Remembering Professor Marc Poirier (1952-2015)
A brilliant teacher whose scholarship ranged from environmental law to property law to gender law
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
Thomas Merton O.C.S.O. (1915-1968)
Seton Hall Law mourns the death of Marc Poirier, Professor of Law and the Martha Traylor Research Scholar at Seton Hall Law. Professor Poirier’s teaching and scholarship brought insights from sociology, psychology, history, cultural theory, literary theory, and feminism to bear on contemporary legal issues.
He is one of the few recipients to receive two Dukeminier Awards, which each year acknowledges the most significant law review articles published on sexual orientation and gender identity legal issues.
He was a beloved teacher, most recently as a member of the team of professors who teach the in-depth introductory lawyering skills class to incoming first-year students.
Dean Kathleen M. Boozang said, “Everything about Marc was larger than life: his intellect, his investment in his students, and his friendship and his generosity. He will be missed.”
As part of his broader interest in applying contemplative practices to higher education and legal practice, Professor Poirier also led the Law School’s efforts to inject the practice of “mindfulness” into students’ study and practice of law, leading a twice-weekly meditation session during each academic year.
Professor Linda Fisher wrote,
Marc Poirier was my closest friend and colleague at Seton Hall for twenty years, almost from the moment I began working at the Law School. I already miss him terribly, and have been catching myself wanting to tell him things that it’s now too late to convey. It’s hard to believe that Marc is gone: he was a life force, endlessly vital, always full of ideas, plans, insights, witty asides, trenchant observations, and helpful advice. He was way ahead of me — and virtually everyone else — when it came to meditation and mindfulness. Marc brought mindfulness to the Law School through weekly meditation sessions, meditation flash mobs (!), yoga, and the continuing legal education session we co-taught. He was tremendously concerned about lawyers’ and law students’ stress, and knew exactly what our profession needs to achieve balance and integration. I can only hope that the rest of us take his lessons to heart.
Professor Tracy Kaye wrote,
Iris Goodwin, Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, wrote,
Marc has been an important part of my life since we both started teaching at the law school in 1991. While housed together in the basement of the old law building, we developed a close bond through our shared evening schedules and weekly dinners. Everything about Marc was big: his laugh, his intellect, his warmth and generosity, as well as his presence. Marc had a beautiful voice and many of the faculty enjoyed hearing him sing over the years as part of the Summit Chorale. He loved to entertain and I will never forget his famous Mardi Gras party. But what I will remember most is his concern for the students’ well-being through his advising of the Lambda Law Alliance, the Environmental Law Society, and an amazing amount of student notes, leading of meditation in the chapel, participating in French Table in Café Deni, and offering yoga classes in the public interest auction. I feel incredibly blessed to have had Marc as my friend and colleague. He will be missed terribly.
I met Marc Poirier in the Seton Hall Law Library where he was checking out Locke’s Second Treatise. We fell into a conversation that lasted two hours that afternoon and continued until yesterday. Whatever I wrote, Marc was someone I turned to early on in the process. And he always saw what was valuable in what I was saying – no matter how rough the draft. Whatever the topic, Marc liked the work before I did. While Marc had so many extraordinary virtues, two attributes have always stood out for me. First, his tolerance. The positions that he worked out he deeply embraced, but he never asked me to agree with him. He only asked for my friendship and my respect. Second, his joie de vivre. Even as he fought an extended battle with lymphoma – even as he took the battle into the Sloan-Kettering ICU – his vitality was ever in play. Marc was a life force, inhabiting many differing venues with grace, joy, intelligence and great personal integrity. It is hard to imagine any of these places without him.
Professor Paula Franzese described her experience visiting Professor Poirier the night before his death:
I thanked him for the many, many gifts and lessons he taught. I invoked Kipling's words to describe how Marc ‘walked with kings but never lost the common touch.’ I added, ‘In fact, you are a king.’ Marc smiled, asked for a pen and paper and wrote, ‘How long do I get to be king?’ It was a profound and poignant question. I responded (like a good Property professor) ‘Into perpetuity!” But the significance of Marc's question lingers still. Even last night, he continued to teach.
Prior to joining Seton Hall Law, Professor Poirier practiced law with the firm of Spiegel & McDiarmid, specializing in the licensing of hydroelectric projects and other energy regulatory matters. He earned a B.A. from Yale University, graduating magna cum laude with distinction in 1974. He then lived in Paris, France, working for a French oil pipeline engineering company. He graduated from Harvard Law School cum laude in 1978, where he was an Articles Editor on the HARVARD INTERNATIONAL LAW JOURNAL. He received an L.L.M. from Yale Law School in 1991. He is survived by his sister, Julia.
Details regarding memorial services will be forthcoming.