February 11, 2013 10:47 Age: 1 yrs

Gozansky Makes a Difference

In Professor Nathaniel Gozansky’s office, there’s a photograph of a group shooting  the rapids of the Gauley River in West Virginia. He’s the one falling out of the boat.

The photo  is a metaphor for Gozansky’s 45-year career at Emory Law. Although  a serious scholar and administrator who is unafraid to take risks, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Gozansky retires in August.

GozanskyEmory Law hired the 27-year-old Gozansky from Vanderbilt University. In 1966, Emory Professor George King took him to Hardee’s  to discuss the deal.

“They  recruited  me with some zeal, if not with lavish meals,”  Gozansky  says.

“Emory  Law and I grew up together,” he says. “I was the twelfth person hired, there were 14 of us on the faculty in 1967.” At the time, Emory Law had no international students  and offered a part-time program.

“In a lot of ways, I think arguably what kept me here was, I was growing,  so was everything around me,” Gozansky says. “The school was growing. The University was growing — the city was growing.”

His wife, Libby Johnson  82L, made her career at The Coca-Cola  Co.; so Atlanta  is where they stayed.

Beyond teaching, Gozansky  will be remembered  for his contribution to Pre-Start,  a program begun in 1966 to help integrate  the school after Emory v. Nash paved the way for the integration of private  schools in Georgia.

“It was for minority applicants who were not, on paper, readily admissible to law school,”  Gozansky says. Soon after, the Council  on Legal Education Opportunity launched  a similar national summer institute  modeled on Pre-Start.

Gozansky  says Pre-Start and CLEO changed the world, not just the profession.

“Lawyers are social engineers,”  he says. “Both programs were based on the idea that,  ‘If we’re ever going to see social change, we need to move quickly to create a community of lawyers who have a sensitivity to the issues that  are at stake here.’ And we ultimately  succeeded.”

In the 1970s, Gozansky helped CLEO during the Nixon administration’s push to dismantle  the Office of Economic Opportunity, which provided  funding.  He and others successfully moved CLEO under the Department of Education.
Otherwise, “CLEO would have been over,”  Gozansky  says.

In 1968, as the Office of Economic Opportunity’s interim regional director of legal services, Gozansky riled Mississippi’s governor  by moving “the very effective Mississippi Legal Rural Services,” from the University of Mississippi to Mary Holmes Junior College, a small predominantly  black institution. The move prevented  the governor from killing the program.

“I thus became persona non grata to the governor,” Gozansky  recalls.

To many students, though, he was a professor out of central casting.

“Nat’s  a mensch,”  says Carolyn  Bregman 82L, who knew Gozansky  as a student and as a boss. Now director of Emory University’s Alumni Career Services, Bregman describes a workday near the end of term years ago.

She and a colleague visited Gozansky  and announced, “We are exhausted, we are tired, we are cranky, and we’re not having any fun.”

Within  a few hours, Gozansky sent an email to senior staff declaring the first-ever “Mandatory Fun Day” detailing where, when and how they were going to have fun as a team and celebrate what they’d done that  year.

David Soloway 82L recalls a conversation from the early ’90s when he and Gozansky  were volunteering at a couples night shelter in Atlanta. Soloway told his former professor he had a case with a good shot at being granted certiorari. “He  was kind of excited about  this, and he said if the Supremes — and I thought that  was kind of entertaining that  he called them the Supremes — granted  cert, that  he would  arrange  for a practice  bench for me with the law school faculty.”

The case, Ardestani v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, did reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The two practice  benches that Nat arranged made a difference, and I’ll always be grateful,” Soloway says.

While he did not prevail, “We were part of a very well- informed  dissent.”

Since 2002, Gozansky has directed Emory Law’s international programs. He began the LLM program with Central European University in Budapest  and established several exchange  and study-abroad programs for students. Although  an adopted Southerner, Gozansky  is a first- generation American on his paternal side. His father’s family immigrated from Russia to Montreal and later Chicago, where Gozansky  was born.

While he says he’s proud of what he accomplished at Emory Law, Gozansky  says his proudest accomplishments are his three children. Eldest Michelle is a Douglas County juvenile judge. Elliott 89OX 91C 91G, “my rocket  scientist,” earned a PhD at Purdue University and his MD from the University of Michigan.  Shana, the baby, earned her MFA in theater direction  from Brown University this summer. Gozansky  and Johnson have three grandsons.

Lisa Ashmore is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

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