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Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

In Memoriam

Clay RobinsonA graduate of the MALS Program, Mr. Clay Robinson died of metastasized melanoma on August 22, 2009. He was born on September 17, 1934. Clay graduated from Little Rock Senior High School, attended Georgia Tech, and earned a law degree from the University of Arkansas Law School in Fayetteville. During his retirement, he pursued many educational opportunities, including completion of the MA in Liberal Studies degree in 2005, where he studied Philosophy, Political Science and Urban Studies, ultimately producing a thesis entitled “Of the Common Law Worldview and the American Constitution.”

We have collected some thoughts about Clay from a few of his former professors.

From Julie Piering (professor and primary thesis chair):

It is difficult to think of Clay without immediately picturing the infectious and impish grin he wore as he thought through a new concept and, almost certainly, thought about the ways he might challenge it. It was as if he was always up to a kind of thinking man’s mischief — ready at an instant to wreak havoc on Kant or Mill or, his favorite, the argument for originalism in the interpretation of law. This last topic was the subject of his MALS thesis, a thesis I’m quite frankly honored to have been a part of. The challenge for those of us on Clay’s committee was reigning in a naturally comprehensive thinker. I often found myself laughingly reminding Clay to save some chapters for another book. Generous and kind, lighthearted but deep thinking, Clay Robinson was a nimble scholar and a spectacular person. If some of my favorite philosophers are right and there is an art of living, in Clay we witnessed a masterpiece.

From Trent Shaskan (professor and secondary thesis chair):

Clay was a lion in sheep’s clothing. Clay was the greatest student I ever had. He was tenacious, argumentative, insolent, an asshole, really he was. He made my classes happen—that is, he made people mad. He really, really bothered people. And for that, at least after the third or fourth class, I cherished him. Clay signaled to the world that the class was real, was something to become mad and upset, or glad and happy about.

He was always disagreeing, but sometimes agreeing, but even in agreement made people mad, as in, “who does this guy think he is”? I loved it. I came to so appreciate it. It took Clay awhile to sometimes get something, but once he did, he owned it, indeed, he believed he always knew it, that’s how dedicated he was to any idea that he liked, or finally understood. And then he was your greatest friend, and would help you do anything. He was a wonderful partner in the crime of learning, and he loved a heated discussion. He didn’t care really what you thought (ok, he did), but he cared that you cared, and were sincere (and were flexible enough to deal with his bullshit). Wow, I really miss Clay.

From Angela Hunter (advisor, professor and thesis committee member):

Clay was a continual inspiration to his classmates and professors alike. Clay challenged himself and others to think more deeply and with more care. He was a penetrating thinker who was always eager for new intellectual encounters. I remember how his eyes would light up when he found something he loved or hated in a text—he was ready for a good debate. He could be an intimidating presence in the classroom, but he also could be counted on to lighten the mood with jokes. Never idle, Clay was always seeking more knowledge and willing to share his own experience and knowledge with others. Clay is sorely missed by all those who had the opportunity to learn with him in the MALS Program. I am so happy that my path crossed with his.

Updated 6.11.2013

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