A Man of Many Talents
This summer, Michael Hoffheimer, University of Mississippi School of Law professor, highly regarded scholar in several fields and renowned teacher of first year students, was honored as the Leonard B. Melvin Lecturer.
The lectureship was established in honor of Leonard B. Melvin, Jr. of Laurel, Miss. to insure that quality teaching, research and service are available for future generations of law students.
As the new Melvin lecturer, Hoffheimer follows his friend Professor Richard Barnes, who tragically passed away last January in a car accident.
“The purpose of the lectureship is to recognize outstanding law faculty,” said Richard Gershon, dean. “Professor Hoffheimer is an outstanding teacher, scholar and colleague. He is very deserving of this honor.”
A noteworthy scholar, Hoffheimer received his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University, his Master’s Degree and Ph. D. in European History with an emphasis in Intellectual History from the University of Chicago and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan.
After completing law school, Hoffheimer worked for three years as an associate with Frost Brown Todd law firm in Cincinnati. Practicing law was something he loved, but he quickly found his true passion to be teaching.
“I really liked practicing law. I tremendously admired the lawyers I worked for who were models of high competence and professional ethics, but I wanted to teach more than anything, and I realized that to be the best possible teacher, I needed to focus on that full time,” Hoffheimer said.
It was while practicing law that he got a taste of life as a law professor. He taught as an adjunct faculty member at the University Of Cincinnati College of Law, which led him to consider even more a full-time profession in teaching.
“I talked to the dean at Cincinnati and he encouraged me to look for law jobs across the country, but he emphasized that I needed to be willing to relocate if I was serious. I had just interviewed with the [Ole Miss] law school and both the students and faculty made a good impression on me.”
Though Hoffheimer had never been to Mississippi before, it didn’t take long for him to recognize that the law school and Oxford would be a good fit.
“The law school was developing a strong national reputation but what was important was my wife’s impression, who came to visit Oxford with me. We both agreed that this would be a good move.”
Since moving to Oxford in 1987, Professor Hoffheimer has been a well-respected teacher by his students and his colleagues. He has taught Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Conflict of Laws, Remedies and Legal History at the law school, and has published more than 75 articles, chapters and reviews on legal, philosophical and historical topics. He has also been cited by state and federal courts.
One of his specific areas of interest is legal history.
“I’m particularly interested in how people’s ideas change over time and how history shapes memory and our understanding of ourselves. This is a central concern in history and also a major theme in law. As Justice Holmes wrote, ‘The life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience’.”
A man of varied talents, Hoffheimer is accomplished in other areas outside of the law. In 2000, he wrote and published Mel Fiddling for Viola, a book which contains a collection of traditional fiddle music for fiddler musicians who are seeking a transition to the viola.
His colleagues regard him as a talented musician, but a humble Hoffheimer stated, “Anyone who says I am a very talented musician has not heard me play. I enjoy music, but I am a true amateur. I have written a couple of music books aimed at people at my level.”
In addition to composing music, Hoffheimer also dabbles in the history of music, specifically the blues. He’s written articles on African American blues, violin players, guitarist Josh White and the classical violinist Nathan Milstein.
“Students delight in discovering the many sides of Mike Hoffheimer — some secret — his vast musical talent and his knowledge of Indian cinema — in addition to his love of legal history, deep understanding of Mississippi criminal law and his expertise in Hegelian philosophy and conflict of laws,” said Matthew Hall, associate dean for academic affairs. “These attributes, along with his consummate humanity and fierce commitment to justice, make him such a great colleague.”
For a law professor with some artistic talent, Oxford seems an ideal place to call home. When he and his family moved to Oxford in 1987, they immediately fell in love with the unique culture that embodies the town.
“Reading Faulkner had not prepared me for how beautiful the town and region are. Oxford has been a great place to live for my wife and me, and a great place to raise our son Joseph and daughter Jean. Our world has been expanded by getting to know many people in the community and on campus.”
During their leisure time, Michael and his family attend local plays, concerts and Oxford High School football games.
By Louis Wiedman