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King Hall mourns the loss of Rex R. Perschbacher, Dean and Professor Emeritus

News Posted on July 2, 2018

Rex Perschbachers headshotThe King Hall community mourns the loss of one of its most beloved members, Dean and Professor Emeritus Rex R. Perschbacher. He died on June 30 after a long illness. He was 71.

Professor Perschbacher was Dean of UC Davis School of Law from 1998-2008, during which time he grew and diversified the faculty and devised an ambitious, ultimately successful plan to renovate and expand King Hall. Construction on the project, begun while he was Dean in 2007, was completed in 2010 under his successor, Dean Kevin R. Johnson.

“Professor Perschbacher personified all that is great about King Hall,” said Johnson, who served as Associate Dean for Professor Perschbacher. “His vision led to the beautiful addition and renovation of King Hall. He led an intellectual renaissance of UC Davis School of Law, overseeing the scholarly ascendance of the school, hiring a diverse and excellent faculty and staff, bolstering the law school’s true sense of community and commitment to teaching, and much more. And he was as decent a person as I have ever met. We all will miss him.”

Professor Perschbacher joined the King Hall community as a Professor of Law in 1981. His scholarship focused on Civil Procedure, Professional Responsibility and Clinical Legal Education. He received the law school’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992, and a Special Citation Affirmative Action and Diversity Achievement Award in 2001. He held the Daniel J. Dykstra Endowed Chair, and was Director of Clinical Legal Education, before he retired in 2016.

Professor Perschbacher discussed his affinity for teaching in a 2017 video interview with Professor Emeritus Bruce Wolk, Professor Perschbacher’s predecessor as Dean, and for whom he served as Associate Dean. The video was recorded as part of the UC Davis Emeriti Association’s Video Records Project.

“I really did love the students, and cared about their education, and getting them as prepared as possible in the classroom,” Professor Perschbacher said. “I wanted them to be up on the law, and up on the materials.”

In the video, the pair recall fondly how Professor Perschbacher’s students once showed up for class dressed as their professor, in blazers, black-framed eyeglasses and fake mustaches.

“They loved you back,” Wolk tells him.

Professor Perschbacher grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Il. He came to California to attend Stanford, where he received a bachelor of arts in philosophy. He earned his J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law, where he was articles editor of the California Law Review and was elected Order of the Coif. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable Alfonso J. Zirpoli of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, and entered private practice with Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe in San Francisco.

Professor Perschbacher attended Berkeley Law at the height of the anti-war movement – an experience that helped instill a sense of social responsibility he would impart to faculty and students as Dean of UC Davis School of Law.

His eye for diversity while hiring faculty laid the groundwork for what would become the only majority-minority faculty among the nation’s top law schools.

“Rex was committed to King Hall having a diverse faculty,” Professor Emeritus Alan Brownstein said last month at a Schwartz/Levi Inn of Court event in Sacramento at which Professor Perschbacher was honored. “He rejected out of hand the excuses made by law schools that defended their lack of diversity on the grounds they could not find qualified candidates to hire.”

Professor Perschbacher was “a decent, soft-spoken person, but there was steel in his values,” Brownstein said.

Professor Perschbacher is survived by his wife of nearly 30 years, Debbie Bassett; two children, Julie McLaughlin and Nancy Bateman; a sister, Lisa Magee; and four grandchildren.

There are no services planned. Donations in Professor Perschbacher’s memory may be made to the Rex Perschbacher Scholarship at the law school, or to UC Davis Hospice.