Professor Kempin, Wharton

Professor Frederick G. Kempin, Jr., emeritus professor of legal studies, died June 14, 2008, at the age of 86.

After graduating from Penn Law in 1944, where he had been editor-in-chief of the Law Review, Professor Kempin began teaching as a part-time instructor in the Wharton School’s business law department in 1945 while in private practice of law. He left the law practice in 1949 to devote himself to a career as a member of the Wharton standing faculty, progressing through the ranks to become a mainstay of the department and one of the most significant contributors to its growth and success. He served several terms as the chair of the department (1962-64, 1973-78, and 1984-87), presided over the broadening of its mission and its corresponding name change, in 1977, to the “department of legal studies,” and helped to raise the department to national recognition as the preeminent faculty teaching law outside of a law school. Now known as “legal studies and business ethics,” the department preserves the orientation he set, and continues to enjoy international recognition.

Professor Kempin was “a consummate scholar with a strong grounding in and penchant for history, especially Anglo-American legal history,” recalled a colleague. A frequent contributor to the American Journal of Legal History, he served as its assistant editor 1968-73 and associate editor 1973-82. He also served several years as an editor of the American Business Law Journal, eventually becoming its editor-in-chief.

Always working on multiple writing projects, he is perhaps best known for three books and his monograph chronicling the history of the American Business Law Association (now The Academy of Legal Studies in Business), an organization dedicated to raising the teaching of law outside of law schools to full academic stature. The first of his three books, Introduction to Law and the Legal Process, was co-authored with colleagues in the business law department and served as the text for the introductory course in law taken by countless Penn undergraduates over more than two decades. Legal Aspects of the Management Process, co-authored with Jeremy Wiesen, introduced two decades’ worth of Penn students, both graduates and undergraduates to the legal fundamentals of business organizations, principally proprietorships, partnerships and corporations. His Introduction to Anglo-American Law in a Nutshell, was a widely used primer on the history of our legal system.”These books reflected his love of history and his painstaking research into how law was affected by historical intricacies and oddities,” said colleague Dr. Arnold J. Rosoff.

Professor Kempin was a strong advocate for making undergraduate business education broad-based, giving students a solid grounding in ethics and the liberal arts. As vice dean of the Wharton Undergraduate Division, 1964-1972, he worked to implement curricular reforms suggested by a study funded by the Ford Foundation and spurred on by corporate price-fixing scandals of the early 1960s. He was devoted to teaching, especially undergraduates, and was a staunch supporter of Wharton’s Evening Division. A winner of the Lindback Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1963, “he left behind a legion of students who remember and revere his teaching, his philosophy, his humor, and his humanity,” added Dr. Rosoff.

He is survived by his daughter, Karen Kempin Hauckes; and his son, Frederick G. Kempin, III.