The Robert Cord Memorial Archive

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A photo of Robert Cord

The Robert Cord Memorial Archive

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Brent J. Bass, Esq., Class of '92

 The recent passing of Dr. Robert Lewis Cord will no doubt set off reflections and memories for many Northeastern alumni, former colleagues, and friends. Professor Cord’s legacy will be defined by his impact upon and everlasting connection to his students, small and large alike, and the university he called home for over three decades.

I am but one of a multitude of students who had the opportunity and privilege to be instructed, guided, and provoked by Professor Cord. Through the Honors program, I was one of a select few who can claim the blessing that is having been mentored and supported by Professor Cord. Dr. Cord’s direct manner and demand for involvement by his students, no matter the subject matter or the position you presented, was a trait most often associated with his classroom instruction. I can attest that it was the same tone and tenor as my Honors thesis faculty advisor, and more importantly, as a friend and confidant for many years following my graduation from Northeastern University.

At the intersection of fate and destiny, there was a day in September 1992 when a fledging first-year student searching the postings of the political science department was greeted by a professor seeking a work-study research assistance. For the next four years I would work alongside Dr. Cord, and in doing so, came to respect his ethic, integrity, forthright manner, and critical eye. As a professional, I have few days when I do not have an opportunity to utilize some skill or understanding impressed upon me by Dr. Cord. And if ever forgotten, a call to Dr. Cord would surely offer a quick refresher.

Dr. Cord’s impact was also felt by many undergraduate students, who knowingly or unknowingly, were the recipient of financial aid from a fund established by Dr. Cord for students to purchase books and supplies. I was one such beneficiary. When speaking of smaller events that leave lasting impressions, receiving such aid would be one of the lasting memories of my time at Northeastern University. In fact, I once had the opportunity to offer an undergraduate student a similar benefit, and I can only hope it offered the same relief and support to that student.

During my time at and after Northeastern, Dr. Cord became, and remained, one of my biggest supporters, confidants, and friends. Dr. Cord was a nationally recognized Constitutional scholar with a depth of knowledge that I can never match, however, to me, he was Robert Cord. His assistance, empathy, and guidance to a young man was never matched by any appreciation I could provide in return. Dr. Robert Lewis Cord will be never forgotten by this appreciative student, who is no doubt one of many.

Brent J. Bass, Esq.

B.S Political Science (1992)  

Raymond B. Ludwiszewski, Class of '81

Professor Robert L. Cord was an exceptional teacher and a distinguished scholar. Over his long career, he had immense impact on the lives and the careers of many of his students. He unquestionably had a tremendous impact upon mine.

I met Professor Cord on my second day of on-campus freshman orientation. His liberal political views and my conservative political philosophy clashed dramatically at a cocktail party to welcome incoming freshmen, and I foolishly engaged him in an hourlong debate in front of an amused audience of new students. The next morning, I was quite shocked to learn that my impromptu debate opponent was also my Political Science 101 Professor. He spotted me immediately in the large auditorium that was our classroom and instantly began to take a keen interest in my academic development.

Over my five years at Northeastern, I assisted Professor Cord in the research and editing of his seminal book on the Separation of Church and State. For Professor Cord, that book brought well deserved recognition as an expert on the very first phrase of the Bill of Rights. His scholarship would be cited in the Harvard Law Review and by the United States Supreme Court. With that book, he would make a mark on one of this nation’s most fundamental freedoms.

For me, that book—bolstered by Professor Cord’s mentorship and reinforced by a letter of recommendation from Professor Cord that only my mother could have believed—was a path to Harvard Law School, an editor position on the Law Review, a clerkship with one of the greatest federal judges in American history, senior service in the U.S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency, and a wonderful legal career. All of those positions trace their roots firmly back to Professor Cord’s endless commitment of his personal time and energy in advancing the education of his students.

Time has now taken my most important teacher. We are all a little diminished by this loss. But his achievements—often recorded in the successful careers of his students—will live on for decades to come. I believe that he would be very pleased by that.

Raymond B. Ludwiszewski

Harvard University, 1984, Juris Doctor

Northeastern University, 1981, Master of Arts

Northeastern University, 1981, Bachelor of Science

Michael McQuade, Class of '80, '82

Dr. Cord was my Constitutional Law professor during my senior year at NU, and in all of my years of schooling, right through graduate school, he was by far the best teacher that I ever had. He made it his mission to ensure that all of his students were fully engaged, learning, and truly understood the course materials.

One particular class stands out, because several students were not fully prepared and could not contribute to the discussion when they were called upon. At that point, Dr. Cord gathered all of his belongings and informed the class that he was leaving (and would be down in the cafeteria) and would not be back until the entire class got up to speed and was fully prepared! The class responded promptly and unanimously, and the learning continued.

But Bob’s impact and influence extended well beyond the classroom for me. While in his class, I sustained a major knee injury playing basketball. The college infirmary was backed up at that time for appointments with the orthopedic doctor. Bob interceded on my behalf to ensure that I received timely, appropriate treatment for my injury. That simple, voluntary, generous act kicked off a lifelong friendship with Bob, that continued until his recent death.

I truly miss our regular conversations about the political news of the day, which would often be filled with witty, insightful “sidebars.” Bob was a bright, highly intelligent, and very accomplished professional in his chosen field. His book on the First Amendment was cited in a Supreme Court justice’s ruling on a case. But what always stood out to me most about Bob Cord was how compassionate he was, and how he was always so willing to help others out. 

He will be missed by many, many people, I’m sure.

Michael McQuade

BA Economics, 1980

MS Accounting, 1982

Phil Cunningham, Class of '72

I was a student of Professor Cord’s as a freshman in the fall of 1967, taking his Intro to American Government class, and later as an upperclassman I took his Constitutional Law class. It has since occurred to me how fortunate I was to have in Professor Cord, a teacher and scholar whose original research on the Separation of Church and State made its way in to his lecture notes, as well as a front page article he authored in The National Review, and the footnotes of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that signaled a historic change in the court’s direction regarding school prayer and the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my classmates and I got our money’s worth and more in our classes with Professor Cord, as well as after class, when he always made himself available to answer questions and ask how we were doing.    

Phil Cunningham LA’72

William Grossi, Class of '09, '13

Although I never had the chance to experience what it was like to sit through a lecture orchestrated by Dr. Robert Cord, I had the honor of being Bob’s closest friend for the last 17 years of his life. Over these years of friendship, we spent countless hours together, many of which involved political and historical discussions. During many of these conversations, I could see an energy take over Bob’s body. I could see how badly he yearned to be back in front of a class full of energetic students. It was all he ever wanted since the day an illness forced him into early retirement in 1996. It was through these frequent interactions that I started to paint a picture in my mind of what one of his lectures would have been like and started to realize how impactful of a tenure he had over the course of his 35-year teaching career.

When I first met Bob in the winter of 2005, nine years after he had retired, I was a sophomore at Northeastern studying Criminal Justice, earning mediocre grades at best. Bob immediately took a keen interest in my academics, becoming the mentor that I didn’t fully realize I needed. I started relying on Bob more and more for academic and career guidance.

As our relationship grew, Bob became aware that I was paying my own way through the five years at Northeastern, primarily via student loans. He could relate, as he too didn’t have the financial means to pay for his own college. His alma matter at the time, City College in NYC, was tuition free if you could get in. However, he still needed a way to pay for his textbooks, and if it were not for the scholarship money he received to pay for them, he would not have been able to attend college. To try and help ease my financial burden a bit, Bob incentivized me to keep my academic grades high by proposing to pay for my textbooks for any class in which I earned an “A”. It worked, and I was so grateful it had.

It wasn’t until later that I found out about the Robert L. Cord Endowed Book Fund, established by former students, which provides scholarship money to qualified students to help pay for their textbooks. Based on my direct experiences with the man himself, the facts that former students found it appropriate to establish a fund in his name specifically for textbooks, and that former students regularly donate to the fund, Dr. Cord’s legacy will continue giving back for many years to come.

Over the years, Bob shared with me a handful of the hundreds of letters and cards he received from former students thanking him for all that he had done for them. For some, it was Bob’s powerful and thought-provoking lectures. For others, it was his extended office hours in which he would stay on campus until every last student who wanted to see him was seen. And for others, like me, it was the long-lasting mentorship and friendship that flourished during the many years following graduation.

Dr. Robert Lewis Cord touched countless lives in many different ways. I can unequivocally say that I would not be where I am today without him. He dedicated his life to helping others, inside and outside of the classroom. He was a man who gave everything he had but took little in return, and for that, I will be forever grateful.


Bill Grossi

BS Criminal Justice (2009)

MS Accounting (2013)

MBA (2013)



Paula Haley, Class of '81

I knew Professor Robert Cord from the time I was eight years old and my father, Charles F. Haley, first brought him home for dinner with our family. My father was a Professor of Education and later Associate Dean of the College of Education which then became Bouvé College. I named Professor Cord “Fuzzy Ears”—the things that impress an eight-year-old! He let me get away with the nickname, and I would even use it out of the hearing of students and faculty when I attended Northeastern for undergrad and law school. From the time I was five years old, I spent a lot of time on campus, often wandering around on my own (times were different then), and I saw “Fuzzy Ears” often.

Professor Cord was a wonderful teacher, scholar, and friend. He wrote a letter of reference for me for law school. At that time, few Northeastern undergraduates were accepted at Northeastern University Law School. I was nervous about getting in and asked if I could see what he wrote. He said to me, “Paula, I never share the letters, but trust me, I made the Holy Trinity into a Quartet!”

After law school, I moved to Alaska and enjoyed a wonderful career as a civil rights lawyer and executive director of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights. My father became ill and moved here until his death in 1987. I returned to Northeastern for a memorial service for my dad that summer. My sister and I created the Charles F. Haley Scholarship Fund for undergraduates.

Though I visit Boston often, I never stepped foot on Northeastern’s campus again until this past With Then development director Deth Sao facilitated a tour by a student, and I was in awe of the changes. I visited again in the fall, and Deth arranged a lunch with Jasmine, a recipient of my dad’s fund. Meeting such an accomplished young woman who benefited from the fund literally brought me to tears. While touring the campus on those two occasions, my memories were less of my time as a student and more of my childhood escapades on campus. I recalled visits to Fuzzy Ears, Ruth Karp, and other friends and associates of my father’s, as well as the kindness of janitors and groundskeepers when I would lose my way back to dad’s office. 

Stefan Nathanson, Class of '88

I was asked to write a few words about Robert Cord, and it is my honor to do so. I had the privilege of knowing Robert (“Bob”) Cord on several levels: first as my professor for his Constitutional Law class and his Law Personal Morality class in 1987 and 1988; then as his law clerk after graduating from Northeastern and again my first summer after law school; and for the years thereafter, as his friend.

Bob was a respected scholar, known for his books Separation of Church and State (1982), and Protest, Dissent and The Supreme Court (1971), the second book which particularly resonated with me when I read it as a college student (I still have both of those books). While he was quite famous as an expert on the Establishment Clause and the Separation of Church and State, his true love was teaching. He often shared with me that beyond the accolades for his writing and expertise (including being cited by Justice William Rehnquist in his dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree (1985), as well as being cited in numerous law review articles, congressional hearings, etc.), his proudest recognition was receiving Northeastern’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 1990 after being nominated by his students.

Bob was known as a very tough professor, and for anyone thinking about law school, his Constitutional Law class was a must. To be a student in Bob’s Constitutional Law class was to immediately experience the famous Socratic teaching style used in law school. To be in that particular class, you had to first sign a pledge to have no more than a few unexcused absences or he would give you a failing grade, then you had to agree to expose yourself to his Socratic teaching style. Once, after he picked me to do a case summary in class and questioned me for what seemed like an eternity, he commented that I seemed to be enjoying the Socratic interaction too much, to which I responded that I did in fact find the experience enjoyable. My fellow students chuckled, and his response, with a smirk, was, “Mr. Nathanson, you are truly ruining the sadist/masochistic relationship I strive to have.” I took that as a compliment, and I credit Bob as one of the main reasons I went on to law school and became an attorney.

When I got accepted to law school, I immediately went to share the news with him at his office. He closed his door, reached into the bottom drawer of his desk, and took out a bottle of 15-year-old Macallan scotch. At that point in my college career, I knew nothing about what good scotch was, let alone that you sipped it. (My college experience to that point had been indulging in beer and shots of liquor). So after he toasted my law school acceptance, I sucked back the glass. His eyes went wide, and he asked me what I was doing? I explained I thought you drank scotch like that, to which he responded a bit annoyed, “No, you sip it so you can enjoy it—so you’ll have to have another glass the correct way.” Several glasses later, I was hooked on good scotch thanks to Bob.

Working as a law clerk for Bob while he wrote several law review articles meant spending hours upon hours in the archives at the Boston Public Library and Harvard University. There I researched journals and letters written by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, their views of church state separation, and lengthy conversations about those same writings. But that role and his friendship also exposed me to the tenets that were important to Bob: being ethical, finding ways to give back to your community, keeping your word, working hard. My years of charity work and serving on the Board of the Ethics Committee for the Massachusetts Real Estate Bar Association are directly attributable to Bob’s influence.

It was tough for Bob to retire from teaching due to his medical issues in 1996 but he loved reconnecting with students and kept in close contact with many of them long after they graduated and long after he finished teaching. I consider myself to be one of those lucky individuals.

Stefan Nathanson, Class of ‘88