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Dayton Docket

Remembering Law Professor Allen Sultan

They’re burned into the brains of Professor Allen Sultan’s students even decades later.

They called them “Sultanisms” and they made for a memorable classroom experience.

Some classics include:

“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

“Don’t let the camel’s nose get under the tent.”

“Don’t burn the barn to roast the pig.”

“Sometimes you bend over backward so far you land on your face.”

“Put a piece of gum beside that.”

The phrases were part of Sultan’s charm as a law professor and one of the many things that those who knew him will miss. Sultan died in November at the age of 92.

“He touched so many lives and he was a great teacher,” says University of Dayton School of Law Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Lawyering Skills Lori Shaw Robol. “He cared about his subject matter and he cared about his students.”

Sultan started at Dayton Law in 1978, only a few years after the law school reopened in 1974. He primarily taught Constitutional Law and International Law.

Professor Emeritus Dennis Turner, who also served for a time as the law school’s dean, was on the faculty when Sultan was hired. He remembers times when Allen would just come into his office and chat.

“Allen was fascinating and an interesting character,” Turner says. “He was a very kind individual.”

Robol, who took Sultan’s classes when she was a student, remembers the importance Sultan placed on having students read documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers to understand Constitutional Law. 

“He was concerned about training lawyers who were well grounded in the basics,” Robol says. “He worked hard to get at the history behind some of the decisions that were made.”

Sultan’s many catch phrases and classroom presence ensured the sessions were never dry.

“He tried to keep his classes as interesting as he could,” Robol says. “He was a storyteller in that sense.”

Sultan taught at Dayton Law for 27 years before retiring in 2005 and being given Professor Emeritus status. Robol, who joined the faculty while Sultan was still teaching, says even in his later years he loved being in the classroom.

“He saw so many changes and he never lost his zest or caring,” Robol says.

It’s only fitting that when it comes to Sultan’s legacy at Dayton Law, another one of his “Sultanisms” applies.

“The proof is in the pudding.”

“He will be missed,” Robol says. “He’s one of those people in life who I can’t think about without smiling because he was such a positive influence.”

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