Remembering Law Professor Emeritus Robert Laurence

Remembering Law Professor Emeritus Robert Laurence

Robert Todd (Bob) Laurence, 78, Professor Emeritus of law, passed away June 21, 2024, surrounded by his wife, Pk, their devoted black lab, Chaco, and family and friends.

Laurence joined the U of A School of Law faculty in 1981 where he was later named the Robert A. Leflar Professor of Law. In 2002, he was appointed to the rank of Distinguished Professor.

He spent his life teaching, starting with high school mathematics, before enrolling in graduate school. Before joining the U of A faculty, he was an assistant professor of law at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Over the years, he was a visiting professor of law at Florida State University, the University of New Mexico and the College of Foreign Trade in Budapest, Hungary. He spent many summers teaching and mentoring students in the American Indian Law Center housed at the University of New Mexico School of Law.

Laurence retired from the law school in 2007 but continued to teach equine law in the U of A Department of Animal Science. He was widely published in both scholarly journals as well as popular outlets. He won many prestigious teaching awards and was highly regarded by his students.

Born on Sept. 19, 1945, in Newport News, Virginia, Laurence was the middle son of the late James C. and Helen Mell Laurence. He was a graduate of Berea High School Class of 1963 in Berea, Ohio. After high school, he earned the following degrees: a B.S. in mathematics from Ohio State University (1967); an M.Ed. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton (1972); a J.D. magna cum laude from University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (1976); and an L.L.M. from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (1978) where he was also a teaching fellow.

A man of many interests, he was a star second baseman for the Berea, Ohio, Little League White Sox; he went on to wrestle for Berea High and later coached high school wrestling. He was a great fan of track and field and an accomplished juggler. Laurence and his wife traveled widely and often; some of their favorite destinations were the Canadian provinces, Greece, Grenada, Mali and Senegal. They especially loved all the time they spent living in the house they built on their property in the New Mexico desert. They became interested in horses and made steadfast friends with several, including ones they rescued from racetracks. They avidly followed horseracing and were thrilled when they got to meet Zenyatta, the champion American Thoroughbred racehorse. In addition to his academic writings, Laurence wrote for The Horse and The Minneapolis Review of Baseball; he also authored two novels, Departure Lounge and The Math Tutor.

Laurence is survived by his wife of 54 years, Pk Ellis. Also surviving are his brothers, Jim and his wife, Dee, and John and his wife, Nancy Flynn; his nephews and nieces, Gregory Laurence and his wife, Mina; David Laurence and his wife, Ako Komoto; Karen Laurence; Zachary Laurence; and Molly Laurence McDonald and her husband, Justin; his great-nieces and great-nephew, Maaya (Komoto) and Eleanor and Jay (McDonald); his brother-in-law, Bruce Ellis, and sisters-in-law Lisa, Patricia and Penny. He is also survived by his lifelong best friend, Steve Milan and his wife, Mary.

A memorial service will be held at the U of A School of Law this fall. Contributions in his memory may be made to the American Indian Law Center, P.O. Box 4456, Albuquerque, NM 87196.


Tammy Tucker, director of communications & marketing
School of Law


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