A Tribute to Professor Steven Gey
University of Illinois College of Law
September 18, 2011
Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 40, No. 1, 2011
Saying goodbye to a beloved colleague and friend is always difficult. A short essay cannot possibly do justice to Professor Steven Gey’s many achievements and fine attributes. Instead, I would like to share two of the important lessons Steve taught me over the course of his four-year struggle with ALS. In short, the first lesson is that you are what you do. Steve exemplified this lesson by choosing every day to be someone who helped other people understand more. Some of the more humbling ways he accomplished this include his willingness to turn his house into a constitutional law salon and his creative use of his voice, toes, and finally his brain waves to type articles. His daily decisions showed us that teachers teach and writers write.
The second lesson is that expression matters. Professor Gey spent a substantial amount of his intellectual energy articulating and defending an expansive vision of free speech under the First Amendment. Unsurprisingly, he felt that expression, in all its many forms, forms the essence of what it is to be human. One of ALS’s cruelest symptoms is the way it robs its victims of the ability to communicate. But Steve never lost his faith in the importance of expression and fought tenaciously to participate in the world of ideas. He used art to fortify himself. It provided him the strength to begin yet another day in which he would choose to do the best he could with the condition he was forced to accept. Yet even now that he has physically departed, his true voice, as captured in his innumerable articles and speeches, remains as undiminished as ever.
Florida State University College of Law and his many friends and family members all lost something great when Steve passed away. But the mark of a truly wonderful teacher is that his students will continue to live his lessons and pass them on to others. In the provocative words of one of Steve’s favorite philosophers, Jean Paul Sartre. “One always dies too soon - or too late. And yet, life is there, finished; the line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life.” To a life deliberately and thoughtfully well lived, I honor you.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 6Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: September 30, 2011 ; Last revised: October 3, 2011
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