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Michael Sharlot

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Michael Sharlot Obituary
Michael Sharlot Maurice Michael (Mike) Sharlot, former Dean of the University of Texas School of Law and long-time professor of law, died on June 22, 2013 after suffering a stroke while on a cruise in Alaska. Mike was born in Brooklyn, NY on October 7, 1935 to immigrant parents. His father was a carpenter and his mother a homemaker. He grew up in Brooklyn, and in Philadelphia, and the small Pennsylvania town of Delaware Water Gap, where his parents had a boarding house and nobody went away to college. Mike described his life in Delaware Water Gap as very much a Tom Sawyer-Huck Finn existence; a lot of time spent on the Delaware River and the large creeks in the area. After graduating as valedictorian from Stroudsburg High School, he worked his way through Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It was at Antioch that he met and fell "head over heels" (his words) in love with Susan Siegel, who was but 18 when he married her. After the ceremony, the rabbi said he was sorry he had married them because they were so immature he was sure it would never last. Fifty-six years of a great romance have proved him wrong. After getting married, Mike and Sue went to Melbourne, Australia where Mike had a Fulbright Scholarship. He then studied law at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law which awarded him a scholarship and stipend, needed to support his already growing family. When the Peace Corps was barely six months old, Mike joined its legal ranks, ultimately becoming General Counsel. But the best years of his life began when he moved to Texas in 1969 to become a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. His wonderfully irreverent wit was not held against him there -- perhaps it was an asset. He soon became known as an expert in criminal law and evidence. He gave generously of his time in improving the administration of justice in a wide variety of ways. These included his service as one of the primary drafters of the original Texas Rules of Evidence, service on the Texas Punishment Standards Commission, as a Westlake Hills municipal judge and zoning and planning commissioner, and on numerous professional and governmental committees. He collaborated with colleagues to produce a leading casebook on criminal law and a two-volume treatise on the Texas law of evidence. But Mike's passions were his teaching and his administrative work. In the classroom, he was known for his quick wit and mastery of the Socratic method. A recipient of the Texas Exes' Teaching Excellence Award, Mike had legions of devoted students. They all admired his incisive intellect and wit, which were obvious from the outset. Many of them -- particularly those who faced personal hardships -- also discovered that Mike was a man of enormous compassion and kindness, willing to spend hours talking with them and assisting in any way he could. Mike was named Dean of the Law School in 1995. He presided as Dean at a turbulent time. Not long after his appointment, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided the Hopwood case, declaring that the Law School's affirmative action program in admissions was unconstitutional. One of his major contributions as Dean was leading the school's fight to maintain its student diversity. At the end of his term, Mike returned to full-time teaching and remained a valued colleague until his retirement in 2007. Despite his brilliance and renown as a legal scholar and Dean, he is perhaps best remembered for his personal qualities - he had a great heart for friendship and a complete generosity of mind and spirit. He balanced wit and compassion and rigor of thought with what amounted to perfect pitch. As a result, a community naturally formed around the Sharlots that made room for everyone - whether you were Ann Richards or Molly Ivins or a timid newcomer who needed a welcome - you found a place set for you at their huge and well-used dining room table. Their summer pool parties were legendary for hospitality, kids and the best conversation you can have in a wet bathing suit. And ping-pong, too. Finally, it is only fair to note that Mike's boundless charisma was doubtless aided by his movie-star good looks, his attention to wardrobe, and his courtly manners - he cut a dapper figure in a three piece white suit. Mike considered himself the most fortunate of men. In addition to his family he had many lifelong friends who were near and dear to him. With them, he explored Texas and the world of conversation, laughter, and the love of argument. To say that Mike will be missed by his family and friends does not do justice to the sentiment. He was predeceased by his parents Sam and Helen Sharlot and his in-laws Isadore and Julia Siegel. He is survived by his wife of 56 years Susan Siegel Sharlot, his sister and brother-in-law Phyllis and Fred Zusman, his daughter Sarah Sharlot Dietrich and husband Fred Dietrich, his son Matthew Sharlot and wife Karen Keohane Sharlot, his nephew and niece and their spouses, Robert and Tia Zusman and Rosanne and Bob Jacobs, and his adored grandchildren Sam, Max, and Julia Dietrich. Mike felt enormously lucky in his family and took great pleasure and pride in them all. Mike was a true original, no substitutes possible. His many friends found him to be an inspiration on how to live life and extract its joy to the very end. A memorial service will be held at Weed-Corley-Fish South Congress, 2620 South Congress Ave., Austin, TX on Saturday, June 29, 2013, at 11:00 a.m. If you would like to make a contribution in Mike's memory, please consider the University of Texas Law School Foundation at www.utexas.edu/ law/about/foundation/ or the University of Texas Butler School of Music at www.music.utexas.edu/development/make_ a_gift/. Obituary and memorial guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com
Published in Austin American-Statesman on June 26, 2013
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