James Devine, a dean at MU School of Law, dies at 62

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 | 5:30 p.m. CDT; updated 9:56 a.m. CDT, Thursday, May 13, 2010

COLUMBIA — James Devine, associate dean of academic affairs at MU School of Law, died Wednesday from a heart attack. Devine, 62, collapsed at approximately 11:40 a.m. during a meeting of the Boone County Bar Association at Tiger Hotel. The meeting was immediately canceled and paramedics spent roughly 25 minutes working on Devine in the hotel ballroom before sending him to University Hospital.

His death was unexpected; more than 20 attorneys rushed to dial 911 after Devine’s collapse. Boone County Bar Association member Steve Scott was present at the meeting. He knew Devine through the association and is also a fellow alum of the MU law school.


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“He was supposed to give a tribute to Ron Smull at the meeting,” Scott said. “He was just a nice and pleasant person.”

According to the MU Law School website, Devine joined the faculty in 1980. He practiced law in New Jersey for four years prior to coming to MU and has published several works on legal ethics.

Jill Jackson, a former student of Devine, remembers his love for teaching. “He had a great sense of humor,” Jackson said. “He wanted to make sure every student was doing their best.”

Jackson, who is also a member of the Boone County Bar Association, was also present at the meeting. 

“I spoke with him before we went into the meeting,” Jackson said. “He seemed fine and in a really good mood. He was just professor Devine.”

Lawrence Dessem, dean and professor of law at MU, published a statement saying, “my last conversation with him had been about our students — for whom he cared so deeply and to whom he devoted his life and professional career.”

Devine's sudden death has left the law school and attorneys throughout Columbia in mourning.  

“His death is a huge loss for the law school and the local community,” Jackson said. “I can’t say enough about what a wonderful person he was.”

Devine is survived by his wife, Sharon; his three sons, Zach, Josh and Noah; and the lasting impression on his students.

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