Ronald Sklar (1935-2013)
On March 29, former Law Professor Ronald B. Sklar passed away, surrounded by his loving family, after a short illness.
Sklar taught and researched in the fields of criminal law, evidence, law and psychiatry and ethical issues in psychiatry at the Faculty of Law for over 35 years.
Before joining the Faculty in 1973, Ron Sklar had been an instructor at the Brooklyn Law School, and had also taught at Ohio State University and at Addis Ababa University (formerly Haile Selassie I University) in Ethiopia. He held a B.S. (1957) from New York University, an LL.B. (1961) from Brooklyn Law School, an LL.M. (1962) from Northwestern University’s School of Law, where he held a Ford Foundation Fellowship in Criminal Law, and another LL.M. from Yale.
A New York City native, Sklar never entirely lost his accent, which charmed generations of students taking his criminal law classes. Throughout his career, Professor Sklar was a passionate teacher and mentor, deeply dedicated to his students and to their success. He had the gift of making cases come alive for his students, who awarded him the John W. Durnford Teaching Excellence Award in 1998 in appreciation of his teaching.
“To me, he was the criminal law professorial ideal,” says his colleague and friend, Alana Klein, who was his student in the late 1990s. “He spoke gravely of murder in his thick Bronx accent. He tore his wild hair out during moments of frustration at judges’ inability to just get it right. When we talked about OJ Simpson, which was pretty much the whole semester, we all felt like we were really there.”
Klein, who today teaches criminal law herself, added that Sklar had a profound respect for human dignity, which was “reflected in his ideas about criminal law. When Ron Sklar taught and wrote about psychiatry and the law, he did it with the most profound respect for the individuals affected by that area of law.”
An Associate Member of McGill’s Department of Psychiatry, Sklar also acted as a Clinical Ethicist at the Douglas Hospital, a McGill teaching hospital. His most recent research project had centered on developing policies and guidelines governing sexual activity among institutionalized persons in need of special care.
Sklar was also a musical talent and enjoyed participating in the Faculty’s annual Skit Nite talent show, including a memorable rendition of “New York, New York.”
Even after his retirement in 2008, Sklar remained involved at the Faculty by continuing to coach McGill Law students participating in the Coupe Guy-Guérin / Sopinka mooting contest.
Sklar is survived by his wife, Adrianne Levine, his daughters, Alem and Dessalem, his son-in-law, Graham Wood, and his grandchildren, Jada, Zev and Nate.
In 2009, Ron Sklar give a Mini Law talk on Criminal Law that can be viewed here.