Professor John Cicero passed away on June 24, 2017. He taught at CUNY Law for 28 years, bringing his passion for lawyering in service of workers’ rights through organized labor alive for the thousands of students in his Labor Law and Evidence classes.
“Professor Cicero’s death is a tremendous loss for our institution, said CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek. “He was an inspiration to many of our students, faculty, staff and alums who benefitted from his care, creativity and passion.”
Professor Cicero was an innovative teacher, as demonstrated by incorporating his ground-breaking teaching method “The Classroom as Shop Room Floor” into his classes.
The announcement of his death was followed by an outpouring of sadness from the CUNY Law community and countless notes of appreciation for Professor Cicero’s transformational influence.
“John’s labor law class was part-class, part-theatrical performance: he was the boss and we (the students) were his workers, remembered Alex Van Shaick ’13. “I’m proud to say that he wrote me up and then promoted me to management in an unsuccessful attempt to break our organizing. We fought back by leafleting his evidence class. The semester culminated in a walk out and negotiations over the final exam. Professor Cicero will be missed.”
“He taught a Labor Law class with such heart, wit, and intelligence,” recounted Kathryn Jones Malwitz ’94. “I remember it so well even though it was 25 years ago. He had a profound impact on all his students and I know he will be greatly missed.”
Professor Cicero received the Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Classes of 1994 and 1997 and was honored by the student group, Public Interest Law Association in 2013. He was beloved by his students and colleagues.
“He was generous in answering questions from colleagues and cared deeply about his students and their learning,” said Professor Sue Bryant. Professor Andrea McArdle agreed, “John so loved teaching and he inspired and was beloved by his students. And even with his many, many health challenges, particularly in this past year, he always maintained his good humor, steadfastness, and enthusiasm for teaching, and for CUNY and his colleagues.”
He is survived by his wife Lori Nessel ’92 and their children Jacob, Gensiana and Sofia. Nearly 30 CUNY Law community members were present at the memorial service held on July 6 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Tenafly, NJ.
“It was clear throughout the service that John loved with his whole heart and focused on his family above all,” said Allie Robbins ’09, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs. “That love permeated his teaching, and every interaction he had with students, staff, and faculty at the law school. It was clear that he loved well, and was very loved.”