Amherst Magazine

Memories and Tributes


Flip Kissam

Flip Kissam: Friend and Traveler
Remarks at Memorial Service
Ted Truman
February 11, 2005
Lawrence, Kansas

Brenda, Jonathan, Ariane, Bonnie, Toby, Heather, Eliza, Simon, and your families, our thoughts are with you. The man we all knew as “Flip” was your husband, father, brother, grandfather, or close family member. He was also your friend, accompanying you on your travels and your travails.

Flip Kissam Flip was everybody’s friend. He left many deep holes, but also many memories, starting with the smile in his eyes and the warmth in his chuckle. He touched profoundly the lives of many – Tracy’s and our family’s among them.

My friendship with Flip began 45 years ago at Amherst. We were roommates. The highpoint of each year was when Robert Frost used a few words to inspire us to think big thoughts. Even though most of our classmates last spoke with Flip more than 40 years ago, their messages have been many, detailed, and warm. Flip is remembered, among other things, for his athletic enthusiasm, his intellectual curiosity, and his many blind dates – he was searching for Brenda.

Flip’s impact on others was deep and gentle because, in the words of one of our mutual friends [Frank Levy], “he was as good a listener as he was a talker.” Consequently, Flip made friends with everyone. In New Haven, he engaged the people who answered the phones in movie houses, discussing what was playing and the quality of the performances. A few years ago, he spent a day with the deputy governor of the Bank of England. They analyzed Premier League football (known here as soccer) on the way to a match at Aston Villa; on the way back, they covered British and European politics.

Flip also had a special sense of balance. As the afore-mentioned mutual friend commented, “Flip took his work seriously but never gave a sense that he was working because he was pursued by wolves.” For example, he reveled in the success of Eliza’s soccer team, and he was equally dedicated to the improvement of legal education.

Flip was a multi-dimensional traveler. He traveled himself and through his reading. He exploited the experiences of others. (He even said he enjoyed the written accounts of our travels.) His went to Nigeria to teach, to New York City to serve, and here to Kansas to settle down and raise a family. He and Brenda memorably traveled for extended stays in Vienna and London. They enjoyed the sights, the food, the wine, the music, and the ideas.

Flip’s intellectual journeying was best illustrated by his last years. Some of you may not know that one of Flip’s few character weaknesses was a tendency toward grumpiness when he had a cold. In contrast, he treated the last five years as an adventure, despite ample incentives to be depressed. He shared information about his treatments in person and by e-mail. He also documented his exploration of another region of the United States as a consequence of his many trips to San Antonio.

Similarly, when Flip and Brenda moved to Kansas 32 years ago, they found themselves a long way from home. Once here, they discovered the art and music of the region and quickly appreciated the beauties of the prairie. They eagerly displayed their discoveries to friends visiting from East and West, all the while filling them with great food, good drink, stimulating exercise, and wide-ranging talk of politics, literature, and sports.

Flip modestly described his book on legal education “as a furrowing and report on other furrowings within The Discipline of Law Schools” – the title of his book. Perhaps, his choice of words was inspired by the Kansas prairie as well as reflecting his balanced approach to the challenges and paradoxes of legal education. I wish I had asked him.

Flip was a friend who traveled for, and with, all of us here, and many who could not be here. Like Robert Frost, he recognized when roads diverged. He often took the one less traveled by, and that made all the difference, both in his life and in enriching the lives of all those around him.

Thank you, Flip.

From: Bill Davis
January 4, 2005

Dear Amherst Classmates:

Flip and I were also classmates at Yale Law School. Our law school class secretary, David G. Martin wrote:

"Dear Classmates:

Philip 'Flip' Kissam died just before Christmas. Details are in the newspaper article links below. I have also pasted the text onto this message. But one of the articles has a great photo of Flip that really touched me.

Flip had fought hard and long the cancer that finally took him--always up beat and always working on some important project--teaching us to live fully all the way to the end.

How lucky we were to have him as a classmate and friend.


KU law professor was well-regarded in many subjects

By Mike Belt, Journal-World
Monday, December 27, 2004

A Kansas University law professor who died Thursday is being mourned by his colleagues and remembered for being a classic intellect and researcher in the area of legal education.

Philip "Flip" Kissam, 63, died at a Burlington, Vt., hospital after a long battle with biliary duct cancer. He began teaching at KU's School of Law in 1973 and became a full professor in 1977.

"Flip was one of the most thoughtful and really articulate members of the faculty," said Webb Hecker, the law school's associate dean, who joined the faculty a year before Kissam did.

Fellow law professor Tom Stacy considered Kissam a mentor when Stacy arrived at KU in the 1980s. Both held a special interest in constitutional law and Stacy said he was grateful for the time Kissam took to read and comment on his research.

"He was really broad-range and deep in his approach to the law generally and constitutional law in particular," Stacy said.

In addition to his study of constitutional law, Kissam also was noted for his research into legal education and published works on both. In 2003, his book "The Discipline of Law Schools" was published.

"He became very interested in legal education and the kind of teaching that was being done in law schools," Hecker said. "I'm just so happy he was able to get that major piece of work completed before his death. He will really be missed by the law school."

Kissam had a varied background that included teaching economics in Nigeria and practicing law with the New York City firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison in the late 1960s. He also was an exchange professor in the London Law Consortium in 1997 and in 1991 an exchange professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Vienna, Austria.

A memorial service will be held in Lawrence at a later date.