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Was law prof’s ‘frenzied output’ worth it? His widow says work devotion came at a price

Posted Jul 9, 2014 8:35 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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When American University law professor Andrew Taslitz died in February, his admirers praised his productivity, scholarship and devotion to work.

But his widow, Patty Sun, says his accomplishments came at a price. She wrote on his Facebook page about the impact of his “frenzied output” on their relationship and her bitterness about their lost time together. PrawfsBlawg and TaxProf Blog have excerpts.

“In the past four months I have kept seeing accolades to Andy's amazing productivity—the 100+ articles, the zillions of case books, etc., and I have always told people that yes, he led a normal life, yes, he got plenty of sleep and yes, he even took plenty of naps,” she wrote.

“But that's not really true. His life was not normal, at least not to me, and it certainly wasn't balanced. Yes, I know he genuinely loved his work and yes, I know he had a brilliant and unusual mind, and yes, I know he was cut down in his prime when he still had so much more to give. But all of that came with a price. Not the teaching or the mentoring, but all that scholarship. ..

“So what was the price in the end? In the entire time we were married we only took a two-week vacation once, and just about every vacation we did take was wrapped around one of his conferences or presentations. The furthest he went on each of his two sabbaticals was his front bedroom, because he spent every single day on his manuscripts. …

“So in the end how do I feel about his productivity? Yes, he enjoyed it, but he also killed himself trying not to disappoint people or to break deadlines.

“And as I sit here with the dogs on July 4th, I think was it really that important to add one more book review to his CV or to do one more tenure letter as a favor for someone he never met? I'm glad his peers all loved him for the reliable genius that he was, and I don't know how he feels wherever he is now, but I am very, very bitter.

“Yes, he was a great academic mentor and collaborator, but the price for all that frenzied output was me, and there's a part of me that will never forgive him for it, because he died right after he promised to slow down and enjoy life itself more.”

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