Elon Law professor remembered for generosity & kindness
Students and colleagues at a celebration of life praised Michael L. Rich, the university's Maurice Jennings Emerging Scholar and an associate professor who died in December, for his selflessness, his passion for teaching and research, and his deep love of family.
An Elon Law professor who died of cancer in December was remembered this week for the lessons he taught his students and colleagues about not only the law, but about being a kind person who serves others with compassion and encouragement.
In the words of one Elon Law alumnus, Associate Professor Michael L. Rich illustrated for those who knew him how to live purposefully, speak intentionally - and love fully.
"Mike Rich will always be with me, because criminal law is my passion," said A. Brennan Aberle L'12, who works as an assistant public defender in North Carolina's Guilford County. "What he taught me is there for the rest of my life. ... The man's life was about changing the world for the better."
Aberle's remarks were delivered April 25, 2017, during a "Celebration of Life" for a professor whose students and colleagues remember him for a dry wit matched only by a humility and love for family, including his wife, Amy Minardo. Also in attendance was Rich's mother, Carol.
Reflections from Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman, Associate Professor Andy Haile and Associate Professor David S. Levine illustrated Rich's contributions to the law school and the legal profession. Rich was instrumental in creating the school's 2.5-year curriculum with a greater focus on experiential learning opportunities.
"When Mike’s colleagues who helped him build this institution look back, when the history of Elon Law is written many years from now, it is Mike Rich who we will recognize as the architect of the success that students and alums and faculty and staff enjoy," Bierman said.
Rich was named as Elon Law’s Maurice Jennings Emerging Scholar in 2015 in recognition of work that had “shown extraordinary promise as a teacher and a scholar.” His research focused on the intersection of emerging technologies and criminal law with a particular interest in the way those technologies prevent criminal conduct.
His scholarship, featured in Elon University's 2015 President's Report, also looked at technologies like machine learning that can be used to predict crime and identify likely offenders. He critically examined the use of such techniques to create algorithms that can identify individuals who are likely to be engaged in criminal conduct.
In his remarks, Levine shared praise for Rich's work from legal scholars across the country who only knew him from the impact of his scholarship. But more than just a researcher, Levine said, Mike Rich as a true friend. "I really look at Mike as one of the best friends and colleagues I could ever have," Levine said.
Haile echoed those sentiments. "Mike was an exceptional person who made an indelible mark on this law school," said Haile, who studied with Rich at Stanford Law in the late 1990s. "For me, Mike set a standard that I hope one day to live up to."
The gathering concluded with a video of students, faculty and staff sharing their own memories of Rich.
A graduate of Stanford Law School and the University of Delaware, Rich started his legal career at the New York City law firm of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, where his practice focused on First Amendment litigation seeking access to public property and public accommodations.
He later joined the Cincinnati law firm of Vorys Sater Seymour & Pease LLP, where he worked mainly on government fraud litigation under the civil False Claims Act, civil rights litigation, and white-collar criminal cases. Rich also served as law clerk to Judge Susan J. Dlott of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Prior to joining Elon Law in 2010, Rich served as an assistant professor of law at Capital University Law School, where he taught courses in criminal law, evidence, and professional responsibility.
In addition to his wife and mother, Rich, 41, is survived by two daughters, Auden and Cora Rich-Minardo.