Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Death of Marty Ginsburg

Marty Ginsburg died last week. I never knew him personally, but I knew of him and admired him from afar. I would like to devote some time on this blog to express my admiration for him.

Some of you may not know who Marty Ginsburg was. He was a well-respected tax scholar and teacher at Georgetown. He broke the stereotype of tax lawyers as dry and humorless. Marty was actually very funny, and tried to inject humor into his teaching. As a tax lawyer and tax professor, I appreciated him for breaking the negative perceptions of those who work in our discipline.

Beyond his own professional successes, Marty was also known as Ruth’s husband. He was the beloved husband of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the nine justices currently sitting on the United States Supreme Court. Marty’s death apparently came just days after they celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary. I always mourn for people who lose their loved ones. I can only imagine how hard it must be to lose one’s life partner after so many years together. It absolutely breaks my heart.

I have always read what a devoted, inseparable pair Ruth and Marty were. They married just after Ruth finished her undergraduate degree. At various times, they each made geographical moves and made sacrifices to support the other’s career. They also cared for each other through serious illness; both Ruth and Marty have battled cancer.

I have also always read how very proud Marty was of Ruth’s professional accomplishments. The love and support of one’s partner means so much and is invaluable in helping us reach whatever accomplishments we achieve in this life. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has achieved a lot; she has been a pioneer. With the support of her husband, she went to law school when that was a rare path for women. Indeed, she was one of only nine female law students in a class of over 500. She was a trailblazer through out her career, and was the second woman to ever sit on the United States Supreme Court.

When I myself was a first-year law student, I remember reading an article about Justice Ginsburg. There was a description of how female law students flocked to her when she was a professor. The few other female professors on faculty were unmarried and did not have families. By contrast, the female law students admired and wanted to emulate Ginsburg because of her success in melding her career and family life. Similarly, as a law student, I know that I really studied the examples of the few female professors at my alma mater, who were married and/or had children. Though they may not have realized it at the time, they were a huge encouragement to me as I began my career. I remember studying their examples for clues to their successful juggling.

Now that I am a professor, I know that some female students look to me in a similar fashion. A number of young women have privately sought my thoughts and advice on the possibility and logistics of balancing career and family. Unfortunately, I never have any silver bullets for them. I’m sure Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not have any for her students either. But one thing I know for sure is that for most of us mere mortals the juggling would be nearly impossible without a loving and supportive partner. Whatever successes I have had in my professional life, I know I could not have achieved without my amazing husband. (I tell him that frequently though he typically rolls his eyes in modesty.) I certainly do not know Justice Ginsburg, but have a hunch she would agree about the importance of a supportive partner.

Husbands who support, encourage and applaud their wives’ professional talents are absolutely remarkable in my opinion. It requires selfless and sacrificial love to celebrate the talents of one’s spouse regardless of one’s gender. But it frankly takes a lot of guts for men to defy the cultural gender-based expectations of our society to support a wife’s career and at times even play second-fiddle to her professionally. It takes a strong and loving man to not be petty when his wife’s career gains more attention than his own. In many ways such men have been critical to the advancement of women in our society, and I am very grateful for them. With a husband like Marty as her partner, it is no surprise to me that Ruth has been celebrated as one of the best legal advocates for women’s rights our country has ever had.

The link below includes remembrances of Marty Ginsburg by his fellow tax professors around the country: http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2010/06/remembering-.html.

The link below includes a piece from NPR about Marty’s love and support for his wife: http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2010/07/npr-martin.html.

Romans 12:15 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.

Ephesians 5:25 (The Message)

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor—since they're already "one" in marriage.

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