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Penn State Law mourns the passing of Christopher C. French | Penn State University

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Christopher C. French, director of the Trial Advocacy Program and professor of practice at Penn State Law in University Park, passed away on Sept. 10.

French taught at the law school for more than eight years, in addition to regularly publishing books and law review articles. His work was published in law journals around the country. His dedication to his practice, academic work, and teaching style made him an esteemed colleague with faculty and a favorite professor among students.

Retired Vice Admiral James W. Houck, interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs said, “Chris French was an enormously talented practicing lawyer, law school teacher, and legal scholar. His versatility was extraordinary. He did so many things, so well. He demanded a lot from himself, and in turn gave a lot to the rest of us. We’re going to miss him tremendously, both as a professional and as a friend.”

Students commented across social media in an outpouring of condolences and fond memories of French as their professor and mentor. They noted how he took care to remember their home states during their first year of cold-calling, how his high expectations and dedication helped them become better lawyers, and how he took a genuine interest in his students.

French taught several courses at Penn State Law, including Contracts, Evidence, Insurance Law, Torts, and Trial Advocacy. As director of the Trial Advocacy Program, French, along with 20 local judges and lawyers, would guide groups of 50-60 students to learn about the court process. The program concluded with students participating in mock trials.

During French’s time as director, Penn State Law mock trial teams were widely successful. In February 2022, the Black Law Students Association Mock Trial Team won the Mid-Atlantic Region Constance Baker Motley Mock Trial Competition. The following month, one of the Penn State Law mock trial teams won the Midwest Region of the American Association for Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition.

“Chris French was a brilliant, hardworking member of our faculty. He was beloved by students in the many courses he taught at Penn State Law, and in our Trial Advocacy program,” said Jill Engle, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of clinical law. “He managed our trial teams, in which students competed all over the country in mock trials that showcased the important litigation skills Chris taught them in his Trial Advocacy course.

“He was also a diverse and productive scholar who contributed much to the legal literature on insurance law and related topics. He was a friend, role model, and mentor to many, and he will be greatly missed.”

Kit Kinports, Polisher Family Distinguished Faculty Scholar and professor of law, said, “Chris was a beloved teacher and a mentor and role model for many students, both the first-year students in his Torts and Contracts classes and the upper-level students in Trial Advocacy and on the Mock Trial teams.”

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