Daniel Bernstine, 69, college president, leader in legal education

SBERNSTINE09-A
Daniel O. Bernstine

Daniel O. Bernstine, 69, of New Hope, a former college president who as head of the international Law School Admission Council encouraged minorities to enter the legal field, died Sept. 24 of cardiac arrest at his home.

For a decade beginning in 1997, Mr. Bernstine was president of Portland State University in Portland, Ore. During his tenure, the university attracted $114 million in donations, opened an urban studies center, and added student housing.

In 2007, he was appointed to the Law School Admission Council's top post, and continued in that role until his death. The Newtown-based nonprofit smooths the admission process for 200 law schools and their applicants in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

"This is a huge loss for American legal education," Blake Morant, dean of George Washington University Law School and former president of the Association of American Law Schools, told law.com. "This is a person who has been a vanguard of legal education for many years."

Mr. Bernstine's unique contribution was to reach out to prospective students - especially minorities - and assure them that they could succeed in the legal field despite humble beginnings because he had.

He traveled to many law school forums to help recruit a diverse array of candidates, law.com wrote.

Born and reared in a working-class neighborhood of Richmond, Calif., Mr. Bernstine was the son of Annias and Emma Bernstine. He was class president at El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, where he played football.

His father worked as a janitor and cleaned law offices. Mr. Bernstine sometimes went with him, and that is how he became interested in pursuing the law, according to a 2005 Oregonian profile.

An ambitious youth, he completed the Boston and New York Marathons. He then turned his attention to education, and in quick succession earned a bachelor of arts degree at the University of California, Berkeley; a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago; and a master of laws at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison.

His early career included stints as a professor of law and interim dean at Howard University in Washington, as the William H. Hastie Teaching Fellow at Wisconsin, and as a staff attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor. He also served for a time as dean at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

He also was a visiting professor, giving lectures in Taiwan, Germany, and Cuba, and at various law schools in the United States. He coauthored several legal textbooks and contributed articles to various professional journals, including the Villanova Law Review.

Mr. Bernstine was awarded the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award in recognition of his work to improve higher education worldwide. The award is given by the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities.

He also received the International Citizen Award from the Oregon Consular Corps, an organization of foreign consuls based in that state.

As Portland State University's former president, he had emeritus status until his death.

Mr. Bernstine was kind, funny, generous, and unassuming, said daughter Quincy Tyler Bernstine. "He touched people all over the world, and we're hearing from them."

Besides his daughter, he is survived by a son, Dr. Justin Tyler Bernstine; his former wife, Nancy Tyler Bernstine; a sister; and nieces and nephews. Two sisters and a brother died earlier.

Plans for a memorial service in California were pending.

Contributions may be made to the Daniel O. Bernstine Scholarship Fund, c/o Marjorie LaRue Britt, Law School Admission Council, 662 Penn St., Newtown, Pa. 18940. The fund provides support for college students, especially African Americans from Richmond, Calif., who pursue law degrees.

bcook@phillynews.com

610-313-8102