Laura Underkuffler Wins Distinguished Teaching Award

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Laura Underkuffler
Professor Laura Underkuffler accepts the 2003 Distinguished Teaching Award on April 2

Professor of Law Laura Underkuffler received the 2003 Distinguished Teaching Award at the Donuts with the Deans breakfast reception on April 2. Peter Reaves ’04 presented Underkuffler with the annual Law School award in the presence of about 100 Law School students, staff and faculty members.

A Duke Law professor since 1990, Underkuffler teaches courses in property, federal courts, and land use planning. She was surprised and delighted to receive the award, saying, “When [Professor] Jeff Powell asked me whether I was coming to the awards ceremony today, I had no idea what he was up to.”

At the ceremony, Reaves handed Underkuffler a plaque engraved with quotes from the anonymous nomination forms. One student wrote, “Underkuffler possesses the unique talent of balancing humor and substance in her classroom. Miraculously, she was able to crack us up while slugging through the rule against perpetuities and takings, while still offering clarity and insight into complicated principles of property law.” Underkuffler’s name will be added to the Distinguished Teaching Award plaque on permanent display in the Third Floor Loggia.

Upon accepting the award, Underkuffler said, “Teaching keeps me aware of my own humanity, and the humanity of others. In an institution like this, where one is in some ways set apart from the world, it is easy to lose sight of real people and real lives. But students remind me of this constantly. They help me keep a humble perspective — such as when they don't laugh at my jokes. They also remind me that there are human beings on the other side of the podium.”

Underkuffler concluded her remarks by saying: “This is definitely the highlight of my teaching career.”

The Distinguished Teaching Award has been a part of Duke Law for about 20 years. The selection process is coordinated by the Duke Bar Association, the Law School’s student government.