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The late Phillip I. Blumberg, former dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law. Courtesy photo

The University of Connecticut School of Law has announced the passing of its former Dean Phillip I. Blumberg, a former Wall Street lawyer remembered for transforming the school’s reputation during his 10 years in the role. He died Feb. 14, 2021, at age 101.

Following a successful career on Wall Street, Blumberg was a professor at Boston University Law School before he became dean at UConn Law in 1974. He recruited top professors from around the nation and oversaw the school’s move in 1984 to the former Hartford Seminary campus in the city’s West End, the school noted.

In an obituary for Blumberg written by UConn Law Communications Director Jeanne Leblanc, professor Richard Kay, who also arrived at UConn Law in 1974, called Blumberg a dean with “a spine of steel” and high expectations. “Whether dealing with the faculty, the staff, the students, or the administration in Storrs, he made clear that he expected nothing less than the very best we could produce,” Kay said. “We are all now living with the result, a school whose impact on law and legal education is felt not just in Connecticut, but nationally and internationally.”

Blumberg attended Harvard Law School, graduating, magna cum laude in 1942. He was invited to clerk for Judge Learned Hand on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit but instead joined the Army Air Corps and served as a judge advocate on circuit among air bases in Great Britain during World War II. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service, Leblanc wrote.

Blumberg’s obituary notes he worked for two years on Wall Street before joining the boutique firm Szold & Brandwen, later Szold, Brandwen, Meyers & Blumberg. He spent 20 years in his successful practice, eventually becoming president of Federated Mortgage Investors. He realized his desire to change careers during a 25th-year reunion gathering at Harvard.

By 1978, Blumberg had convinced the state Legislature and Gov. Ella Grasso to buy and renovate the neo-Gothic Hartford Seminary campus. The law school moved to its upgraded campus in 1984. Among the professors Blumberg hired were Loftus Becker, John Brittain, Mark Janis, Bruce Mann, Tom Morawetz, Richard Pomp and Carol Weisbrod.

UConn Law quoted Janis as saying ”Phillip had very high expectations, for the faculty, for the staff, and he would let you know if you met those expectations or didn’t.”

After he stepping down as dean, Blumberg wrote The Law of Corporate Groups. He returned as a professor to UConn Law, teaching corporate finance, business organizations, multinational corporations and corporate responsibility and remained an integral part of the law school.

Blumberg’s wife, Janet Mitchell Blumberg, died in 1976. In her memory, he donated generously to fund the restoration of the Great Hall in Hosmer Hall, which was renamed Janet M. Blumberg Hall. Phillip and Janet Blumberg are survived by their children, William, Peter, Elizabeth and Bruce.

Blumberg also leaves his wife, Ellen Ash Peters, whom he married in 1979, a year after she was appointed a justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. Peters, a former Yale Law professor who taught at UConn Law as a visiting professor, served as chief justice from 1984 until 1996. Blumberg established the Hon. Ellen Ash Peters Prize Scholarship and the Ellen Ash Peters Professorship in her honor.

In 2010, when he was 91 years old, Cambridge University Press published Blumberg’s final book, Repressive Jurisprudence in the Early American Republic: The First Amendment and the Legacy of English Law.

“I regret that I did not have the opportunity to meet Dean Blumberg and to thank him personally for all that he gave to our law school community,” Dean Eboni S. Nelson told Leblanc. “We are forever indebted to him for his transformational leadership of the law school.”

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