In Memory of

Phillip

Irvin

Blumberg

Obituary for Phillip Irvin Blumberg

Phillip Irvin Blumberg, of West Hartford, Connecticut, former dean of University of Connecticut School of Law, died on February 14,2021 at age 101. Born in Baltimore on September 6, 1919, he was the third child of Hyman and Bess Blumberg, immigrants active in the labor movement. Hyman worked closely with Sidney Hillman to found the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union of America, where he was the executive Vice President. It was through his parents’ examples and commitment to the plight of workers that Blumberg’s concern for social justice was born and that later provided the motivation for his extensive writings. He grew up in the Bronx, near Van Cortlandt Park, where he developed his life-long passion for walking in the woods. He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School at the age of 16, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1939, where he majored in political science, and received his law degree, magna cum laude, at Harvard Law School in 1942 where he was Treasurer of the Law Review.

Phillip’s wartime service in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a judge advocate in the European theater, for which he received a bronze star, taught him the importance of looking at individuals and recognizing that many problems are best solved by common sense rather than legal intervention. After the war he went into private legal practice at the New York firm of Szold, Brandwen, Meyers, Blumberg and Altman. He married Janet Mitchell in November 1945 and moved to her hometown of Montclair N.J. where they enjoyed a happy marriage, raising four children in a household that included dogs with lively personalities. Their household was also a welcoming oasis for many foreign students and refugees.

In 1962 on the death of Mr. Kirkeby, one of his clients, he was asked to take over as president of Kirkeby Natus, a mid-size financial company which later split into United Ventures and Federated Mortgage Investors, both with seats on the New York stock exchange. Blumberg retained the presidency of both. His interest in social justice and his experience as a corporate lawyer and executive of two corporations led to his interest in the question of the responsibility of corporations to their shareholders verses their responsibility to the greater society.

Partly inspired by a church sermon on the importance of seizing the moment, in 1968 Phillip made a dramatic career change, becoming a professor at the Boston University School of Law where he wrote his first books, Corporate Responsibility in a Changing Society and The Megacorporation in American Society

Throughout this time and beyond, he spent many weekends and summer holidays at the family farm in Wallingford Vermont, enjoying many hours hiking, trail skiing and horseback riding in the woods, following old stone walls and logging roads to discover long lost farm sites deep in the woods. With his brother-in-law, Edward Kimball, he worked to preserve over a 1000 acres of Vermont woods and forest, which were always available for others to enjoy and share his love of the woods.

In 1974 Blumberg became Dean of the University of the Connecticut School of Law. There, he oversaw the acquisition of the Hartford Seminary's beautiful 20-acre campus, where the school is now located. In his writings as Dean and as professor after retiring from the deanshipin1984, Blumberg further explored an unsettled area of the law arising from the growing complexity of corporate structure, namely the law at the Federal and state level addressing the relationship between the parent and subsidiary corporations. His seven volume work, the Law of Corporate Groups, is the classic in this area. He and a close colleague, Kurt Strasser, further revised and expanded this initial series with the five volume series, Blumberg on Corporate Groups. After completion of these works, Blumberg embarked in a totally different direction, exploring how a new country dedicated to the ideals of free of speech could at the same time enact and enforce a law, the alien and sedition act, which was the antithesis of free speech. This interest resulted in his final book, Repressive Jurisprudence in the Early American Republic: The First Amendment and the Legacy of English Law. This book was published when Blumberg was 91 years old. One of his initiatives while at the law school was to promote studies of comparative law. This endeavor brought many foreign visiting legal scholars to the University and Blumberg in turn was invited to lecture at a number of foreign universities including a 3-month visiting professorship in Beijing, China in 1989. His stay was cut short when westerners had to flee during the Tiananmen Square protests. The kindness of his hosts seeing him safely through Tiananmen Square that awful night in spite of the risk to their lives made a deep impression on him, and he never forgot their courtesy and courage.

Excelling as a teacher, his seminar in corporate finance was legendary.

After the untimely death of his first wife in 1976, Blumberg married Connecticut Supreme Court justice Ellen Ash Peters in 1979. They first met on a blind date at Governor Ella Grasso’s Inaugural ball and enjoyed many happy years traveling together to legal conferences around the globe.

Blumberg’s favorite novel was Ivanhoe. He loved family gatherings, was an avid tennis player, and he enjoyed regaling the family with amusing stories.

He is survived by his wife Ellen, his children William (Deborah), Peter (Daphne), Lisa and Bruce (Jane), three stepchildren David (Judith). James (Jean) and Julie (Tom), four grandchildren, a nephew and two nieces. He also had five great grandchildren and knew that another was on the way. He was loved by all and an inspiration to everyone.

Thanks are extended to Mary Danso for her loving care and support in Phillip’s later years. Contributions may be made to Foodshare.