Among the invaluable lessons Fred Stavins learned during law school was one that’s stuck with him all these years later.
The professor: Peter Maggs. The course: Contracts, a must-take for all first-year law students.
“Peter Maggs was a brilliant professor. He started out on the first day of class by holding up a blank sheet of paper and asking us if anybody knew what it was. Of course, all of the first-year law students were dumbfounded,” says the city of Champaign attorney (JD ’76).
“He then wrote one word on the paper. The word was ‘Contract.’
“Then he asked us again, ‘Does anybody know what that is?’ and again we were mainly still stumped. We thought it was a trick question. He informed us that this was indeed a contract and that we should pay attention from now on to what was written on a piece of paper.
“I will never forget that lesson he taught us, among many others, during that first year in Contracts. I have thought about that lesson over the last 40 years I have been practicing law.
“It is a lesson I have not forgotten: Pay attention to what is written on paper. It just might be a contract.”
A Chicago native, Stavins earned his bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame before descending upon C-U for law school in 1973.
“I worked my way through law school by managing a rooming house on the corner of Fifth and Green called Medea. I had never done anything like that before. Originally, the owners were Mel and Carolyn Crooks, who were owners of the Big Dipper ice cream parlors in town — one in Country Fair Shopping Center and the other on University Avenue.
“They gave me a chance to live rent-free. It was a great opportunity.
“They were succeeded in ownership by two gentlemen, one named Abe Bloemker and the other Don Beasley. I found out what kind of owners they would be when I looked out one day and I saw a man in a postal delivery man’s uniform — it was Abe — picking up trash in the front yard.
“Green Street was pretty messy. I thought this was pretty great and went out there to thank him, and he informed me that he was actually the new owner of the building. He asked me if there was anything he could do to help me.
“They were great friends and supporters during my time in law school, and I will never forget their kindness during that period of time.”