In Memoriam: Georgetown Law Professor Emeritus Peter P. Weidenbruch Jr.

February 1, 2018

Georgetown Law Professor Emeritus Peter P. Weidenbruch Jr.

Georgetown Law Professor Emeritus Peter P. Weidenbruch Jr. (L’56, LL.M.’57, H’86), who joined the Georgetown Law faculty in 1965, died January 30 at the age of 88. During his more than 40 years as a professor, he inspired more than 12,000 students in the field of taxation as well as trusts and estates.

“We are profoundly saddened at the loss of Peter, who gave so much to the Georgetown Law community over so many decades,” said Georgetown Law Dean William Treanor. “Our thoughts are with his wife, Barbara, and his adult children, John (L’86), Peter (L’93), Margaret (C’86), Barbara (B’80), and William.”

Weidenbruch earned a B.S. from Northwestern University in 1951 and received both his J.D. and LL.M. in taxation from Georgetown Law, in 1956 and 1957 respectively. His extensive professional experience in tax included six years with the Internal Revenue Service, with service as Assistant Commissioner (Technical) and Acting Commissioner. He also served for four years as tax counsel to Mobil Oil Corporation.

As a Georgetown Law professor, Weidenbruch was extremely popular. His large course load was typically overenrolled and he inspired generations of students to pursue careers in tax law — whether they were interested in tax law at the start of the class or not. He was named the Ralph H. Dwan Professor of Taxation in 1975 and also served as associate dean for graduate programs from 1975 to 1979. He was instrumental in persuading the Tax Section of the American Bar Association to select Georgetown Law students to produce its tax journal, The Tax Lawyer, and served as a faculty adviser. In 1986, he was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Weidenbruch was named faculty member of the year in 1994 and received the Frank Flegal Award as the outstanding teacher of the year in 1999.

As an alumnus, he served on Georgetown Law’s Law Alumni Board and received the Paul R. Dean Alumni Award in 1996. In 2010, he received the James S. Ruby Faculty Appreciation Award from the Georgetown University Alumni Association, recognizing outstanding service by faculty members exhibiting leadership in alumni activities.

As a scholar, Weidenbruch co-authored Federal Income Taxation of Corporations and Stockholders in a Nutshell, served on the Legal Activities Policy Board of Tax Analysts and Advocates and on the Tax Advisory Board of Maxwell Macmillan, Inc. He was a fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

In 2007, David Belding (L’71) established the Peter P. Weidenbruch, Jr., Professorship in Business Law, to honor Weidenbruch’s distinguished service as a member of the Georgetown Law faculty. Professor Robert Thompson currently holds this professorship.

“His genuine interest in and care for his students is evident in the lifelong relationships that many of Peter’s former students have maintained with him,” former Dean Alexander Aleinikoff said at the time the Weidenbruch Professorship was established. “In his role as both professor and alumnus, Peter has supported this school in every way imaginable.”

Outside of the Law Center, Weidenbruch enjoyed baseball, tennis, and golf — and of course, spending time with family and friends. He served as a member of the board of directors for the Baltimore Orioles for 10 years and was a regular at Camden Yards.

In Remembrance

What I remember about Peter and have missed so much was his constant smile, cheery demeanor, and sprightly walk. He never failed to greet me in the hall and ask how things were going, often adding some undeserved compliment for something I'd done or said. He radiated happiness -- a person who was so obviously happy with life and his chosen profession, law professor. After 5 minutes with Peter I felt decidedly less grumpy. I'm sure this is one reason why his students adored him. The world is definitely a sadder place without him, as is our law school community.

— Hope Babcock, Professor

Peter was one of the faculty who made Georgetown a special community. He combined impressive professionalism with unfailing kindness. He taught so many students so well for so many years that their gratitude will echo through the decades. Peter had a keen sense of family and he put his wide arms around all of us ta Georgetown.

— Peter Byrne, Professor

RIP Professor Peter P. Weidenbruch, Jr.! There are those special people in your life, outside of family, with whom, when something of consequence occurs in your life, you reach out to make sure to let them know. Legendary Georgetown Tax Law Professor Peter Weidenbruch, Jr., was one of those people for me. During my third year at Georgetown Law, I had the great good fortune to serve as Peter's research assistant and from that a more than 40 year friendship began and bloomed between my family and Peter's. When my law school classmate and late wife Linda J. Morgan (L'76) became pregnant in Fall 1984 with our daughter Meredith Karam, after seven years of marriage, I recall telling Peter the news at lunch one day and he said, "Oh Michael, what wonderful news, Barbara and I have been waiting to hear this for such a long time! You will make wonderful parents!" Spring forward about 25 years and Linda and I had the joy of sharing with Peter and Barbara and all the kids and grandkids their 50th wedding anniversary in their backyard in Rockville. Two plus years ago, when Linda died from triple-negative breast cancer, I called Barbara and Peter to let them know. Barbara took the call and, with Peter in the kitchen, we shared our stories together and I made sure to let them know how special they were to me and my family! Now, I see that this great good gentle man and my friend, Professor Peter P. Weidenbruch, Jr., has gone home to rest and I know that he and Linda will look down on us and make sure that we do the right thing, not for any reason other than that it is the right thing to do. RIP Peter! And my thoughts and prayers are with you Barbara and the rest of the Weidenbruch clan as you bid adieu to your patriarch! With love and friendship, Michael Karam, F'72, L'76, L'81!

— Michael E. Karam, F'72, L'76, L'81, Former Research Assistant to Peter

I still smile when I remember Peter's lecture references to the "fat cats." How I wish I could take a tax class with him now!

— Vicki Girard

I was lucky to take the introductory tax class from Professor Weidenbruch in the early 90s when I was a Georgetown Law student. He took what could have been a dry and intimidating subject (at least to an environmental policy person like me!) and made it interesting and accessible. He was a terrific teacher with a ready and warm smile for his students. Sending condolences to his family but also gratitude for sharing him with our Georgetown Law community for so many years!

— Vicki Arroyo, Prof. from Practice & Asst. Dean, Georgetown Law and Exec. Director, Georgetown Climate Center

Three things stand out. Peter's love for his family. I had the privilege of knowing Barbara as well as many of their children. Peter's dedication to his students: Peter was an excellent teacher. To attain and maintain that lofty stature, Peter recorded all of his classes. After each class, he critically reviewed those tapes. Peter and Barbara cherished sports. Peter generously shared his terrific Orioles seats with many of us. And visiting with Barbara and Peter at Capitals games was always a treat. So long, Peter.

— Bill Vukowich, Professor

One of the best professors I ever had. Had no interest in Tax law but loved his class. He sponsored me at the U.S. Supreme Court. Later, when I taught, I found myself using some of his mannerisms and gestures, but of course, not half as effectively. It would be hard to count the number of people he influenced. Requiescat in pace.

— Alumni, Class of 1985

I was greatly saddened to hear of Professor Weidenbruch's death. In October of 2017, the Class of '67 celebrated its 50th Anniversary Dinner and we were so hoping that Peter and his wife could attend, as a number of other surviving members of the faculty did. It would have been particularly poignant for Peter to have attended since we were the first class that he taught the basic Tax I course to. Regrettably, illness prevented him from attending. Little did we know that ours was merely the first so so many more in his distinguished career at the Law Center. He left an indelible impression on many of our class members who went on to be his lifelong friends. Requiescat in pace. Dan Toomey, Class of '67

— Dan Toomey, Chair, Class of '67 50th Reunion

I had the honor of joining the faculty in 1965 with Peter, David McCarthy, and Jack Murphy. We worked together to advance Georgetown into the first rank of schools. It was both an honor and a pleasure to work with Peter. He dedicated himself unselfishly to advance the interests of the Law School and the University in general, and did so with understanding and tact, as well as the ability to persuade in a kindly way. Peter and Barbara looked after the rest of us with love that will never be forgotten by those of us who had the honor of working with them. To Barbara, and all the kids, particularly Bill, I join Peter's many friends in extending condolences.

— Sherman L. Cohn, Professor

This is heartbreaking. Dave McCarthy, Sherman, Peter and I joined the faculty together in 1965. I have loved them all, all my adult life, Peter especially for his wit and unparalleled gifts as a teacher. With gratitude for having been his friend and, indeed, his student.

— Jack Murphy, Professor Emeritus

I was very very sorry to learn of Peter's passing. He was an exemplary gentleman and scholar and a warm and supportive presence. I know how much family meant to him.

— Norman Birnbaum, Professor Emeritus

After our first year exams in May 1974, when virtually all exams covered two semesters, a friend and classmate of mine received 2 D’s and 2 F’s. Of course he was humiliated and devastated. He returned to school having to take almost all of the first year over again. I asked him why. (In those days, to leave school after one year would not place you in a debt so steep that you needed a lawyer’s salary to pay it off. Tuition was about $3,000 for the year and salaries for someone just out of college was at least $8,000.) He said he’d been helped and encouraged by the late tax Professor Weidenbruch. According to my classmate, Professor Weidenbruch had the practice of identifying first-year students who had failed. (I assume he received this information from the Registrar.) He would not know any of these students through courses since tax was not a first-year course. He would contact them and ask them if they still wanted to be lawyers. He encouraged those who said yes to return to school. I don’t know precisely what more he did. For my classmate, the help included getting him a research position (intern? extern?) at the U.S. Tax Court even though he had not yet passed his first year courses, much less studied tax law. My classmate graduated and practiced law in a major city – not in tax law.

Since this part of Professor Weidenbruch’s life did not make it into the Georgetown Law obituary, I conclude that this practice of his was completely under the radar, that he took no credit and sought no publicity.

I never had a course with Professor Weidenbruch. This help he gave my classmate was all I knew about him. But that was enough for me to say I knew the man! I have repeated this story many times. I honor him.

— James M. Thunder, L'77