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Remembering Jack Dunsford | SLU LAW

Remembering Jack Dunsford


John E. “Jack” Dunsford
Chester A. Myers Professor of Law Emeritus

John E. “Jack” Dunsford, longtime School of Law professor and one of the nation's foremost arbitrators and labor law scholars, died Monday, April 14 at the age of 86.

A 1950 graduate of Saint Louis University and a 1956 cum laude graduate of the School of Law, Professor Emeritus Dunsford was a fixture at the law school for more than 50 years, where he taught labor law until his retirement in 2008. He was an early and active member of the Labor Law Group of scholars who write labor and employment law textbooks. In addition to a book, “Individuals and Unions,” he wrote numerous articles and chapters on labor law, arbitration, and the U.S. Constitution and personal freedom, and held the school’s Chester A. Myers Professorship. He earned an LL.M. at Harvard Law School in 1961.

Professor Dunsford held several leadership positions with the prestigious National Academy of Arbitrators, including serving as president in 1984-1985. In 2000, he was named a fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. From 1987-1994, he directed the School of Law's Wefel Center for Employment Law and remained a senior consultant after his retirement. He was the McDonnell Professor of Justice in American Society from 1982-1987.

As Professor Dunsford's reputation as a thoughtful and unbiased arbitrator grew, so did his client list. Over the span of his career, he arbitrated nearly 1,000 disputes for groups such as U.S. Steel and the United Steelworkers of America; the National Football League and the Bert Bell Retirement and Pension Plan; Southwestern Bell and the Communications Workers of America; and the Internal Revenue Service and the National Treasury Employees Union. He arbitrated for virtually all of the U.S. airlines and their unions, including as a participant in an interest arbitration between Alaska Airlines and the Transport Workers Union to set rates during the difficult economic times following 9/11. He served as a permanent arbitrator for John Deere & Company and the United Auto Workers.

Jack influenced the lives of thousands of lawyers, and left a profound impact on his colleagues and friends at the School of Law. Some of them shared their thoughts:

I grew up hearing about Jack Dunsford and his work as a labor arbitrator. He held the greatest respect and admiration from both labor and management for his integrity, sense of fairness and brilliance. It was my great honor to later have him as a colleague. Jack was, indeed, brilliant. He was a productive scholar who brought national recognition to our school. The Arbitration Seminar that he and Joe [Rohlik] taught for many years was groundbreaking and innovative, not only in ADR but for its practical skills approach to teaching. Most especially, though, Jack was a good friend to his colleagues. He took time to be supportive and thoughtful.  I'll miss him.
 – Sandy Johnson, Professor Emerita

I was fortunate to know Professor Dunsford as both a professor and a colleague. He defined class and what it meant to be a man for others. He will be missed.  
– Mary Pat McInnis (’87), Assistant Dean of Career Services

Jack was a true rock and foundation of the Law School.  And kind to all he met.
– John Ammann (’84), Professor and Litigation Clinic Supervisor

Jack enjoyed a great and successful career and brought credit to SLU LAW. He always was a good and supportive colleague, a model for us all. Even in instances of strong disagreement, Jack remained a gentleman and listened with care and humor to voices of those with whom he disagreed – including me at times. I only hope to be able to emulate him in such behavior. I miss him since his retirement and will continue to miss him at the law school.  
– Henry Ordower, Professor

He was one of the best and most brilliant students ever to go through the law school. Even at that young age, he always had that hard-to-define air of a complete gentleman about him. He was admired as a student by the great faculty of the 50s as much as he was later admired as a professor. 
 – Eileen Searls, Professor Emerita


Jack is survived by his five children, Clare Dunsford, Mark Dunsford, Cathy Dunsford Birdnow, Dr. Maggi Dunsford Coplin, Ann Dunsford-Conway; sons-in-law Timothy Birdnow, William Coplin, and Dr. Charles Conway; and six grandchildren. His beloved wife of 60 years, Margaret (Mari) Dunsford, died in 2012.

Visitation will be held from 4-8 p.m. Monday, April 21, at Hoffmeister Colonial Mortuary, 6464 Chippewa in St. Louis. Funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 22, at St. Gabriel the Archangel. Interment in Resurrection Cemetery.

Donations may be made in Jack’s name to the National Fragile X Foundation (, FRAXA ( or to Birthright Counseling of St. Louis.



Some words from Jack's friend and colleague, Professor Emeritus Joseph J. Simeone:

John E. Dunsford – The Ideal Christian

Like the Gettysburg Address, I have only a few words to say. With your permission and an author’s license, I have changed the standard for a eulogy and omitted all the accomplishments of Jack Dunsford; from Professor of Law to President of the American Arbitration Society. Rather, I have decided to concentrate on his qualities of a Christian and Catholic gentleman and what those incidents have had on my life and the lives of some others.

Life as we know it on this third planet from the sun is very strange. As we go through life we often forget about those memorable words said on Ash Wednesday – Momento homo qui in pulvus est et in pulvis revert endi – We are mere dust and unto dust, we shall return.

Jack Dunsford and I were close friends. He was an accomplished author, an excellent, successful arbitrator and a unique auctioneer. Those of you students who had him as a professor know how smart he was and were indeed fortunate.

Fifty years ago when Jack and I were younger, we used to travel together every Christmas time to attend The Association of American University Professors meeting in Chicago. We always roomed together.  And then and there is where I saw the first incident of Jack’s quality of faith and his humility. Every night Jack would kneel by the side of his bed and say his night prayers.

That practice and incident followed the incident of that famous picture of a young boy 8 to 10 years of age kneeling at the side of his bed and saying, “And God Bless my Dad and Mother.” This one act of praying on your knees had a great effect on my life and affirmed my faith. I assume others sometimes doubt the deity of Jesus. Jack never doubted this deity. Jack had undoubted faith that Christ was and is the second person of the Trinity. That quality is a saintly characteristic, not a human one. To think about it, Jack was possessed of many saintly qualities – he was in life kind to others, civil to others, gentle, polite, humble, dedicated to his wife of many years, believed in Christ and his Catholic church, and loved the church. What Stan Musial was to the Cardinals, Jack Dunsford was the Stan Musial of the church. 

The second incident I reflect on shows not only Jack’s saintly qualities but also human qualities, such as humor. It happened during the Martin Luther King era. The night before the Selma March, Dean Dick Childress called me and said he, too, was going to Selma. I said to the dean, “Don’t go, you can get hurt; but if you must go, get in the middle of a bunch of nuns” – and sure enough The New York Times front page had a picture of the tall handsome dean towering over the heads of about 20 nuns and the dean in the center. 

Later at the law school, the faculty debated a letter signed by University President Paul C. Reinert, S.J., on whether it was proper for a law professor to violate a federal court injunction not to march. After a heated debate I arose, put on my jacket and said, “I know not what others may do but I will obey the orders of the federal courts.” Of course the letter and Father Reinert’s signature was forged by Jack. The letter read, “Dear Joe, I have heard about your support of federal courts. I agree with you. Good work! By the way Joe, a couple of Jesuits got a speeding ticket, can you call the judge and get them fixed?”          

This incident, too, had an effect on my life. Jack’s reply showed humanity. So, Jack had both saintly and human qualities which made an ideal Christian. As we remember Jack, let us, each of us, try to adopt these qualities. Let each of us emulate Jack and be more like him because we should never forget the following passage from the Book of Wisdom:

1. For, not thinking rightly, they said among themselves:

“Brief and troubled is our lifetime; there is no remedy for dying, nor is anyone known to have come back from Hades.

2. For by mere chance were we born, and hereafter we shall be as though we had not been;

Because the breath in our nostrils is smoke,

 And reason a spark from the beating of our hearts,

3. And when this is quenched, our body will be ashes

And our spirit will be poured abroad like empty air.

4. Even our name will be forgotten in time,

And no one will recall our deeds.

So our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud

Finally, may I say only: may Jack’s soul and the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace. Rest in peace, dear friend.            

As once said of another great man, “You are now part of the ages.”


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