Mark R. T. Pettit Jr. ’68 died on June 8, 2018, in Newton, Massachusetts.
The following was published in the Boston Globe.
For over forty years Professor Mark Pettit Jr. died on Friday, June 8, 2018, from cancer-related complications. He was seventy-one years old. He is survived by his three sons, Eric and his wife Teri Stein of Los Angeles, California, Andrew and his fiancee Stefani Stough of Newton, Massachusetts, and Timothy and his wife Jennifer of Waltham, Massachusetts; his siblings Maryanne DiPrimio, Jack, Kirk, and Jeanne; his beloved grandchildren, Lucy, Max, Calvin, and Troy; and thousands of former students and colleagues at Boston University School of Law. He is predeceased by his loving wife of forty-four years, Elaine (Chasse) Pettit, his sister Yvonne Wilsdon, and his brother Eric. Mark was born on July 18, 1946 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The second of seven siblings, he was raised by his late parents Mark Pettit Sr. and Eleanor (Parsons) Pettit in Waterbury, Connecticut, where he received a scholarship to attend nearby Taft High School. It was in Waterbury where Mark later met the love of his life, Elaine. After graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Bowdoin College in 1968, Mark attended the University of Chicago Law School, where he graduated Order of the Coif in 1971. He went on to practice law at a prominent white shoe law firm in New York City before accepting a position at his law school alma mater’s Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, where he served as a clinical fellow and staff attorney from 1973 to 1977. Mark went from representing the most privileged members of our society to the most disadvantaged, and his commitment as an advocate to those in need continued throughout his life. During this time, he also served as an officer in the United States Army, rising to the level of captain before receiving an honorable discharge in 1976. In 1977, Mark accepted a teaching position at BU Law, which brought him and his young family to Newton, Massachusetts. Mark and Elaine were proud residents of Newton Lower Falls for over thirty-five years, where Mark played on the neighborhood softball team and was a staple at the monthly neighborhood poker game right up until his death. Mark was also a wonderful father, and coached his three sons in baseball, hockey (even though he could not skate), and mock trials (to which he was better suited). Mark was an exceptional teacher and colleague at BU Law for over forty years. He was devoted to his students, and during his tenure he received the Metcalf Award (Boston University’s highest teaching honor), the Michael W. Melton Award (BU Law’s highest teaching honor), a Silver Shingle, and Dean’s Awards for teaching and service to the school. He taught generations of students (more than half of BU Law’s living alumni) in classes including Contracts, Evidence, Consumer Law, and Professional Responsibility. He personified the values of kindness, humility, and perseverance throughout his teaching career. Mark’s greatest claim to pedagogical fame was an ongoing feature of his classes in which he would perform popular songs using lyrics his students would write about cases they were studying. A couple of his favorites were “Should I Breach or Pay the Dough,” sung to music by the Clash, and “99 Problems (But A Breach Ain’t One),” sung to music by Jay-Z. He was even featured on National Public Radio in 2007, in a piece titled “Singing Law Professor Rocks the Classroom.” He explained in that interview that his willingness to embarrass himself in front of his students was intended to encourage them to take greater risks and participate more in class, which he believed was absolutely integral to the learning experience. Mark’s willingness to sacrifice himself, and even his dignity, in the service of his students embodied a much greater dignity born of love and service to others. The only thing Mark enjoyed more than teaching (and listening to the music of Mark Knopfler), was spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren. He would count down the days until the “California contingent” would arrive, and enjoyed weekly phone calls with them. Mark also never missed a birthday party, special dinner, school concert, or other important event for his local grandchildren, even after he became ill. Mark was an extremely special person who lived an exemplary life, and he will be missed terribly.