled” me, but in his playful and witty way. I am so sorry to have read of BU’s (and the Pettit family’s) tremendous loss. My memories of law school were not always great, but Professor Pettit’s special way of teaching and of bonding with his students will be something I will remember to my dying day.
Matthew Rosenbaum (’89), NYS Supreme Court
Professor Pettit was such a wonderful man and teacher and made all of his students feel comfortable and supported. I was lucky enough to have him for Evidence and I use the lessons he taught me almost every day in my practice as a public defender. His ability to be vulnerable and laugh at himself in order ease tensions and encourage student activity was truly something special. He will be greatly missed and I send my prayers and love to his family and friends.
Christie O’Rourke (’15), CPCS
Professor Pettit made learning the law interesting and accessible. He wasn’t trying to intimidate his students but make them realize the law could be fun. He worked hard to hone his craft and his students loved him for that. My deepest condolences to his family.
Marisa Chaves (’04), Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP
I was blessed to have had Professor Pettit for Contracts in my first year at BU Law. He brought humanity to his students, the classroom, and the study of law.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Law School community.
Seth Brewster (’87), Eaton Peabody
My condolences to the Pettit family. I was not fortunate enough to have Professor Pettit as an instructor, but I remember fondly his participation in Legal Follies, particularly his rounding rendition of the rap classic, “You Down with UCC (Yeah, You Know Me).” Professor Pettit’s death is a loss to the entire BU Law community.
Elizabeth Glener Gallay (’92), City of New York Law Department
Professor Pettit was incredibly dedicated, caring, and such a joy to learn from. He turned Evidence class into an experience. My heart goes out to his children and family and to the BU Law community. He will be incredibly missed.
Andrea Carrillo (’12), GBLS, former student
Professor Pettit was everything one could hope for in an educator. He engaged students, making them each passionate about what he was teaching because his passion was contagious. He was one of a kind, truly unforgettable, and will be missed tremendously.
I was lucky enough to know and be taught by this great man. My thoughts and deep condolences go out to his family.
Jeff Zaiger (’07)
The three words that best reflect Professor Pettit are authentic, unique, and refreshing. He was genuine and cared about his students; he brought a unique teaching style that made learning fun and memorable; and his approach to law and life was nothing short of inspiring and refreshing.
He will be missed.
Steven Rudolf (’89), Baptist Health
One in a million, the best of the best, Professor Pettit made law school more than about case law. He brought humanity, humility, and humor into his classrooms – a genius of a teacher and a brilliant and gracious man. I was so proud to sing with him in duets even after I was a student in his classroom. What a loss to the law school community and to the world at large. May his memory be a blessing.
Sarah Kaskel Lerner (’09), Katz Golden Rosenman
I remember sitting in on Professor Pettit’s class as a potential law student. He’s a main reason I chose to attend BU Law. I was so lucky to have had him as a professor – he was so kind, intelligent, funny, and humble. Whenever I meet fellow BU Law alumni I always ask them if they had Professor Pettit so we can reminisce about his classes. My condolences to his family and friends – he will be missed by so many.
Erin Loomis (’07), U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Professor Pettit was an amazing professor and truly one of a kind. I was lucky to have him as my Contracts Professor. Being in Professor Pettit’s class was a privledge and one of the fondest memories I have of law school. Truly an amazing person both in and outside of the classroom.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family and colleagues.
Erikka Massie (’07), Norfolk City Attorney’s Office
Professor Pettit was a giant in the legal profession in a very kind and unassuming way. I consider myself fortunate to have learned contracts law from him. He eased the stress of 1L life yet challenged us to learn and excel. It’s been over 26 years but I still remember him vividly as an exceptional professor and a great person. May his memory be a blessing.
Glenn Moses (’92), Genovese Joblove & Battista, PA
I was lucky enough to have Professor Pettit for my 1L Contracts class, which ended up being one of my favorites classes at BUSL because of him. I never thought a law class, and Contracts no less, could actually be fun — boy, was I wrong! His enthusiasm for teaching and passion for the law were so contagious and inspiring. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have known and learned from him. My since condolences to his family. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him!
Irina Vasilchenko (’07), Labaton Sucharow LLP
It was such an honor and privilege to learn contract law from Professor Pettit in Section D. Thanks to him, all these years later contracts remains my favorite subject. He brought a sweet dignity and grace to a very stressful environment, making his class a pleasure to attend. He truly made Boston University one of the great law schools.
Scott P. Schomer (’90), Schomer Law Group
Prof. Pettit was an absolutely amazing teacher. I had the privilege of taking 1L Contracts with him and he made a dry subject so much fun. Everyone will always remember his singing, but he also had a puckish manner that made class fun even on non-performance days. I’ll never forget him singing “Bye bye, Section B” to the tune of American Pie on the last day of class, even though it was over 10 years ago now. He was a wonderful spirit and the world is the poorer for his loss.
Sheila Collins (’07), Box, Inc.
I spent all weekend remembering Professor Pettit’s Evidence class and how amazing it was. It combined my love of movies with my love of the law. I truly admired Professor Pettit as a person and as a professor. His way of teaching changed the way I approached studying and it definitely made of difference when I sat for the NY Bar. I am so sad for the future law school students that will not be able to enjoy a class taught by him. I will never forget him.
Isabel Triana (LLM 2010), Greenberg Traurig
Most of my memories of the first year of law school are fraught – but not first year Contracts! Professor Pettit had an enormous gift for conveying information in a memorable and lasting way. Several years out of law school there are still phrases from his class that pop into my head from time to time bringing the memories and a smile. My deepest condolences to his friends and family at this time. Professor Pettit will certainly be missed.
Jennifer Cancian (’13)
I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Pettit. Few professors have gone through such great lengths for the benefit of their students. He left me at a loss for words one cold morning when he started our Contracts class with a song I had submitted to him. He also responded to my inquiry months latter as a summer associate regarding an issue of contract law. Thank you Professor Pettit. My heartfelt condolences to your loved ones.
Mark Dougles (’09)
Professor Pettit’s kindness, intelligence, and love of the law left an indelible impression on me. I am so sorry to learn of his death – I will always carry fond memories of him. It was a privilege to be his student.
Alexis Rollins Dunton (’10), J.P. Morgan Chase
Only Professor Mark Pettit could create a Rolling Stones concert, conducted on a sparkle-enhanced boom box, out of an 1887 case in Dawson on Contracts that begins “Replevin for a cow” and contains a picture entitled “Black Angus in Pensive Mood.” He not only walked the walk (ran it, really), he delivered a compelling classroom experience that could restore a slightly-lost 1L’s faith in the entire process of law school education. We’re warmed by these memories and tributes, but still very sad for your family, and for the cruel fortunes of your final cancer battle. It was a privilege to spend time with you, Professor Pettit.
Michael Handler (’93), Cozen O’Connor
I was honored enough to take two courses with Professor Pettit during my time at BU Law. It’s hard to put into words what having a professor like him meant to a first year law student like myself. Going into class I knew I would leave not only more educated and understanding of the law, but with a smile on my face. Professor Pettit’s kind and joyous demeanor was almost palpable. His passion for teaching was undeniable. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I chose to attend BU Law. During my admitted students day I was in his preview day class and thought that if a law school had a professor like him, it would be impossible to say no. I was overjoyed when I found out he would also be my contracts professor that upcoming year. His legacy and spirit will not be forgotten amongst those of us lucky enough to have taken a course with him or even to have had a conversation with him. My deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, colleagues, and fellow students.
Natalie Jersak (’18), Locke Lord LLP
Goodbye Contract’s Rose
Though it’s been twenty years
You had the grace to sing to us
While others merely taught
Songs came out of the woodwork
And they whispered into our brains
Giving us acceptance
As your lessons changed our lives
And it seems to me you taught us all
With consideration for the law
Always knowing who to question
As the offers came in
And I’m honored to have known you
When I was just a kid
Your candle burned out days ago
But your lessons never will
Consumer law was tough
The toughest class I ever took
But you taught it like a superstar
Your Metcalf was well deserved
And now that you died
Your students remember you
All the lawyers have to say
Is that Professor Pettit taught us well
And it seems to me you taught us all
With consideration for the law
Lawrence Weinberg (’96)
Professor Pettit’s class was the highlight of my law school experience. Professor Pettit was everything a good professor should be. He was demanding but supportive. His class was challenging but exciting. Most importantly, he so very clearly loved to teach. His love of teaching and general love of the law was palpable and inspiring. Great teachers like him are one of the reasons I chose BU law. Thank you, Professor Pettit.
Jamie Flaherty (’15)
Professor Pettit had the rare ability to both terrify and entertain his 1L class. Because of his unique approach to teaching, I know who Shirley McClain is, and will never forget the measures of damages. RIP professor
Gregg Oberg (’17)
Will always fondly remember Prof. Pettit’s Contract Law class as the best memory of the 1L year. This is a very sad day for all of the BU Law Family. I will treasure all of my special recollections on how Pro. Pettit made Contract Law pleasurable with his fantastic teaching style and humor. My sympathies to the Pettit family.
Edania C. Rondon (’85), Edania C. Rondon, P.C.
Professor Pettit was — quite simply — one of the best. Unless you were lucky enough to have him for Contracts, Evidence, or one of his other classes, you may not understand how music and poetry can significantly enhance law school learning, but for those of us gifted to have been taught by Professor Pettit, the experience was invaluable. My deepest condolences to his family, colleagues, and friends, while also noting that all of these people were extremely fortunate to have Mark Pettit touch their lives for the time that he was able to do so.
Heath Knakmuhs (’98)
I am deeply saddened to hear of Professor Pettit’s passing. It was my good fortune to be one of his students in Evidence during my second year at BU Law. He had a way of teaching that was engaging and made complex areas of the law seem simple and easy to remember. Even after so many years, I remember him as a wonderful person and a terrific teacher. His passing is a loss to those of us who were fortunate enough to know and learn from him, as well as those who will never have the opportunity to know or learn from him. Rest in peace. My deepest condolences to his family.
Genevieve Martin (’88), Private Practice
I remember my seminar with Professor Pettit fondly. As many have noted, it was his kindness and good humor that leavened his scholarship and made those important lessons stick so well. Condolences to the Pettit and BUSL families.
Henry Grossman (’92), HG Law
Professor Pettit was unlike any other academecian that I have ever met.
His charming personality, unique charisma, unparalleled compassion, and undying dedication to the art of teaching law truly lightened the undaunting fear of learning Contracts in our first year at BUSL. He continually inspired and pushed us to excel, unlike any other professor – both in and out of the classroom.
I honestly cannot believe that there’s a single person who didn’t appreciate his singular style, unequivocal love for teaching the law, and his passion for sharing his wisdom and unforgettable songs with his students.
My sincerest condolences go out to the Pettit family and the BUSL community for this massive loss.
R.I.P Professor. You will be missed.
Elias Khoury (’99)
I was so terribly sad to hear of Professor Pettit’s passing. He was one of my favorite educators of all time. His knowledge and humor made me love Contracts. I also appreciated running up the stairs after him to office hours – I still think of him when deciding whether to take the elevator or do some cardio in the office stairwell. Of course, his toy microphone and guitar were unforgettable and worked wonders as mnemonic devices – who could forget Jack Depsey or the hairy hand cases? All I can say is thank you and may you rest in peace.
Jennifer Wisnia Gladstein (’05), Ropes & Gray
I had Professor Pettit for Contracts and Evidence. He was the best, and to this day I can still recall his green Hornet hypotheticals, the way he emphasized the word MERE, and, of course, his unselfconscious performances of poems and song parodies. (More than a decade after graduating, a classmate and I struggled to recall a detail of one parody – we contacted Professor Pettit and he replied promptly with a gracious note and a copy of the lyrics in question.) But mostly I recall his idealism: that while we needed to learn the law as it was, we should always question whether that was what it ought to be. My condolences to Professor Pettit’s family and to the BU community.
Andrew Seewald (’95)
Professor Pettit was a really great guy and professor, and will be missed by the B.U. Law students in the future. Somewhere out there, I hope the video of “Bye, Bye Section B Bye” to the tune of American Pie still lives on. I know someone had it as some point. Got a little dusty in the classroom by the end of that song.
All of our condolences to his family.
Justin Burns (’07)
36 years ago, I had the privilege of having Professor Pettit for Contracts. I will always remember his humor, fairness, decency, and insight. While there aren’t too many people who enjoy their first year of law school, Professor Pettit was definitely a bright spot.
My thoughts are with his family at this sad time.
Meryl Litner Rosen (’85), The Chicago Winter Co.
Edward Zacharias (’06), McDermott Will & Emery
Mark Pettit was the face of BU Law. I learned so much from him and applied what he taught me throughout my career. Rest in peace Prof. Pettit.
H.T. Than (’93)
I was very lucky to take Contracts with Prof. Pettit at the beginning of my LLM study. It was the first time ever happened in my life that I cannot wait for school. His sense of humor, caring and dedication has greatly impressed me, which I will treasure forever.
I still remember the glistening tears in his eyes after our section sang for him, although he had left the room without many words.
He mentioned his family many times in class, such as how his sons had corrected his Latin pronunciation, and some funny moments. I can hardly imagine how pain and suffering would fall on this lovely family. My sincere condolences to Prof. Pettit’s family.
Thank you Prof. Pettit.
Siqi Xu (’14)
So sorry that Professor Pettit fought the kind of battle he did, after giving so much to so many of us. It seems unfair, but, sadly some matters can’t be remedied with agreements or in court. Sending sympathies for his loss, especially to those who’ve known and loved him for a lifetime. Thanks to those who shared him with us for his time as a professor at B.U. He seemed to live the values that I try to use to guide my life—do the work, be firm while staying kind, make certain to live with the best kind of humor, nurture both intellect and humility.
Ann Mesmer Dietrich (’89)
I appreciate Professor Pettit making contracts interesting and funny, rather than intimidating. I recall being called on in class and struggling with the answer. He kindly and patiently waited for me to work the issue through. He brought the subject matter of the contract to life.
Robin Fisk (’88), Fedcap Rehabilitation Services
His brilliance was only matched by his kindness. A truly remarkable human being.
Manuel Velez (’06), Mayer Brown LLP
Professor Petit was a tremendous professor of the law. As a first year law student who was somewhat overwhelmed with the pressure of it all, he made coming to contracts class not only enjoyable, but an event that you did not want to miss it might well be memorable. Whether it was or not, it was always entertaining and intellectually stimulating. As a result, I made sure to take advantage of his evidence class where, once again, he made the course material come alive. evidence was my favorite law school class and it remains as relevant today in my practice as it was 33+ years ago. And as if all of his lectures and antics were not enough, Professor Petit made himself even more real and human to us by putting on his shorts, tee shirt and sneakers to play full court basketball with us on Fridays after class. What a professor. What a guy. What a great guy! Godspeed.
Thomas J. Rechen (’88), McCarter & English, LLP
Dear Pettit Family,
Like so many others, I am thinking of you and sending you my deepest condolences. Thank you for sharing such a very special person with so many of us.
Brenda C. Carr (’09)
Professor Pettit initiated me into the wonderful world of contracts, which has had an outsized influence on my career. More than that, he made law classes entertaining—no easy feat! And as it’s clear from these pages, my experience is far from unique. His influence in BU law and its alumni is wonderful and undeniable. After sadness passes, he will be remembered most fondly. My prayers are with his family.
Felix Dashevsky (’02)
I’ve played poker every month with Mark for the past 35 years. In that time, I grew to respect and like him tremendously. He was a wonderful poker player, was always upbeat, and was just one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. He also faced the pain of his wife’s battle with cancer with strength and courage. He was truly just a wonderful person in so many respects.
The poker gang misses you deeply, Mark. But, we will always remember the fun we had together.
Sumner Blount, just a close friend
He was one of the nicer professors.. May he rest in peace.
Nora Bakshandeh (’84)
I was fortunate to be a student in one of Professor Pettit’s first year Contracts classes in 1980. Although his singing seems to have come later, even then he endeavored to bring some levity and lightheartedness, while at the same time being demanding and tough, to a class of reticent, intimidated first years. He was an exceptional teacher who clearly cared deeply for his students and apparently maintained his enthusiasm for many years. His legacy will live on in the thousands of students he taught, but future generations of BULS students will unfortunately not be lucky enough to be taught by him. My sincere condolences to Professor Pettit’s family and his colleagues and friends on the BULS faculty.
David S. Katz (’83), Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
Professor Pettit was a giant in the legal profession in a very kind and unassuming way. I consider myself fortunate to have learned contracts law from him. He eased the stress of 1L life yet challenged us to learn and excel. It’s been over 26 years but I still remember him vividly as an exceptional professor and a great person. May his memory be a blessing.
Glenn Moses (’92), Genovese Joblove & Battista, PA
I wasn’t lucky enough to attend a class by Professor Pettit but he taught the class right after my corporation’s class. I would always seem to be exiting class when he was just entering. He didn’t know me but he would always smile and open the door. This was spring 2018. He truly was a great professor, even for someone who never took one of his classes. My deepest sympathies.
Marianne Strassle (’19)
As I look back on my own education, with the help of the perspective of time, it becomes very clear who were the great educators, who were the teachers that brought to their classroom a complete mastery of their subject matter and combined it with a passion that was infectious. Mark Pettit is one of the unforgettable few educators who did that, and in the process helped shape the minds of the young lawyers who were lucky enough to have him in class. I am saddened to learn the news of his passing, but know that he will live on affectionately in the memories of his students forever.
Edward Angelini (’93)
I had many great professors at BU Law, but none could touch Prof. Pettit’s dedication to his students. He had a rare talent, and it was readily apparent how much he cared for us and how much he hoped we would succeed. In our Professional Responsibility class, he used to always say that he hoped we took enough from his class that he would never read our names in the discipline section of the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. “I look,” he said, in a joking threat to the class. This was just one small example of the kind of heartfelt relationship he developed with his students. He will be missed, and may his memory be a blessing.
Jared Iverson (’15)
Prof. Pettit was my favorite professor in law school. For me he defined what a professor should be: engaged, kind, thorough, challenging, learned and, best of all, funny. I grieve for the future students of BU Law that will not experience his contracts class. It was there that I first felt comfortable with the study of law. He will be missed.
Derek Footer (’95), HardTech Labs
A one of a kind scholar and professor, and a great loss for the BU Law community
Jeff Hurwitz (’85), CoreChoice
After Professor Harvey was selected as University Counsel at the end of 1982, Section C had the honor of being taught by Professor Pettit for the second half of our 1L year. Engaging, passionate, warm and caring are just a few words that come to mind thinking about this wonderful Professor of Law whose contribution to the Boston University School of Law spanned generations. He will be sadly missed.
Scott Steinberg (’85), Lasky & Steinberg, P.C.
Though I only had Professor Pettit for one class (Contracts), he was my favorite professor for all of my classes. He always made class engaging and his style taught you so much without ever feeling like you were doing anything other than having an easy conversation.
John Mercer (’00), EyePoint Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
I have quoted Prof. Pettit saying, “that’s not math, Ms. Chernicoff, it’s arithmetic,” hundreds of times. Prof. Pettit’s warmth, good humor, gentle wit, and deep and abiding commitment to his students was second to none. It is no exaggeration to say that he shaped my path toward becoming a law school administrator and I feel fortunate to have spent three semesters in his classrooms. All law students should be so lucky.
Ann Chernicoff (’09), Independent Law School Consultant
I’m confident what Mark would’ve liked best about the Sweet Caroline tribute was how wonderfully off key it was, not unlike many of his songs in 1-L, which is what made them so special. In his classes, there truly were no wrong answers – just some which were slightly off key. He was as special as anyone I’ve known, and unendingly entertaining, having jogged easily 1000 miles with him long before Fitbits or Facebook could corroborate the distance we traveled together. Eric, Andy, Tim, I think of him all the time, and it’s all with smiles – primarily because his 1981-1982 Conracts class corralled that chicken.
Rich Mermelstein (’84)
I took Contracts and Evidence with Prof. Pettit and thoroughly enjoyed both classes. He was a great professor and made dry subjects fun with his humor and charm. In addition to being a great teacher, he was just a truly nice person, very approachable and always willing to help his students. I was very sad to hear of his illness and his passing, and he and his family are in my prayers.
Matthew Gildart (2002), General Dynamics Bath Iron Works
Almost forty years later I still clearly recall Professor Pettit at the podium reciting the facts of a seminal case wearing a hard hat. His delivery was a perfect Bob Newhart deadpan, but for the twinkle in his eye that could be seen even from my perch in the back. A rare human being whom it is gratifying to know has been showered with much-deserved appreciation by BUSL.
Mary Scurlock Adamson (’89)
I feel very fortunate to have been among the thousands taught by this amazing person. Who knew law school could be fun? He always made me smile without even having to say much. I knew he cared about me, as he did all of his students. He was truly proud of us and wanted us all to succeed. I will carry his memory close in my heart.
Terri LeComte (’05)
I feel so fortunate to have been taught by Prof. Pettit. His value as a teacher went well beyond his willingness to sing. He used the Socratic method to its fullest (but always kindly!) and helped each of his students to probe and think more deeply into the wonderful world of contract case law. I loved that class and I still have the contracts book, with multiple colors of highlighters staining the pages, and still remember when I finally got called to discuss and lead the class in the discussion of a case involving the intricacies of Reliance. It was an amazing experience. Thank you so much.
Erik Brue (’03)
He was truly one of a kind. Such a generous soul and amazing teacher. His likes won’t be seen again.
Melissa Nott Davis (’02), White and Williams LLP
Mark was our neighbor. He was always active locally with his wife and best friend Elaine. He was a very skilled attorney, but to really see his intellectual skills you had to play poker with him. Mark played in our neighborhood softball games. Successfully led a Little League team to a regional title, Helped raise three fine sons and will be sorely missed.
Thomas J. Ford Jr. DDS (BC 1966 , Georgetown U. Dental), Self
Professor Pettit was one of my favorite professors at BU. He blended humor into his serious and sometimes dry subject matter, his passion for teaching was infectious, and his genuine care for his students provided comfort during the stress of 1L year. He brought so much to the BU Law community and I know he will be sorely missed by so many. My condolences to the Pettit family.
Brian Powers (’07)
We are terribly saddened by Mark’s death. This is especially difficult because of the recent passing of his beloved wife Elaine. Mark was the closest person to sainthood we know–humble, compassionate, smart, and devoted to his family and to his students. His mastery of teaching was astonishing. Mark loved helping students become the best lawyers they could be, but also lawyers with integrity and empathy. His compassion was limitless, but he never talked about it. He was a wonderful friend and colleague to us, and we will miss him. Mark and Elaine made the world a better place.
Christine Marx and Ken Simons
One of the best professors I ever had, and one of the best men I’ve ever known. Rest in peace.
Liam McMahon (’12)
A great professor who left a lasting impression. I’ll never forget Hawkins v. McGee and the hairy hand draped over the lectern. Rest in peace.
Stephen Kelly (’90), Committee for Public Counsel Services
I had Professor Pettit for the first time as a worn out 3L taking Evidence, of all things for your last year of law school. Because I was going into corporate law rather than litigation, I was not too excited about the class but took it because I thought it would make studying for the bar less painful. Professor Pettit made it SO FUN and it ended up being one of my favorite classes of my entire time at BU. I truly wish I had had him as a professor earlier and for other classes, too. He was one of a kind and I’m so, so saddened to hear of his passing. Rest in peace Professor Pettit and condolences to the family.
Diana Snyder (’11), Foley Hoag LLP
I will never forget purchasing my contracts textbook before my first semester of law school and assuming that it would be my least favorite class. But sure enough, Professor Pettit’s class brought joy and laughter three days a week. Even at the lowest points in the semester, I could always count on leaving his class with a smile on my face and a proud feeling that I had truly learned something. My time in his class was the highlight of my time at BU. That textbook I bought is now a treasure I will keep forever.
Max Perricone (’18)
Professor Pettit had something that lawyers often lose and must work to retain, warmth and humanity. In his honor, I’ll work even harder at keeping it.
I know loss well enough to know that I cannot say anything that reduces the pain his family is feeling, but I sure wish that I could. Still, eventually, take comfort in knowing that the magnitude of the feeling of loss is there because you were lucky enough to have someone so wonderful in your family. Thank you for sharing him with us for all of the years he served.
Craig Avedisian (’93), Law Offices of Craig Avedisian, P.C.
Professor Pettit was a law school professor in its pure and idealized Platonic form, but also a mentor in its most warm and inspiring ways. His intellect and persona, humility and self-deprecation, could win over a room full of students and make them want to be better learners and better thinkers. Generations of students adored him, and I’m thankful to be one of them.
Will Simpson (’17), Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft
Professor Pettit was an amazing, unique and talented teacher. I feel very fortunate to have had him as my 1L contracts professor. My sincere condolences to his family and the BU Law community.
Jason Portnoy (’03), Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
I’ll never forget my evidence class with Professor Pettit. He left his mark on me as he did with so many others. I am grateful to have known him. Thank you, Professor Pettit! You will be missed.
Jack Gannon (’12), McGuire, Craddock & Strother, P.C.
Professor Pettit epitomized what a professor should be: he was demanding yet supportive, exceptionally engaging and entertaining, passionate and compassionate—the accolades go on. He taught us far more than contract law, sneaking in lessons about good citizenship, the value of humor, and the power of kindness. His love of teaching was palpable (especially that Friday morning after the Halloween party…) and he cared deeply about his students, personally as well as academically. This news, as Professor Pettit often shouted in class, “offends my sense of order.” What a privilege and a joy it was to be his student.
Alexandra Arnold (’19)
I went to law school to become a prosecutor so evidence was, and continues to be one of the most inportant classes I took while at BU. Mr. Pettit made class enjoyable, while also teaching us what we needed to know to succeed. His songs and smile were a small joy that you just didnt take for granted while in the midst of law school classes and stress. I am greatful to have had the pleasure to have met him, and to have taken his class. He will be missed by those of us lucky enough to have met him, and by those who will never get the chance.
Stacy Turansky (’12), DOJ
I had the privilege of having contracts with Professor Pettit during my first year of law school. Beyond his ample good nature and humor, he was one of the best teachers I have had, in any school. I have spent the bulk of my time as an attorney working with contracts, and that all started with him. I sought him out whenever I stopped by the law school. The legal community has lost an exemplary professor and wonderful human being.
Jordan Scott (’06)
My thoughts and prayers are with the family during this time.
Cherell Beddard (’17), BU Law LLM Alum
Professor Pettit gave section C the class of 1995 what we needed the most our first year of law school – confidence – instead of trying to break us. We learned the law, we laughed, and perhaps most important of all, we learned not to take ourselves too seriously. I took his class on evidence too and I use what he taught me in that class to this day. He was a great teacher and an even better person. His death is a real loss for the future students of our law school community. My thoughts are with his sons for whom it was clear he adored.
Heather Hostetter (’95), Hostetter Strent LLC
Nancy Brandt (’86), Berliner Cohen LLP
Thank you for being the brightest light at BU, Professor Pettit. As a Legal Follies alum, I can attest that you were the most consistent and beloved part of our shows (other than perhaps cheap beer at the Dugout during intermission)–you got the loudest cheers and the biggest ovations. You were kind and supportive, you loved your students, and we loved you back. You will be greatly missed.
Sarah Johnston (’08), Barnes & Thornburg
I was fortunate enough to have you for several classes at BU and I’m grateful to have been under your tutelage. There are few instructors who truly exude a deep passion for the art of teaching, and you, sir, are one of them. Thank you for showing us all what it means to love what you do. I hope to one day find the same passion that you had for your work, in my own work. Bon voyage Professor Pettit!
Liliane Nguyen (’16)
Mark Pettit was one of the role model professors in my entire educational career which was founded in Afghanistan, matured in the U.S., and shaped in Canada. He was one of the best professors at BU Law Schll, a real inspirer and a real leader with a priceless sense of humour and understanding. I was among those lucky students who obtained the honour to attend his evidence class. Attending his class has significantly increased my experience and success at BU. May his soul Rest In Peace. He will be truly missed.
Rauf Karimi (LL.M 2011)
Professor Pettit was an incredibly nurturing professor/mentor, a teacher that knew his material so well that he could answer any question hurled across at him and a wonderful person to connect with outside of class.
What differentiated Professor Pettit especially, however, was his genuine concern for his students – manifested through his tirelessness in answering student queries (no matter how basic) and his efforts in making the study of law as enjoyable as it could possibly be.
You have indeed made a difference to my education and to the education of countless BU alumni that you have taught.
Thank you, Professor Pettit; and my deepest condolences go to his close friends and family.
Wee Jin Yeo (’15)
As a 1L, I was fortunate to be assigned to Professor Pettit’s Contracts class, which undoubtedly remains the most memorable course of my time at BUSL. Through his humour and dedication, we learned and enjoyed learning. Prof. Pettit’s dedication to his craft was truly inspiring.
Adam Jaffee (’06), United Nations World Food Programme
Lucie Loncle Duda (LLM 2015)
Professor Pettit was without a doubt most people’s favorite professor. He was the best part of my 1L year, and his contracts class defined what a teaching environment should look like. He was tough with us, and incredibly smart, but he was also funny, creative in his teaching, and most importantly, kind. He was genuinely interested in his students’ experience and well-being. He never used his podium to embarrass any of us, and he was effusive in people’s successes. He was a welcomed experience in what was otherwise a stressful and confusing year. This is a great loss for the BU Law community. My heartfelt condolences to his family.
Ivonne Vidal (’11), CPCS
Professor Pettit will be sorely missed. I haven’t seen him since 1999, however he left a lasting impression on me. I feel sorry for the future law students who will not have the privilege of learning from this wonderful teacher.
Jamie Wallerstein (’99)
A warm and friendly person, Mark will be missed.
Walter W. Miller, Jr., Profesdor Emeritus Boston University School of Law
I had the pleasure of working with Professor Pettit as his Sr. Program Coordinator for the last two years and he was an exceptional person. We often engaged in conversation around his children, grandchildren, my education and professional aspirations. He didn’t just see me as a staff member but, he recognized my individuality. Through the good and bad, he was always optimistic…that infectious smile of his will be deeply missed.
Danyelle Stokes, Boston University School of Law
Professor Pettit’s singing will always be his calling card, but what always stood out to me was his genuine interest in his students’ success. I saw Professor Pettit a year or two ago at the office and he immediately came up to me, remembered my name and we started talking as if I was back in 1st year contracts. It takes a special person to be so invested in others. His energy, intellect and enthusiasm were truly one of a kind. Thank you, Professor Pettit, for not only teaching us to be lawyers, but for showing us that you can have some fun while doing so.
Nick Cassidy (’13), Ropes & Gray
Professor Pettit was one of the best educators I’ve ever met. Fun, approachable, and passionate about the process of teaching. He will be greatly missed by BU and all who were lucky enough to be taught by him. My thoughts are with his family during this time.
Holly Ovington (’16)
Thanks for making First Year a time of discovery and revelation! I’ll never forget your introduction to the class with the “Hairy Hand” case!
Tim Roseborough (’96)
I was never a student of Mark’s but in my work in the admissions office I worked with him a lot during my six years at BU Law. Mark was always kind, funny, and respectful to everyone in the office. I was so sad to learn of his passing and wanted to send my best to his family. He talked often of his kids and grandkids and I know how much he will be missed.
Laura Gitelson (former staff)
Mark was a kind, gentle, supportive and modest colleague. Stellar in the classroom, he would lead the rest of us by example. Competitive at the poker table, on the basketball court and the softball field, but never in his professional life. He was fiercely proud of his three sons and devoted to his wonderful wife. I cried when I learned he died. My life was richer for knowing him these past forty years.
Professor David Rossman, BU Law
His first year Contracts class in one of the most memorable and happy classes I had at law school. I am sad for the students who never have an opportunity to know him.
Michelle Tarson (’98)
My deepest condolences to Professor Pettit’s family for your loss.
Professor Pettit was truly inspirational and 20 years away I can vividly remember him and lessons learned.
My deepest sympathies.
Cesar Ternieden (’00), Shahid Law Firm
Professor Pettit’s Evidence class was one of my favorite classes in law school. Although I currently do not practice, I can still recite most of the exceptions to the rule against hearsay, thanks to him. His pedagogical style was singular and sensational, but above all, he was a great teacher who cared about his students. I’m thinking of his family and loved ones. He will be missed.
Yao Wu (’10), Amazon
Amazing professor. Creative, brilliant mind. Quirky in a relaxed, light-hearted way. I will remember the singing. This was hard to hear.
My condolences to his family and friends as he rests in peace.
Chidinma Okogbue (’11)
It was in Professor Pettit’s Contracts class that the proverbial “light bulb” went off for me. He was a gifted teacher, and a lovely man. His love of learning the law was infectious. When he and I met after I entered the academy, he kindly welcomed me and offered all manner of wisdom and offers of assistance in navigating the terrain of academia. He will be long remembered by all whose lives he touched.
Lois R. Lupica (’87), Professor of Law, University of Maine School of Law
Professor Pettit was my favorite law school professor. I had him for contracts and consumer law. He taught in a way that got the most from his students. In addition to teaching the subject at hand, he also taught us that while winning was important, winning the right way was more important. I take his teachings with me in all of my negotiations. I applaud his life. I will miss him greatly.
Bill Powell (’93), Raytheon Company
Professor Pettit is one of my happy memories of BU. What a lovely classroom environment he created, which is really saying something when you are talking about the first year of law school. I’m sorry for his family, friends, and the students who now won’t have the experience I was lucky enough to have in Contracts.
Jevera Kaye Hennessey (’84), Kaye and Hennessey, LLC
While I remember being so afraid of being called as a 1L, I will never forget the case that Prof. Pettit called on me for (It involved cows!). He was a great teacher and you couldn’t help but look forward to his songs because every time they explained the case perfectly. Professor Pettit will be missed.
My condolences to the Pettit family. Thank you for sharing him with us for all these years.
Carolina Wirth (’02), Porzio Bromberg & Newman P.C.
And I anticipated that Contracts would be such a boring class; I had no interest in the subject. How wrong I was! Prof. Pettit’s teaching was fascinating and delightful and I learned much more about contracts than I had ever thought that I wanted to. And I still remember much of it even though my practice was (I am now retired) in a quite different area. He was so kind and compassionate, as well as learned and interesting. Just think, to make a subject which could have been so dull, into one of the most interesting and engaging ones I had! What a marvelous teacher! What a wonderful man!
Donna Haber Kornberg (’03)
I am so sorry to hear of Professor Pettit’s passing. My thoughts go out to his family and friends. He was an irreplacable member of the BU Law family and had a great impact on me as a student.
Professor Pettit’s contract class was my very first class in law school. I think everyone was intimidated if not terrified. But, Professor Pettit breaking out into song, with his tiny microphone, broke the tension. I still occasionally get a particular song stuck in my head – “I’m Bringing Restitution Back” to the tune of Justin Timberlake’s “I’m Bringing Sexy Back.” I can’t listen to that song without thinking about contracts now. Well played Professor Pettit, well played. You will be greatly missed.
Dara Keller (’09)
I feel so lucky and blessed to have taken Professor Pettit’s Contracts and Evidence classes and worked for him during the summer of 1990 as a 1L research intern for an article about public policy restrictions on the freedom to contract. Like so many of his students, Professor Pettit’s impact on me was profound and I am similarly at a loss for suitable words. Professor Pettit’s love for teaching and learning, sense of humor, and authentic humility and kindness were inspiring. I found his classes to be genuinely magical in a way I’d never experienced during decades of academic coursework.
A personal law school highlight was his rendition of “Angus,” a parody of Angie (Rolling Stones) I had written about remedies for a case in our textbook concerning the sale of a cow….. He unabashedly rocked it. That summer, I was thrilled to work part-time for Professor Pettit, reading and notating aged cases using law books from the 1800’s. After a few weeks, I noticed hundreds of small blisters on my hands. Wearing special binocular glasses, my doctor announced that my hands were infected with “book mites” – tiny bugs that burrow under the skin. Professor Pettit was caringly horrified, however, it cleared up quickly and without issues, and became a longstanding inside joke between us and hypothesis behind my future migration to employment law as a career.
Last year, I emailed about my hope to introduce Professor Pettit to my family at our 25-year reunion, which unfortunately we were unable to make (particularly saddening given his unexpected passage). As always, Professor Pettit wrote back quickly with a warm welcoming message, expressing his hope about catching up, and proudly updating on his family and grandchildren.
And particularly notably, a few years ago I had emailed Professor Pettit with a longstanding and earnest request, asking: “Kidding aside, please do me a favor. I hope for the sake of future law students that it doesn’t occur for another 20 years or so, but when you do decide to retire, I would love some advance warning as I’d very much like to share some words and sentiments as part of that transition. I was one of those students who simply got swept into law school by inertia and uncertainty about what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” Once there, I could easily have become disenchanted and left. Instead, you and your class ignited an appreciation for the law – you made it fun. Twenty-two years later I still love the law and what I do, and am thankful to have been one of your students and interns.”
His comforting reply, sent just a few hours later: “I am still loving my job, and I do not have any immediate plans to retire. My health is good and my energy level is high. On the other hand, I don’t want to stay on beyond my sell-by date. I hope I will be able to recognize when it’s time to let younger folks take over. ”
So very, very sad…. He left all of us far too soon.
Rob Sturm (Boston University Law School ’92), CSAA Insurance Group
My favorite professor – had him for contracts and professional responsibility. He was creative, engaging and brilliant. His lively personality made class enjoyable and something to look forward to.
My thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. He is missed.
Kulsum (Rafia) Ali (’11)
Professor Pettit was a quintessential part of BU Law. He was always incredibly kind, an amazing mentor, and one of the most fun and engaging professors anyone could ever ask for. His contracts class was the very first I had in my time at BU Law and it set the tone for everything to follow. I was blessed with the opportunity to have him for a second class in my third year, which I am forever thankful for. He embodied what it meant to be a great teacher in an age where so many other academics have their focus elsewhere. His methodology and passion for what he did set BU Law apart from so many other places.
It’s impossible to express the breadth of sadness this news brings. To lose someone so positive and passionate is never something anyone wants to face. I want to express my condolences to everyone in the BU Law community, but most of all to Professor Pettit’s family and friends. Thank you for sharing his talents with all of us. He changed lives in ways a lot of us can’t fully express and will remember forever. Rest in Peace Professor Pettit.
Ryan McKenna (’16)
I will always remember Professor Pettit — he was an amazing teacher and so kind. I’m so sorry for the tragic loss to his family and the BU community.
Stephanie Coutu (1997), Arnold & Porter
Open and unafraid to use humor (and music) to communicate, whether in the classroom or Legal Follies, Professor Pettit was my best and favorite law professor (among some pretty lively competition) — although based on the glare he gave me when I passed him during the 10K Race Judicata just before the end of the year of Contracts I feared my law career would never begin. And he still remembered that run at our 30th Reunion…
Andy MacLachlan (1986), U.S. Dept of Justice
Despite his modest, unassuming manner, Professor Pettit was the single most influential professor I had at BUSL, with respect to both my day-to-day heavily contracts-based practice of law (20+ years on, his words still pop out of my mouth with regularity), and also his daily demonstration that humor, calm, and absolute command of one’s material will easily win the day over bluster, posturing and table-pounding. I won’t repeat the many accolades others have expressed so well here, but I want to share an anecdote that illustrates Professor Pettit’s lovely humanity.
As I was walking out of his Contracts class one day about halfway through the school year, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned to find him standing next to me with a huge grin on his face. “I figured out who you are!” he practically yelled at me,”You used to have an art business!”
Somehow, through the bits and pieces of things I had shared in the course of his Socratic questioning, he had connected the dots between me and the application essay I had written over a year earlier, detailing my pre-law school career. He then spent a few minutes talking to me as if he was meeting the most promising law student he had ever taught. To my massive later regret, I was completely intimated by the glare of his entire, brilliant attention so focused on me, but I will never forget his kindness in reaching out to this bewildered first year student.
My condolences to Professor Pettit’s friends, colleagues and family.
Gabrielle Sellei (’95), Sellei Law, LLC
Like everyone else who has commented, my law school experience was deeply impacted by time spent in Professor Pettit’s class. He somehow managed to be intimidating and delightful at the same time; it was a perfect combination and I am so grateful to have been taught by him.
Sarah Green (’10), Haemonetics
I will never forget the sight of Professor Pettit as he bounced to the front of the classroom during my first year Contracts class, with the guitar in his hands and wearing his baseball cap backwards.
My sincere condolences to his loved ones.
Chunlin Leonhard (’95), Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
Professor Pettit was a fabulous teacher and a thoroughly decent man. I have vivid memories of his class, and feel fortunate to have experienced his inimitable style first hand. May his memory be a blessing.
Gerardo Lapetina (’96), APCO Worldwide
Susan Michals (CAS 1984), LAW Executive Assistant to the Dean
What a great man.
James Cormie (’11)
My first class at BU Law was contracts with Professor Pettit. He introduced me to the legal world. I’m the lawyer I am today because of Professor Pettit. He will surely be missed and those of us that had the opportunity to learn from him will never forget what he did for us.
Brett Goldman (’11)
Professor Pettit’s contracts class was my first ever law school class. He not only made you feel comfortable but also made you want to learn. He was always so engaging and you could tell how deeply he cared about the subject, but also his students. He wanted us to learn as much as we possible could. He was an amazing professor and a wonderful man, and will be missed dearly.
Jacqueline Tosto (’19)
I am saddened beyond words to learn of Mark’s passing. I feel blessed to have been his colleague for four decades. He was a very special person whose impact on BU Law School and generations of students was immense. His dedication to teaching was inspirational. His success reflected both his sharp mind and his caring heart. Among my fond memories are the runs along the Charles and seeing him also excel as a youth baseball manager in Newton.
Marvis and I extend our condolences to Eric, Andy, and Tim, and our regrets for being away, unable to attend the Memorial Service.
Michael Harper, Law Faculty
Professor Pettit was my evidence professor, and I learnt everything I needed to know about evidence to help me during my bar prep. He was a great professor with a fantastic sense of humor and he had a unique way of breaking the tension before each class by singing a song relating to the subject matter for class that day. My sincere condolences to his family – he will be missed by the BU Law community.
Nicolette Blades (2011 LLM American Law), InterGen
Professor Pettit was one of my favorite professors at BU and in my life. He was kind and good, and his spirit will live on in the hundreds (if not thousands) of students whose lives he changed for the better.
Yasmin Ghassab (’14), DLA Piper
Professor Pettit was without a doubt my favorite at BU! I was one of his research assistants in the summer after my 1L year and onto being a 2L as well. He was one of the kindest and most intelligent bosses I have ever had the pleasure to work with. His mild manner and easy going style had our class intrigued every day!
Jani Foley-Salant (’89)
Prof. Pettit was by far my favorite professor at BUSL, mainly due to his humor, engagement with his students, and clear explanations of complicated material (especially for stressed 1Ls!) I will never forget his singing in class! Prof. Pettit was a treasured member of the BUSL community and he will be greatly missed.
Lori B Geisinger (’96), Outside GC LLC
I was graced with the opportunities to have Prof. Pettit as my 1st year Contracts Law Professor (Go Section O!) and took his Evidence class as well.
I served proudly as his research assistant the summer following first year.
I think all of us who took a class with Mark owe a debt of gratitude in the he taught us to always question, and then to question the questions – a principle that has served me very well over my career. The only way I can repay this debt is to teach others in the same way, and pass on to others his teaching and wisdom and to be part of his legacy in some small way. RIP Professor.
All of our sincerest condolences to his family.
James (’87) & Christianna Houston, Managing Director, Orbian Supply Chain Finance
Professor Pettit has left us too soon. I was lucky enough to have had Professor Pettit for Contracts as a first year and Evidence as a second year. I also had the pleasure of joining him every now and then for a run together with a few of his other students. His excellence as a professor was only surpassed by his quality as a human being. My sincere condolences to his family.
Sean Reilly (’85), Novartis
Thank you for you inspiring way of teaching and your geniune interest in your students. I enjoyed every minute of your classes. My deepest condolences!
Fabian Behrens (’14)
My condolences to Professor Pettit’s family and to the Law School. Just thinking of Mark Pettit makes me smile. A tremendous loss to all who knew him and to those of us who had the honor and privilege of learning contracts with him.
Melissa Zelen Neier (’85)
The outpouring of loving comments on this site is a testament to the kind, humble, approachable man that was Prof. Pettit and should provide some comfort to his family. He made the UCC fun and interesting, well, as much as it could be for me anyway. Over the past 10 years or so, Dean O’Rourke was wise enough to bring Mark to the breakfast and lunch outreach meetings at our firm because he by far (no offense to Dean O’Rourke) could draw out the most alums to attend any given event. My prayers for the rest of his family.
Dan Halston (’86), WilmerHale LLP
Sad news about Professor Pettit. First year Contracts was my very first class, and in that class Professor Pettit set the tone for my law school experience. He brought great energy and insight to his role, along with a good sense of humor and humanity. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from him.
Stephen Kay (’87), Roku, Inc.
For me, the first year’s law school professors were the most memorable; some good, some not so good, but Professor Pettit was in a category by himself. He cared about his students, had a certain grace and humility about him, a sense of humor, and he clearly loved teaching the law. I am grateful for having had him as my professor and clearly generations of B.U. law students feel the same. Thank you Professor Pettit. Thank you.
Donald Kravet (’83), Kravet & Vogel, LLP
It’s lucky that I had my Contracts class with Professor Petit. The textbook for his class is valuable treasure. He is a wonderful teacher for me in my life in Boston. I will always remember the words that he used to encouraged me. He will be missed. Thank you, Professor Petit.
Yi-Hsuan Chan (’16)
I was fortunate enough to have Professor Pettit for Professional Responsibility this past semester. While PR may not have been his signature class (nothing could hold a candle to Contracts), upon reflection, there was no course better suited to his style. He was the consummate professional and as a decent and considerate a professor as I’ve ever had. He strove to instill in us something greater than the mastery of the rules–he wanted us to be good, ethical people before we were good, ethical lawyers. He stood as the shining example of that each day, never missing a class as he fought his own battle with remarkable dignity and grace.
My sincerest condolences to his family, friends, and the hundreds more whose lives he made better. He will be sorely missed, but fondly remembered.
Chris Gillis (’19)
I clearly remember the joy of contracts in Prof. Pettit’s class. Can you imagine joy and contracts in the same sentence…much less to stay with me all these years?!? RIP.
Marcia M.Cini (’93), Law Offices of Marcia Mulford Cini
I can honestly say that Professor Pettit was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. It has been 25 years since taking that 1st year of Contracts, but I can remember being excited to attend each and every class to hear him sing about our cases and engage in the lively discussions that followed. Better yet, when Professor Pettit made his appearance on stage with those of us in Legal Follies 1993, what a blast we had! Thank you for being such an excellent example of a good teacher and an even better all around human being – you will be greatly missed. My deepest condolences to the entire Pettit Family.
Michael A. Forero (’96), HSBC
For me, the first year’s law school professors were the most memorable; some good, some not so good, but Professor Pettit was in a category by himself. He cared about his students, had a certain grace and humility about him, a sense of humor, and he clearly loved teaching the law. I am thankful for the great good fortune of having had him as my professor and clearly generations of B.U. law students feel the same. Thank you Professor Pettit. Thank you.
Donald Kravet (’83), Kravet & Vogel, LLP
I am very honored to have been one of your students. I am immensely grateful for your patience and kindness. You will always be remembered.
Yajing Wen (’17)
I can only echo everything that has already been said by every student, colleague and friend who has contributed to this Guestbook. I, too, was fortunate to have Professor Pettit for 1L Contracts (Section D, Class of ‘85) and for Evidence. I recall wishing that I was a runner so I could go running with him along the Charles as many other students did. Like many who have written here, he was my favorite professor at BUSL. I hope his children and grandchildren will be comforted by their memories and the high regard in which both their parents were held. When we leave this world, we leave with not much more than our reputation. Mark Pettit’s was exemplary. Carl Jung wrote: “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.” Mark Pettit was both.
Susan Kornetsky (’85), Omnicom Health Group
I feel incredibly lucky to have been introduced to the law through Professor Pettit with his kindness, humor, humility, curiosity and joy. I hope to bring just a piece of that with me in my practice each day.
Lisa Thompson Bereda (’05), Deckers Outdoor Corporation
I was honored and privileged to have taken both Contracts and Professional Responsibility with Professor Pettit, and I am at a loss for words that suffice to describe the immense appreciation I have for him and his profound impact on my personal and professional development. Professor Pettit was enthusiastic, caring, and brilliant, and he strove to bring the same qualities out of his students. While his singing has placed me and thousands of his other students at ease, I will also never forget him arriving early to the classroom at the beginning of each semester to study a seating roster of the class so that he could learn and remember the name of every student. Professor Pettit is sorely missed. May his memory be a blessing.
Daniel Marks (’19)
Dear Professor Pettit,
Thank you so much for teaching Contract Law and taking (LLM) students to the exploration of common law world. Your passion for education, dedication, knowledge, sense of humor, singing, thoughtful consideration for LLM students’ participation, encouragement, and warmth have been impressed on your students all around the world. It was truly fortunate for me to be taught by you, the educator and warm-hearted person. Honestly your class was not easy to follow, however, I really loved it and all happened there was very pleasant and unforgettable thanks to you. Even under this sadness, those memories make me feeling better. You will be missed so much.
My deepest condolences to the family of Prof. Pettit. It is very easy for me to imagine how nice and loving he was as a husband and father since he always smiled when he mentioned his family in classroom.
Yuko Takeuchi (LL.M.’15)
I had Professor Pettit for Contracts my first semester of my first year of law school. He was brilliant, kind, and a phenomenal professor. I’ll cherish the memories of him singing to my class and with my classmates forever.
Gina Del Rio Gazzo (’17)
My sincerest condolences to the Pettit family. Professor Pettit’s contracts class is the reason I chose to become a commercial lawyer. Professor Pettit gave me encouragement when I hit a low point in law school and gave me some of the best “life” advice that I still use to this day. I’ll never forget him.
Ileana A. McCalip (’01), Taboola, Inc.
I took three(!) classes with Professor Pettit while a student at BU Law, and I wasn’t even in the section that had 1L contracts with him. I originally sought out his courses because he taught the only course BU offered in my area of professional interest, consumer law, but after taking one course with him, I found that Professor Pettit was thoughtful and inspiring professor who genuinely cared about the real-world implications of the law he so carefully (and playfully!) taught us. Professor Pettit was engaging, caring, and fair, and to me he will always stand as a model of true character in the legal profession. Even after graduating law school, I continue to be his student, and I will always owe him a debt of gratitude for what (and maybe more importantly, how) he taught me and so many of my fellow BU Law alumni. Thank you, Professor Pettit. My deepest condolences to Professor Pettit’s family and loved ones.
Lauren Shryne (’14), Greater Boston Legal Services
Professor Pettit was an inspirational professor that has done so much for the BUSL academic community. Beyond contract law, I have learned so much about how to hold myself as an attorney. He has led through example.
Christine D. Han (’13), U.S. Department of Labor
I have such found memories of my Contacts class with Prof. Pettit. He had a great wit and wonderful way of making the difficult easier to understand. I was an honor to have been one his students.
Damon Saltzburg (’92), Standard Management Company
Professor Pettit taught my evidence class in my 2L year. He caught me in a humorous exchange culminating in me admitting that my “personal knowledge” about my own name was hearsay because the only way I know my name is through my parents. I enjoyed his classes very much and offer my condolences to his family.
Maximilian Lee (’12), Law Office of Maximilian Lee
As the decades have passed, the first impressions regarding the vibrancy and relevancy of basic legal principles were impressed upon us by the style, passion, and language that Professor Pettit turned into tools used to sharpen our legal minds. His legacy lives through every student, now a professional, who has passed through the halls of BU Law.
Helaine Gregory (’90)
Listening to Professor Pettit’s sons, relatives and colleagues at the funeral today, I was overwhelmed with this sense of what great fortune I had had in being one of his many students. Sitting in Marsh Chapel, I found myself reflecting on how someone we may only know very little and at only one point in time in our lives can actually mean so much to us.
25 years have passed since my BU Law days and I still recollect the first case I was called on by Professor Pettit, Hadley vs. Baxendale. Caught very much off guard and only a little prepared, he peppered me with questions about foreseeability. It went well, and that much needed self esteem boost made me keep a copy of the case in my office as a reminder of the how much I enjoyed law school at BU.
At the funeral this morning I learned things I did not know about him that we had in common. We were both from seven children. We both went to liberal arts colleges in Maine. My husband also worked at Cravath before coming to BU Law. We both raised our children in Newton. I plan to tell my sons tonight all about Professor Pettit, what a noble profession teaching is, and don’t be afraid to sing out even if you’re not really a singer. The heart of the matter is he inspired us. He wasn’t just teaching us case law. He was using the case law to teach us about life. The importance of fairness in a deal between two people. Honesty in entering into promises and commitment in seeing them through. I loved listening to the recording on the tribute page that BU Law students created for Professor Pettit. “Unjustly enriched,” indeed, that is how we all feel right now.
The metaphor Professor Beerman used at the funeral today about grains of sand seems so fitting. Even those of us who only knew Professor Pettit through a series of class lessons and office hour visits have noticed the grains pop up here and there throughout our own lives. We can’t shake them. They are part of us now.
More than anybody, Professor Pettit taught me how to practice law. Legal problems almost never have clear answers. There are almost always shades of gray: merits to both sides of an argument, ambiguities in statutes and regulations, conflicting case law that is far from settled. Sure, Professor Pettit helped us develop the “dry” lawyer’s tools and methods to analyze problems and argue both sides of a case. But he also helped us appreciate that a good lawyer must also have a moral compass, that passionate advocacy complements and amplifies the persuasiveness of a well-prepared lawyer, that a sharp mind should always be paired with a caring heart. Every single day, I draw upon Professor Pettit’s lessons, and I try to be half the person he was. Rest in peace, Professor.
Ron Honig (’93), Novanta Inc.
Such a special man who inspired many of us to be ourselves – not just law students. Incredibly grateful and sending lots of love.
Brendan Doherty (’06), Big & Chewy
We all remember Mark Pettit’s extraordinary abilities as a teacher. Mild-mannered and quiet outside the classroom, he exhibited superpowers in front of his students—the power to illuminate obscure technicalities, the power to enliven dry doctrine with deadpan wit (and with a marvelous collection of goofy props), and the skill to elicit the relevant facts and law from the most frightened 1L. His classes were scintillating. He made you care about the law. And he was not merely enthusiastic. His passion and rigor were truly inspiring.
I also remember Mark for his abundant generosity, his modesty and lack of ego, and his deep insight. His door was always open. He would thoughtfully contemplate any legal question, but also any ethical or personal question. How should I respond to this difficult student? Or to my difficult faculty colleague? Or, to my misbehaving child? And his response was invariably calm and measured, but also honest and perceptive.
I will terribly miss, and we will all miss, his effervescence, his brilliance, his wisdom, and the joy that he brought to all of our lives.
Ken Simons, Professor of Law at BU from 1982 to 2015
My memories of Professor Pettit are all from the classroom where he taught us the principles of evidence. Even decades later, when I encounter evidentiary issues in my professional life, I am transported back to his presence in one of those lofty classrooms by the Charles and reflect on how he facilitated getting to the correct result. My condolences to his family and the BU law community.
Donna M. Praiss (’89), US Patent and Trademark Office
Professor Pettit was a fantastic teacher and an exceptionally nice person. I know he will be forever missed. Sincere condolences to his colleagues, friends, and family.
Margot Finkel (’15)
I was a classmate of Mark’s at the University of Chicago Law School. I do not recall seeing him since graduation but it is thrilling to read of his life in the law and the enthusiasm he engendered in his students. My sympathies to his family and colleagues.
Samuel Clapper, University of Chicago Law ’71
I was Mark’s roommate for his first year at Bowdoin College. I have known him since 1964 and saw him last in 2013. He was one of the most equable, hard-working, and unfailingly pleasant persons I have ever known. He was devoted to his students and to an understanding of the law that sought to do good and right. Roger Michener
Roger Michener (Bowdoin 1968), Princeton
Prof. Pettit’s evidence class was one of my favorites. Condolences to his family.
Catherine Kelleher (’03), Peabody & Arnold
Rebeca Martinez (1992), State Of Texas, Fourth Court of Appeals