The final lecture of Commercial Law I has nothing to do with the law.
Instead, Sherri Moore (Col ’85) delivers an emotional and personal message that reflects what she has tried to demonstrate throughout the semester: She wants her students to learn something about life as well as law.
“I care about them,” she says. “It’s not just about the grade.”
Moore knew from an early age that she wanted to be a lawyer. If that didn’t work out, she wanted to teach. After practicing law for almost 20 years, she moved into her second passion and now teaches an introduction to the U.S. legal system for nonlawyers.
The coursework covers constitutional, civil and criminal law; torts; contracts; and property law. The syllabus is dense, but students learn to cut through legalese to understand how the law relates to everyday life.
“The focus is teaching students what they need to know as a citizen, as an employee, as an employer,” Moore says. “It’s a practical class. You do use it every day of your life.”
Her myriad examples illustrate just how relevant the law can be. Students learn the circumstances under which they are legally obligated to present IDs to police while out on the Corner, or when their landlords can enter a leased property. They learn to understand a basic contract.
Students say her lectures are funny and engaging, and Moore exudes that same warmth beyond the classroom. Her door is always open for office hours, and Moore’s teaching assistants address course-related questions so she can focus on getting to know students outside the academic sphere. She has famously taken students out to lunch after class to continue a discussion.
Moore cares for “not only our learning of the law, but also us becoming good people,” Bin Xie (Com ’12), a former student and TA, wrote in an email.
Moore brings this home in her vulnerable last lecture.
Titled “Life Is Precious: Create a Good Day,” it centers on the idea that students have the power to decide how they respond to the inevitable obstacles in life.
Moore tells students about the sudden death of her first husband just eight months after their wedding, the loss of her mother on what should have been Moore’s first wedding anniversary and the depression that followed.
Eventually, her parents’ lessons—that time is a privilege, and that life is about giving back—helped pull her out. She was reminded that, though she had been brought low, she could still play a part in the lives of others.
For students about to enter exam season, Moore’s story puts grades into perspective. For students who have suffered tragedy, she provides an example of resilience.
Moore recovered with a newfound confidence to pursue everything else life had to offer—including teaching. And for that, her many students are grateful.