Dr. William Green
Dr. William Green

After several years of teaching high school and college, Dr. William Green was sitting for the Kentucky bar review when he replied to a Morehead State University employment ad for an assistant professor of government and legal studies. After his MSU interview, he remembers having the following thought on his return to Lexington.

“As I’m driving back, I passed the Fayette County line. I said, ‘Whew, that was a long trip. I’m glad I’m not

going to have to do that again,’” he said. “But I did.”

In his 35th year as an MSU faculty member, Dr. Green has played a leading role in the MSU legal studies program. As a law school advisor, he created Societas Pro Legibus, MSU’s campus-based legal studies society, authored a ten page brochure on How to Take the LSAT and Go to Law School, and advised students who were admitted to the top ten percent of the nation’s law schools.

Dr. Green’s published research explores constitutional, civil liberties, and environmental legal issues and the legal dimensions of economic development, labor relations, language rights, and pharmaceutical drug policies. His publications include four books, five book chapters, 25 journal articles, and 44 encyclopedia essays. His most recent book, Contraceptive Risk: The FDA, Depo-Provera, and the Politics of Experimental Medicine, was published by New York University Press in 2017.

He earned his law degree (J.D.) from the University of Kentucky College of Law. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. And he received his M.A. in Political Science, B.S. in Education and B.A.in History, cum laude, from Kent State University.

At MSU, he has received the Distinguished Teaching Award and Distinguished Researcher Award. He also received the Internship Faculty of the Year Award for his recruitment and preparation of 75 MSU students who have participated in the five-week Canadian Parliamentary Internship Program.

In the past two years, Dr. Green was awarded the Distinguished Political Scientist Award by the Kentucky Political Science Association, donated his research archive on the contraceptive drug Depo-Provera to the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard University, and is currently working on a book Free the Grapes: The Supreme Court Boutique Wineries and State Alcohol Beverage Regulation. As a professor emeritus, following his retirement from MSU in 2018, he is supervising the Canadian Parliamentary Internship Program for one more year.

In speaking with Dr. Green, 78, he remembered the experiences that shaped his development as a teacher and scholar. Here is a bit of what he had to say about devoting over half of his life to the study of law and the preparation of his students for law school and the practice of law.

On his teaching methods  

In teaching his legal studies courses, he used panels of three or four students to analyze court cases and then held group discussions of hypothetical cases. As he said: “It was the experience of teaching government in high school, along with law school, that defined how I approach teaching. Giving students reading assignments, requiring them to answer questions on the readings and then to discuss them originated in high school. In law school, I experienced an active learning environment. Students had to be prepared to answer questions about why a court decided a case as it did.”

On the importance of communication

Why did he require students to brief cases, research hypothetical problems, and then discuss them in class? As he told them: “Writing is thinking made visible and speaking is thinking made audible. You need both because these skills are critical for law school and for life.”   

On his relationship with his students  

He knew all the students in his courses, because he questioned them about court cases and discussed the hypothetical problems he had assigned them. They did not use his first name in addressing him, nor did he use theirs in addressing them. “I referred to them as Mr. or Ms. and their last names to promote is a level of respect not just for those who teach, but also those who learn. In a professional relationship, this formality is the one indicator of respect.

On preparing his students for law school

Dr. Green used his legal studies courses to prepare his students for the rigors of law school: the enormous amount of reading and case analysis they would confront. “I told my students, ‘my courses will give you a leg up on law school, because you will know how to brief a case and explain its reasoning. But even if you don’t go to law school, briefing will give you a method for analyzing legal issues.”

In studying the law, he reminded them what Oliver Wendell Holmes, a U.S. Supreme Court justice, once said: ” ‘The life of the law is not logic, it is experience.’ You can reason from case to case, but the question is: does your reasoning make sense in the real world? That’s a challenge you will confront and have to resolve.”

He told them that law school is a very competitive environment. “Students who go to law school are really outstanding undergraduates, but when they get to law school, they find out everybody else had A’s as undergraduates. So they’ve got to have guts and work really hard to get the best grades possible.”

On his legal scholarship

In writing his books, articles and essays, he is grateful for his legal education, even though he did not become an attorney, because “the law teaches you to be very, very careful and to examine everything very closely in making a reasoned argument. Law school taught me to closely analyze as much evidence I could lay my hands on. Then, even if I were not completely satisfied with the argument I’d made, I was as confident as I could be in the strength of my argument given the time and the resources available to me.”

On his intellectual companion

In his teaching, his wife was his intellectual companion. “It was with Rowena, a middle school teacher, that I discussed teaching and from whom, I learned so much about how to teach. College faculty would benefit from talking to middle school teachers about their teaching methods and visit a middle school class.”

Rowena also played a critical role in his scholarship. “She read, corrected, and critiqued all my conference papers, articles, essays, and books. My book Contraceptive Risk profited from our discussions of health policy issues and female contraceptive methods. I would have found it very difficult to write the book without her assistance.”

On his legacy  

Dr. Green doesn’t know how he will be remembered at Morehead, aside from his name on a list of distinguished teachers and researchers, but he added: “I’m sure I’m going to be remembered by my students. I only hope I taught them the skills to succeed in law and life.”

For more information about the Canadian Parliamentary Internship Program or MSU’s legal studies program, contact the Department of History, Philosophy, Politics, International Studies and Legal Studies at hpil@moreheadstate.edu, 606-783-2655 or visit www.moreheadstate.edu/hpil