MSU College of Law

Memories of Prof. Craig R. Callen

A few years after graduating from MSU-Law, I had an evidentiary ruling go against me in a criminal trial. I was frustrated by the ruling, and when I thought about who I could call for guidance on the issue, Professor Callen immediately came to mind. I called him from my office in Maryland, left a message on his voicemail, and received a return call within minutes. He listened to the issue, offered sound advice, and wished me well. The amazing thing is that he gave his time so freely to someone who was never even in one of his classes (I had a different professor on the faculty for both Civ Pro and Evidence). He was a great teacher and was as willing to help a practicing litigator understand a lesson as he would be with a student in class. He was an evidence guru, a brilliant legal scholar, and a great man.
— Ryan Mooney

I was in one of his first classes at MSU College of Law and thoroughly enjoyed his civil procedure class. He was a credit to the college and the legal profession. He will be missed. God Bless to his family.
— Melissa DiGiamberdine

Professor Callen was a phenomenal teacher. He pushed me to not only meet my expectations, but exceed them. I was a better law student and am now a better attorney because of him.
— Brian LaVictoire

I will miss his friendly greeting every day, and seeing students gathered around him in the Lobby discussing an issue from one of his classes. He always had time to talk with his students.
— Jo Lange

The sound of Professor Callen's feet shuffling through the law library...
...a sound that during my first semester frightened me, because I knew his inevitable question, "how's Civ Pro going, Ms. Cherry?"; would soon follow.
...a sound that I started to listen for during my second semester, because by then I wasn't afraid to ask him the 10 questions I had.
...a sound that I waited anxiously for when I was taking Evidence; and on the rare occasions that I became impatient waiting for him to make his rounds, I could always find him in his office (I just couldn't always make my way to his desk!)
...a sound that will be missed. He was a brilliant man who I was inspired by often, and I will continue to carry that with me. Thank you Professor Callen.
— Morgan Cherry

My 3rd year at Michigan State College of Law marks my 20th year as a student in some capacity. During those 20 years no teacher shaped my approach to learning and hard-work more so than Professor Callen. Professor Callen took his role as a teacher very seriously. He cared deeply not only about our grasp of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), but also that we be happy and healthy.
— Matthew Daniels, 3L

Professor Callen had a unique ability to inspire his students to never settle or take the easy road. He saw potential in his students that we often could not see within ourselves. Through intimidating us, challenging us, inspiring us, and making us laugh, he made everybody that left his classroom a stronger and better person. Most of all, he truly and genuinely cared for every student that walked in his classroom.
— Ben Fisher, 3L

I first met Craig last summer when I came to MSU as a visiting assistant professor. Craig was very kind to me throughout the year, giving me advice on teaching and job searching and other things. He made me feel very welcome here, and he'll be sorely missed.
— Professor Ann Tweedy

Prof. Callen was one of the hardest professors I have ever had, and for that I thank him so very much. He never gave anyone the answers. He only showed us the tools we needed to find the answers ourselves. He taught not only civil procedure and evidence, but he taught us how to think like lawyers and think for ourselves. Aside from his teaching method, Professor Callen was an amazing person, who truly wanted each and every student to succeed. I have never had a professor walk around to his students and ask how they were, how their studying was going, or if they were getting on in class. Everyone, even those who didn't have him as a teacher, knows that he truly cared about his students, and this, if nothing else, shows what a kind person Professor Callen truly was. I wish there were more like him. He will be missed.
— Caitlin Keene, 2L

It was Callen, as we all knew him, who first introduced me to the law in earnest. I learned from him the most fundamental of skills: how to think like a lawyer. Civil Procedure was my favorite course, until Evidence. Both were his. I credit my interest in litigation to his inspired passion for those subjects. In his capable hands the Socratic method was truly a thing of beauty. I lived in constant fear of him, of course. But I loved him for it all the more. As a 2L, despite every warning to the contrary, I asked him to be the expert reader for my case note. It was simultaneously the most difficult and most fulfilling academic experience I've ever had. Professor Callen, more than anyone else, taught me how to write.
— Lucas Myers

I am a legal researcher who frequently empassed the Professor. I crossed paths with this man on several occasions, and at one point I thought he was just another, serious researcher, such as myself. However after engaging in conversation with this individual I discovered that this man has depth. The gentleman never told me that he was a Law Professor. It was not until I asked him if he was a student in disguise. This man had the appearance of Peter Foulk , you know Columbo, someone that you would not even think possessed such knowledge until you engaged in conversation with him. I guess God has a bigger forum for this gentleman, I will miss his easy going movements, the Professor.
— Wendell W. Phillips

My daughter, Allison, a current 2L, was deeply saddened and moved to tears by the news of Professor Callen's passing. She was a student in his classes for 3 semesters and held him in very high regard, first as a brilliant professor, but also as a wonderful, generous, and caring individual. He will be sincerely missed, yet warmly remembered.
— Eileen Laffey

Professor Callen taught Evidence the way I hoped to be taught when I entered law school. He was rigorous, engaging, humorous, and caring. I will never forget how proud I felt when he shook my hand and congratulated me on passing the bar exam. I hope that Professor Callen's family will find comfort from the many accounts of those touched by Professor Callen's talent and generosity.
— Jennifer Shaltry

Section 2 Fall 2010 offers a quotation from Professor Callen:
"Law school is a challenge, but you are equal to it. Don't do anything to hamper yourself by settling for simplistic explanations based on some fear that you can't do complicated work. That is a fear you have to conquer. I will not do anything that might encourage you to give in to that fear."
— Craig Callen

Thank you for a wonderful experience in Civ. Pro.! You will be missed.
— Thomas Legault

I was saddened to hear about the recent death of Professor Craig Callen. Craig was an author of several very popular CALI lessons in Evidence. By my counts, his lessons were used by law students tens of thousands of times over the past 8 years.

Craig was always a pleasure to work with. He was a serious academic with a depth of knowledge that was astonishing at times, but he was never stuffy. He was witty and at times quite a piquant conversationalist. He was dutiful in his obligations and never failed to stop by for a chat when visiting CALI staff at our booth during the annual AALS meetings.

I meet and interact with so many people and sometimes the names and faces blur in my memory, but my memories of Craig are sharp and pleasant. He will be missed. My condolences and prayers go out to Craig's family and his community of friends, colleagues and students at Michigan State University College of Law.
— John Mayer, Executive Director, Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction

I had Professor Callen for Civil Procedure and took him again for Evidence. When I heard the awful news, I thought to myself, "This isn't fair." Then, I had a flashback to first year and heard Professor Callen say, "You know what Mick Jagger says. You can't always get what you want. Life isn't fair."

Professor Callen was a brilliant man, and a phenomenal teacher. He made me a better law student, and a better lawyer because he didn't coddle me. He taught me to teach myself. That is the greatest gift of all. Professor Callen's family is in my thoughts, and my prayers.
— Stephen Brey

Professor Callen had a huge impact on my law school experience, and I am a better person and attorney because of him. I was always amazed by his unending efforts to personally get to know his students, while still devoting so much time to research and scholarship. I will miss him terribly, as will many of my classmates.
— Emma (Haas) MacGuidwin

What a shock! MSU's faculty and students have lost an outstanding colleague and an excellent teacher. Craig's fellow evidence scholars have lost an important contributor. I, and many others, have lost a friend. Craig was well-established at Mississippi College when I began my law teaching career there. Although our chosen fields shared relatively little in common, we hit it off from the start. Sometimes amused, sometimes bemused, about the mole hills others yearned to turn into mountains and the mountains either ignored or assumed to be insurmountable, Craig never lacked fodder for conversation.

I imagine he would have had something witty and sardonic to say about the hoopla here in the U.S. over this morning's royal wedding in London. And yet, I suspect he would also have deeply respected the couple, the commitment they made to one another, and their willingness to do it in plain sight of a billion people. Despite leading what appeared to be a somewhat monastic lifestyle, Craig always seemed genuinely interested in his friends' families -- and that interest did not fade with distance. Every time we ran into each other at AALS meetings or elsewhere after I left MC for Emory, then UNLV, and Craig left MC for Michigan State, and almost every time we exchanged e-mails or talked by phone, Craig always asked about my wife and our son (recalling their names without any prompting).

Craig also enjoyed talking -- well, frankly, grousing mostly -- about baseball and football and our eclectic tastes in movies, music, and literature often overlapped and occasionally helped one of us discover something new and interesting.

Always a bit restless at MC, Craig seemed to me to be quite content at Michigan State -- and my former UNLV colleagues and other friends who became Craig's colleagues and friends there reflected that sense. His students there obviously appreciated him, too. I will miss him.
— Keith A. Rowley

I graduated from Mississippi College School of Law in 1991 and Professor Callen was a great teacher and mentor.  I think I took about 30 hours of classes with him and I was on two Moot Court teams that he coached.  He was extremely demanding and I doubt that a day has passed in the last 20 years that I have not used something that he taught me.  Outside of law we often talked about movies, sports and trivia of all kinds.  He was very demanding but very kind and generous.  He had a terrific sense of humor.  I know that any success that I may have had as a lawyer is directly attributed to Professor Callen. He was a really fine person.
— Rob Hildum, Deputy Attorney General for the District of Columbia

I was on the first moot court appellate team at MSCOL in 1985.  Professor Callen, the coach, plucked the 4 members of the team from the annual 2L appellate advocacy competition.  I think it is fair to say that, while we all enjoyed appellate arguments, none of us would have had the courage or confidence to try out for the team on our own.  (In fact, one team member actually stuttered when she was nervous.)  Professor Callen looked past everything and saw the potential in all of us.  After hours of coaching, he led us to win the state and regional competitions and we went on to the nationals.  What an exciting thing for a small law school that had just received accreditation!  Professor Callen truly believed in us and helped us to believe in ourselves.  He taught us to face our fears and go forward.  He taught us to work independently and as members of a legal team.  At one point during the preparation for competition, we had taupe (a popular color at the time) colored tee shirts made for the all-women team and one for Professor Callen.  While I must admit that taupe was not his color, he actually wore his shirt in honor of the team.
In the many years since that long ago competition, as I have practiced as a prosecutor in both state and federal courts, I have used the oral advocacy skills that I learned from him in many a courtroom across the south.  I have also relied on his simple, yet perfect, explanation of the hearsay rule and its exceptions when training young lawyers.
Even though we had not kept in touch, I thought of him often over the years.  Knowing that he was there was somehow comforting.  He will be remembered and missed.  I will most especially be thinking of him as I argue before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals next week.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family, many friends and students.
— Leah Ann Butler

Sean Doran and I would both like to extend our sincere condolences to Craig's family and friends on his very sad and sudden passing.

We each have extremely warm memories of Craig as a generous, engaging and witty person. We were touched by the power of his intellect and by the breadth of his interests outside the law and evidence.

I first met Craig at a conference in Edinburgh in 1990 and attended a number of international gatherings with him. At one of these in The Hague we got so engrossed in conversation walking back at night from the conference building that we lost our way back to the hotel where we were staying and spent a number of hours tramping the streets of the city. Later when I spent a semester at Hastings College of the Law in the fall of 2000 Craig came for a visit and we spent long hours browsing through the bookshops of Berkeley alighting on the many books that Craig had read in so many different fields of interest.

Sean first met Craig in 1992 at a conference in Vancouver organised by the Society for the Reform of Criminal Law.  He fondly remembers Craig introducing him to the brilliant Swedish crime novels of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo long before the recent surge of interest in Scandinavian crime fiction. Craig's regular recommendations for reading would never disappoint. Sean has a particular memory of bringing Craig to a gaelic football match in County Monaghan in Ireland in the late 1990s and he recalls Craig being intrigued by the loose structure of the game in contrast to American football.

We both had the privilege of working with Craig in the development of the International Commentary of Evidence and of serving as editors under his Editorship in Chief. Long before electronic journals became popular, Craig had a vision for an experimental electronic law journal which would promote scholarly communication on the law of evidence across different jurisdictions and across disciplines such as economics, psychology, philosophy and history.  After sharing these ideas with us at an international conference in Belfast in 1998, he came back to Belfast to develop them further with us and the journal first came to be published on the website of our law school, Queen's University Belfast School of Law. The journal later came to be published by Berkeley Electronic Press.

Craig held to the highest and most exacting standards of scholarly work.   We came to appreciate how hard he worked with contributors to ensure that the articles that were published were of the highest quality they could be.   Outside our professional relationship we also came to know him as a friend who took a deep interest in our personal lives. We will miss him very much.
— John Jackson , Dean of Law, Professor of Criminal Law, UCD School of Law, University College Dublin
— Sean Doran, Barrister-at-Law,  Bar Library, Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast