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Honoring Professor Richard Brooks and the Environmental Law Center

April 30, 2018

Richard Brooks, VLSIn 1978, a visionary and teacher, Professor Richard Brooks, joined Vermont Law School in founding the Environmental Law Center, an intellectual center of excellence and professional training that would support the environmental movement. By building ideas and training leaders, the center helped to transform growing public understanding of the importance of protecting public health and the environment into public policy, law, and action.

Now, after 40 years of working at the leading edge of training environmental law and policy professionals, Vermont Law School’s Environmental Law Center has turned its attention to the vital challenge of preparing the next generation of leaders, advocates, and problem-solvers for the future. Since training our graduates to implement the environmental laws and policies passed in the first decades of the environmental movement, we have much to celebrate. Many of our streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes have recovered. The air is cleaner. A number of once endangered species are thriving. Businesses are increasingly sophisticated in making decisions that result in greater sustainability. Vermont Law School-trained professionals have played a major role in these successes, representing all sectors and levels of government.

We know, however, that the nature of our graduates’ work must adapt and that they must accelerate the pace of change in order to effectively respond to the massive challenges facing our communities, the nation and the world. In this fortieth anniversary year since Professor Richard Brooks and his colleagues founded the Environmental Law Center, our graduates are facing the most daunting environmental issues in recorded history, and it is clear that our current system of laws and policies are not up to the task. The field of environmental law and policy is at an inflection point. If we ever needed reminding about Barry Commoner’s first law of ecology— that everything is connected to everything else—the widespread impacts of global climate disruption are daily demonstrating the intricate and fundamental connections that exist between the ecological health of our planet and the existence of our civilization.

Please join us in thanking Professor Brooks for his work, reflecting on his critical contributions as a teacher and scholar, and celebrating in the power of ideas. And, as importantly, please join us to consider how we may join together to pursue the mission of the Environmental Law Center and Professor Brooks’ vision for the next 40 years, at a time in which the work to find new solutions through law and policy has never been more important.

Professor David Mears
Director, Environmental Law Center at Vermont Law School



In honor of Professor Brooks’s contributions to Vermont Law School's Environmental Law Center, we ask alumni, faculty, staff, and others to share tributes to Professor Brooks and the work of the Environmental Law Center. See the submission form at right.


John Shea, Esq. MSEL'82:
"It is with deep regret that because of family health reasons I cannot attend the Tribute ceremony and give you a bear hug. Dick, you've had a profound impact on my life. I often reflect that my success can be traced back to lessons learned in my precious time with you. In our first meeting in 1980, your enthusiasm, twinkling eyes, rapier wit, and wide-ranging erudition convinced me beyond a reasonable doubt to matriculate at the ELC under your mentorship. After my stint on the ELC Advisory Board, I found it difficult to stay in touch. I'm sorry. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition and thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Celia Campbell-Mohn, former VLS professor of environmental law:
"Dick: You are a pillar of the field and a personal model. Thank you for your service to the environmental vision as well as the personal inspiration you were to me and countless students."

Shi-Ling HSU:
"Professor Brooks: you must not have imagined all of the amazing things the Center has accomplished since your founding years ago. That is, after all the nature of education: that your foundation is for others to build upon, and add to your legacy. Congratulations."

Oliver Houck:
"Richard, I was part of your early Summer law programs, and I remember your near-mystic view of environmental protection, and your ability to run those steep dirt roads out of South Royalton like a billy-goat, indefagitable on both scores. Thanks for each."