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Obituary: Mayer G. Freed

Labor scholar with ‘flair for administration,’ steward of foreign executive programs

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November 1, 2010 | by Hilary Hurd Anyaso

Mayer G. Freed
Mayer G. Freed

CHICAGO --- Mayer G. Freed, a longtime professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law who specialized in discrimination and employment law and played a key administrative role in the school’s foreign executive programs, died Oct. 27 of a rare blood disease at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was 65.

A former associate dean for academic affairs at the law school (1986 to 1995), Freed had a flair for administration, according to Robert W. Bennett, the Nathaniel L. Nathanson Professor of Law at Northwestern.

“He kept the school on an even keel, with efficiency to be sure, but also with deft touches of imagination and innovation,” Bennett, a former dean of the law school, said.

Freed’s stewardship of the school’s flourishing foreign executive programs included the special role he played in nurturing the program with Tel Aviv University, where he served as a visiting professor in 1996.

That assignment was likely the most satisfying for Freed, according to Northwestern Law Professor Len Rubinowitz. “Along with the many colleagues, students and administrators whose lives Mayer enriched, the Tel Aviv program will be a wonderful lasting legacy of Mayer’s long, but all-too-short, time at Northwestern Law School,” he said. 

Freed taught courses in constitutional law, employment discrimination, First Amendment, Jewish law and employment law.

He joined the School of Law faculty 36 years ago. At first, colleagues worried that Freed and his wife, Paulette, might want to return to their “beloved New York.” But before long, he became an integral part of the law school community, Bennett said.

“It was obvious at least to the rest of us that this was where he and Paulette really belonged,” he said.

Before joining the Northwestern faculty in 1974, Freed served as a senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project in New York City and before that as an associate at Proskauer, Rose, Goetz & Mendelsohn in New York City (from 1970 to 1971). He is a graduate of Columbia University and Columbia Law School, where he was a member of the board of editors of the Columbia Law Review.

The author of numerous publications, he currently was working on an examination of the employment discrimination issues raised by civil service tests of public employees, with a particular focus on the Chicago police department civil rights litigation.

A former member of the board of directors of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, Freed was a member of the Commission on Law and Social Action of the Chicago chapter of the American Jewish Congress.

Freed’s strength, Bennett said, came through in the way he dealt with his illness.

“He didn’t kid himself about the seriousness of his condition,” Bennett said, “but he wouldn’t let the rest of us become glum. His passing leaves a big void, but it also leaves a wealth of wonderful memories of a very large life lived very well.”

Janet Garesche, director of Northwestern Law’s executive LLM and tax programs, worked with Freed for five years on the school’s three foreign executive programs in Korea, Madrid and Tel Aviv. She said she would miss his calmness and appreciation of all viewpoints. “I never saw him angry or unkind. He was a gentle, wise soul.”

Freed is survived by his wife, Paulette, and sons Daniel and Josh. The funeral was held Oct. 28 at the Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago.

Topics: People