Law school classmate; Former founding General Counsel, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
Professor William Alford (my friend Bill) has been an inspiration to me since we met as participants in a Columbia Law program in Taiwan in the summer of 1975, led by another inspiration, Professor Randle Edwards. We entered Harvard Law School together that fall, Bill as a student with second year standing who studied with me in some of my 1L classes. I’ve had every reason to look up to him since.
Bill’s thoughtful dedication to the law—be it Chinese legal history, international norms, or disability rights—has been evident from the beginning, and is well-documented on my bookshelves. Whatever the topic, he offers a multidimensional perspective, usually with a slight contrarian twist that engages the reader and broadens one’s understanding.
Yet Bill’s greatest and probably most valued contributions have come, I believe, in his syllabi, classrooms (real and virtual), office hours, after-office hours, mentoring and anything else that helps students learn and blossom. No matter the issue, I have usually found the impact on students and learning to be front and center in his discourse, decisions and time allocation. His dedication to students—perhaps in lieu of even greater academic glory—has shone like a beacon for others like me.
I see in Bill’s leadership of Harvard’s East Asian Legal Studies program the influence of his openness to the wide world of ideas and the wide range of people who hold them. My own participation in classes, seminars and conferences and perusal of EALS offerings over the decades has demonstrated to me the benefits of Bill’s practice of keeping an open mind and an open door, the better to bring in different viewpoints, personalities, legal cultures, etc.
Luckily for all of us, this set of tributes simply marks Bill’s passage to a new stage of his career. We can all benefit from his intellectual inspiration, advocacy for students and openness in years to come.