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Richard Speidel, `Towering Figure In Contract Law', Dies At 75

Richard Speidel, 75, the Beatrice Kuhn Professor of Law Emeritus at Northwestern University School of Law and major figure in the fields of contracts, commercial law and arbitration, died Sept. 6.

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September 12, 2008 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel
CHICAGO – Richard Speidel, 75, the Beatrice Kuhn Professor of Law Emeritus at Northwestern University School of Law and major figure in the fields of contracts, commercial law and arbitration, died Sept. 6.

At the time of his death, Mr. Speidel, a faculty member with a tenured half-time appointment at the University of San Diego School of Law, was surrounded by friends and family at his summer home in Michigan.

He was the author of numerous influential books and articles. They include two leading casebooks, "Commercial Transactions: Sales and Leases of Goods," with Linda J. Rusch, and "Studies in Contract Law" (7th ed. 2008), with Ian Ayres (and previously with the late Edward J. Murphy). He co-authored the five-volume treatise "Federal Arbitration Law: Agreements, Awards, and Remedies under the Federal Arbitration Act," selected as the best new legal book for 1995 by the American Association of Publishers.

Mr. Speidel was "a towering figure in the field of contracts" and "the nation's leading expert on arbitration," said Ian Ayres, William K. Townsend Professor, Yale Law School.

Mr. Speidel had a continued interest in international business transactions and international commercial arbitration and played a central role in several law reform projects related to his field.

He served as a member of the National Association of Securities Dealers Arbitration task force to study arbitration in the securities industry (1994-96).

From 1991 to 1999, he served as reporter for the revision of Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) Article 2, Sales, and was director of the study which recommended the revision. He wrote about this experience in a 2001 Hastings Law Journal article, "Revising UCC Article 2: A View from the Trenches."

"Dick was one of the most distinguished contracts and commercial law teachers of his generation," said Stewart Macaulay, Malcolm Pitman Sharp Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School.

He was a thoughtful teacher who was devoted to his students and a good friend to colleagues.

"Dick elevated teaching, learning and collegiality above self-interest – though his wonderful academic accomplishments gave him every reason to be proud," said Clinton W. Francis, professor, Northwestern University School of Law.

Prior to his time at Northwestern, Mr. Speidel spent three years as dean and professor of law at Boston University School of Law. Before that, he taught for a number of years (1961 to 1977) at the University of Virginia, where he was the Grace N. and Henry L. Doherty Professor of Law.

From 1958 to 1961, he served in the United States Army Reserve's Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG). He was assigned to the Judge Advocate General's School, Charlottesville, Virginia and was an instructor in government contract law and the editor of the Procurement Legal Service. He served as first lieutenant and was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal.

Mr. Speidel earned an LLM degree from Northwestern (1958), a JD from the University of Cincinnati College of Law (where he was editor-in-chief of the Cincinnati Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif), in 1957, and a BA degree from Denison University (1954).

Mr. Speidel is survived by his brother Russell Jarboe Speidel (Cincinnati, Ohio); first cousin John (Jack) Edwards; daughter RaeAnn Cononi; son-in-law Paul Cononi; grandson Reeve Paul Cononi (Mashpee, MA); son R. Scott Speidel; daughter-in-law Kathleen P. Quinn; grandson Connor Quinn Speidel; and granddaughter Nancy Jean Speidel (Evanston, IL).

He was preceded in death by parents, Russell Frazier Speidel and Grace Victoria Speidel (Batavia , OH) and second wife, of 22 years, Elizabeth West Speidel (Chicago, IL).

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27, at Northwestern University's Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Rd., Evanston, Ill. A reception will follow, across the street, at the Guild Lounge inside Scott Hall, 601 University Place.

Mr. Speidel's family requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his honor to the James Kozlowski MD Fund, payable to Northwestern University. Checks should be sent to the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern, Office of Development, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 9th floor, Chicago 60611. (Annual income from the endowment fund, created in honor of Mr. Speidel's doctor for the last 17 years, will be used to support research or a urologic fellowship with the department of urology.)