UCLA School of Law honored professors David Babbe ’81 and Skye Donald (posthumously) with the Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching at a ceremony on March 8, 2017.
Babbe and Donald have earned raves from students and colleagues for their work as instructors in the law school’s experiential skills curriculum. Babbe (pictured above), the former managing partner of Morrison & Foerster’s Los Angeles office and chair of the firm’s L.A. litigation practice, teaches Trial Advocacy and Negotiation, and he has served as a mentor for UCLA Law’s award-winning moot court team. Donald, also a former attorney at Morrison & Foerster, taught first-year Lawyering Skills and upper-level clinical courses at UCLA Law for seven years before she died of brain cancer in October 2016.
The award, founded by famed law-guide publisher William Rutter in 1979, honors professors who best serve law students at five top California law schools. UCLA Law Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin said the annual ceremony honoring Rutter Award winners “brings our community together to celebrate the faculty members who are models for our most important mission here at UCLA Law: educating, illuminating and inspiring the great lawyers and leaders of the future.”
Rutter’s son, Paul Rutter ’78, a member of the UCLA Law board of advisors, added that his father created the award because “he really appreciated the pure art of teaching.”
Student evaluations that were shared at the event confirmed the honorees’ influence. Babbe, who began teaching at UCLA Law in 2010, was described as a witty and accessible teacher who imbued students with a sense of ethics and responsibility while offering nuanced education on the art of trial work. One student evaluation stated that Babbe is “a phenomenal professor and human being,” adding that “everyone should take at least one course with Professor Babbe.”
Babbe was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Edie, whom he credited with pulling him through school at UCLA Law and then legal practice. “It’s overwhelming and humbling to receive this award,” he said. “It’s like admiring the Dodgers as a kid and then growing up to play on the team and then in the World Series.”
Donald (pictured at left) — whose husband, Rafael Jimenez, and other family and friends joined in the celebration — was remembered as a smart, savvy and funny mentor whose impact on students went well beyond their legal skills. As one student wrote, “Not only is she an expert in legal research and writing and a very gifted teacher, she is also a very supportive, hilarious, and genuinely empathetic human being. We are all completely devoted to her.” And another said, “Her greatest areas of strength are: Everything.”
Babbe, who collaborated with Donald in private practice and on a Pretrial Civil Litigation course, said, “Students understood that whatever she did or wherever she took them, it was the right way, and they would just follow her anywhere. If she said we need to go to Antarctica [to learn litigation practices], no one would ask why — they would just follow her.”
In Donald’s honor, UCLA Law has established the Skye Donald Memorial Fund and the Skye Donald Spirit of Community Award to recognize students who exemplify her dedication to the law and service.