Remembering Professor "Fritz" Juenger
Barbara Juenger has no trouble remembering the party in 1963 when she met her husband, Friedrich "Fritz" Juenger, one of the world's leading authorities on conflict of laws and comparative law and one of UC Davis School of Law's most popular and effective teachers from 1976 until his death in 2001.
"I remember this man walking up to me and saying, ‘You're so ugly, you must be interesting! Would you like to dance?'" she recalled. "I was so baffled, I was speechless, and I got up to dance."
Today, she laughs about the experience as one of the many examples of the sense of humor that endeared Professor Juenger to students and colleagues alike. "Mind you, I didn't think it was very funny at the time," she said, "but now I find it hilarious. He was extremely funny, and there are many stories like that about him."
Professor Juenger's good humor was perhaps all the more remarkable given his background. His parents died as the result of a bombing raid on Frankfurt when he was 14. He was taken in by relatives, but had to struggle to afford an education amidst the grim realities of post-war Germany.
"He had a very difficult childhood," said Barbara. "He didn't like to talk about it, but it influenced his life and his teaching. I think because he had such a hard time, with no parents to help him, he was always willing to help when someone needed him. He didn't want anyone to have to go through what he did."
Juenger studied law at the J.W. Goethe University in Frankfurt and the Free University of Berlin, then attended the University of Michigan Law School as a Fulbright Scholar School and earned a master's degree in comparative law. He earned his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1960 and went to work for Baker & McKenzie, a leading international law firm. After Barbara urged him to consider alternatives to the peripatetic life of an international lawyer, he accepted an offer to teach at Wayne State University in Detroit in 1967, the year he and Barbara married. After the birth of their first child, she persuaded him to seek employment in a more family friendly city, and when UC Davis School of Law Dean Pierre Loiseaux expressed an interest, the couple explored Davis and found it to their liking. He joined King Hall in 1975, teaching conflict of laws, comparative law, international transactions, and torts.
Fritz Juenger was a natural teacher and an extraordinary scholar. The author of four books and more than 70 articles, his work was both iconoclastic and influential, and he was in great demand. He spoke and taught at law schools around the world and won many honors, including King Hall's Distinguished Teaching Award in 1985. He became the Edward L. Barrett, Jr. Professor of Law in 1993.
Through it all, Barbara was his constant companion and partner. She proofread his scholarly works, and on one memorable instance, she helped him to teach a course on American Law while on a sabbatical in France. Professor Juenger had accepted the last-minute teaching assignment without realizing the course was to be taught in French, a language he did not know well. He succeeded only by writing out his nine hours' worth of weekly lectures, having Barbara correct his grammar, then reading them aloud to her so she could correct his pronunciation. "It wasn't easy, but he managed, and in the end the students and faculty were very pleased with the course," she said.
When he died in 2001, tributes came in from around the world. In a jointly authored article, Professors Floyd Feeney, Robert Hillman, and John Oakley wrote that for Juenger, the law was "a means for making a hard world a bit more humane. He thought deeply and he wrote passionately. You might agree or disagree, but you were never likely to be bored. He was a wonderful writer and a great teacher and lecturer."
"I found it very sad that he died so early," said Barbara. ""He was a modest person, incapable of self-promotion, and when the accolades finally came, he hardly had time to enjoy it. But his life was very full. He did what he wanted to do, and he had no regrets."