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Memorial Honors Professor Aoki

News Posted on May 31, 2011

Aoki MemorialFriends, colleagues, students, and family of the late Professor Keith Aoki gathered at King Hall on May 26 for a memorial celebrating his life and career.  The event featured heartfelt tributes from King Hall community members as well as friends and colleagues from other law schools, praise for Professor Aoki's scholarship, teaching, and skill as an artist, and stories and remembrances that invoked his playful personality and irreverent sense of humor.

Professor Aoki died April 26 following a prolonged illness.  A beloved teacher and colleague and a leading scholar in the areas of intellectual property, globalization, critical race theory, and local government law, his loss was felt keenly throughout the King Hall community and beyond.

Dean Kevin R. Johnson opened the memorial by speaking of his friendship with Professor Aoki and giving an brief overview of his career, which included degrees from Wayne State, Hunter College, Harvard Law School, and the University of Wisconsin, his work as an artist, his time as a law professor at the University of Oregon and UC Davis School of Law, and his prolific publication as a legal scholar, including several works in comic-book form.  "But as we all know, and why we're all here, is that Keith Aoki was much more than those accomplishments," said Dean Johnson.  "The good news is that Keith's character, spirit, his exuberance for life and ideas, will live on with his family, his friends, his students, and his scholarship."

Professor Ikemoto also spoke eloquently of Professor Aoki.  "When Keith came to King Hall we talked about him as a renaissance man, a polymath.  We talked about his brilliance, his contributions to the academic literature, his productivity and creativity as a scholar, his amazing energy, his generosity as a colleague, as a mentor, and of course as a teacher," she said.  "Keith was also a contrarian - a strategic contrarian.  He avoided and disliked conflict, but he was a provocateur.  He was fomenter of rebellion.  He embraced and embodied contradiction.  He acted as a jester, and he spoke as an oracle.  He was, above all perhaps, a subversive - one of the best.  And he was all of those things with glee, with purpose, with irony, and sweetness.  He made both the collaboration and the fight fun and he made us remember why we were in it." 

King Hall students Kyle Morishita '11 and Emilio Camacho '11 spoke movingly of Professor Aoki as a teacher and mentor, and presented gifts to his wife, Mona, and daughters Rachel and Sarah.

Colleagues of Professor Aoki from other law schools also spoke, including Steve Bender from the University of Oregon School of Law, James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins from Duke University School of Law, Neil Gotanda of Western State University College of Law, and Hari Osofsky of the University of Minnesota Law School.  Professor Osofsky ended the proceedings by encouraging the audience to climb up on the tables in the Kalmanovitz Appellate Courtroom and shout "Moo-ha-ha!" in a gesture she felt sure Professor Aoki would have enjoyed.

Professor Bender and the University of Oregon School of Law have created a trust fund on behalf of Sarah and Rachel Aoki.  Those interested in making a pledge may contact Professor Bender at  Professor Boyle put together Keith Aoki: Life as the Art of Kindness - A Remembrance Book, which is available for download by following the link below.

The UC Davis Law Review will publish a selection of tributes to Professor Aoki.  Friends, colleagues, and students are invited to submit their tributes to Maytak Chin '12 at  A video of the memorial event may be viewed by following the link below.

Keith Aoki Memorial video

Keith Aoki: Life as the Art of Kindness - A Remembrance Book