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Daniel J. Dykstra

Professor of Law, Emeritus




Daniel J. Dykstra, emeritus professor of law and former dean of the University of California at Davis School of Law, died March 29, 2000 from leukemia. His career spanned over five decades, including four years as a high school instructor, and earned him distinction as a scholar and administrator as well as a superb classroom teacher. Professor Dykstra came to UC Davis in 1965 as the first member of the law school faculty, where he taught until 1995. He served as dean of the law school from 1971 until 1974 when he returned to his first love, teaching.


A minister’s son, Dan was born in Fremont, Michigan on February 25, 1916. He graduated from high school in Baldwin, Wisconsin in 1934, and was an honors graduate of the University of Wisconsin at River Falls in 1938, earning his B.S. degree in American History. From 1938 to 1942, Dan taught history and debate at Frederic High School in Frederic, Wisconsin, where he met another teacher, Lily Salay. Dan and Lily married in 1942. Theirs was a loving relationship that lasted over half a century. They had two children. Their daughter, Ann Marie, a Ph.D., is the executive assistant to the President of Dickinson College. Their son, Daniel Jr., attained an LL.M. and is a civilian counsel for the Corps of Engineers.


During World War II, Dan served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1945, primarily as a supply officer in North Africa. After the war, he entered law school at the University of Wisconsin, graduating first in his class in 1947. He went on to do graduate work at Wisconsin on a Rockefeller research grant, attaining an S.J.D. in 1950.


Professor Dykstra began his law teaching career as an assistant professor of law at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa from 1948 to 1949.


He moved to the University of Utah, where he was associate professor from 1949 to 1952 and professor from 1952 to 1965. He served as dean of the College of Law from 1954 to 1961 and as academic vice president of the University of Utah between 1961 and 1963, after which he returned to full time teaching. He was so well respected at Utah that when Spencer Kimball stepped down as dean in 1954, the law faculty unanimously chose Dan as their new leader. As the Utah dean, Dan recruited outstanding full-time faculty and visitors, including Ed Barrett, who later became the founding UCD law dean. Dan was also responsible for the new law school building at Utah. In the late 1950s he lobbied every county bar association in Utah and many of the most influential state legislators. His efforts bore fruit in March 1961 when the governing board voted to appropriate the funds for the new building–on the very same day on which the board appointed him vice president.


Professor Dykstra arrived in Davis in 1965 as the very first faculty member hired at the new School of Law by his old friend, Ed Barrett. In fact, Dan was hired before any students enrolled, and he spent 1965-1966 as a visiting faculty member at Stanford University, before teaching UC Davis’ initial entering class in 1966-1967. He was the law school’s second dean from 1971 to1974. As he had at Utah, Dan helped shape the young law school. Today the law school is widely hailed as having a unique sense of community. Dan made a major contribution to developing that community feeling. He treated faculty, staff, and students alike with respect and kindness. He made all his law school associates feel that he valued them both as professionals and as human beings.


In 1981, he received the law school’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He continued teaching until his retirement as a full-time faculty member in 1985. Professor Dykstra then returned to teaching as an emeritus faculty member at UC Davis and the University of Hawaii until 1995. His specialties were torts, corporations, and securities regulation. He published law review articles in these fields in the leading reviews across the country and continued to teach at UC Davis even after his retirement until 1995.


Professor Dykstra’s teaching skills were recognized by schools around the world. He was a visiting professor at UC Berkeley (Boalt Hall), Hastings, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Stanford, Texas, Wisconsin, and the University of Oslo, Norway. In 1959, he was Fulbright Professor of Law at the University of Melbourne in Australia. In 1964 he served on the faculty at the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies in Salzburg, Austria. His honors included membership in the American Law Institute, the American Bar Association, and the National Academy of Arbitrators. He also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls.


Thus, during his career Dan not only helped build institutions; he also built a considerable personal reputation. Most importantly, though, what he built reflected his personality. Dan will always be remembered as a gentle, forthright person. In the words of Dean Rex Perschbacher: Dan’s “greatest gift to King Hall and his lasting legacy has been his common decency, his integrity, and his honest concern and respect for his colleagues, students and staff. The special community spirit that characterizes the study of law at King Hall was first planted here by Dan Dykstra. Nurtured by those who came after him, imparted to new generations of students, faculty and staff, Dan Dykstra’s spirit will always live as a part of the UC Davis School of Law.”


The law schools at both UCD and Utah owe enormous debts to Dan. Dan left an indelible, personal imprint on all the institutions that he served as a teacher or administrator.


Dan is survived by his wife of 57 years, Lily, his daughter Ann Marie, his son Dan Jr., his daughter-in-law Moira Whelan Dykstra, and his two grandsons, Jack and Sam Dykstra. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Daniel J. Dykstra Faculty Excellence Fund at the UC Davis School of Law, c/o Development and Alumni Relations, 508 Second Street, Suite 203, Davis, CA 95616-4664.


Edward Imwinkelried

James Hogan

Kevin Johnson