Minnesota Law Remembers Professor Emerita Ann Burkhart

Ann Burkhart, beloved teacher, colleague, and friend at the University of Minnesota Law School, passed away March 26, 2024. A nationally recognized expert in real estate law, she taught land-use law and planning, real estate transactions, comparative property law, and consumer protection law. She served on the faculty at Minnesota Law for 42 years and was most recently the Curtis Bradbury Kellar Professor of Law before assuming emeritus status earlier this academic year. Throughout her time at Minnesota Law, Burkhart taught many courses, but it was in her 1L property law course that she earned a career-long reputation as a beloved teacher and mentor who championed her students and set them up for success. 

Ann was a pillar of the Law School, a valued colleague, and one of the most beloved teachers on the faculty,” says Interim Dean William McGeveran, Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett Professor of Law. “She will be greatly missed and is remembered dearly at Minnesota Law by all who knew her. When I talk to alumni, they mention her as their favorite teacher almost more than anyone who’s ever taught here. She made a real impression on multiple generations and had a knack for being challenging and rigorous while at the same time supportive and caring.”

Burkhart was highly regarded and beloved among her students, and the feeling was mutual. Before her death, she was interviewed about her long and successful career. Discussing her students, she said: “Enabling [students] to go out and do good was the best part of teaching. It always made my heart beat strong. My students are so smart and so motivated, and I’ve learned so much from them. I have so many that I am so proud of.” 

Robert Stein ’61, Everett Fraser Professor of Law and Distinguished Global Professor, says that during his tenure as Law School dean from 1979 to 1994, Burkhart served as associate dean, a supportive role that Stein deeply appreciated. “She was a model of both an excellent teacher and a good citizen of the University and the Law School,” he says.

Stein also praised her teaching style. “She was a spectacularly good teacher, loved by her students for all the years of her teaching. She won the Teacher of the Year Award so many times it should probably be retired.” Burkhart received the Stanley V. Kinyon Teacher of the Year Award a total of five times.

In 2016, she also received the University’s Graduate-Professional Award, a rare honor bestowed on no more than eight University professors each year. At that time, she was only the third Law School faculty member to receive it. With the news of her passing, Stein shared: “Ann was very dedicated to her students and to the Law School. She was an incredibly successful associate dean during the time I was dean. She was beloved by her students and cared for each of them. She will be greatly missed by the thousands of students she taught and by the entire Law School family.”

"I count myself among the thousands of students who loved Ann and were immeasurably impacted by her intellect, warmth, and kindness," says Associate Clinical Professor Nadia Anguiano '17. “It's hard to adequately describe all the qualities that made her so uniquely gifted at teaching and mentoring students. I’ll never forget a few private moments I shared with her during office hours when she gave me the exact encouraging words I needed at the moment. As a colleague, she showed me that same warmth and kindness in every interaction I had with her. She will be missed terribly, and I will always cherish having had the privilege of knowing her.” 

Through the years, Burkhart served in many national and professional capacities. She was a member of the American Law Institute and the American College of Real Estate Lawyers and was also a reporter for the Uniformed Manufactured Housing Act. She was a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the American College of Mortgage Attorneys and served on the Minnesota State Bar Association Real Estate Section Executive Council.

During her time on the faculty at Minnesota Law, Burkhart expanded her scholarship and teaching as a visiting professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA School of Law, Uppsala University College of Law in Sweden, and Christian-Albrechts University in Germany.

While Burkhart was an exceptional scholar and an outstanding teacher, she is most fondly remembered at Minnesota Law for being a gracious colleague and friend.

“Ann was a dear friend,” says Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Oren Gross, Irving Younger Professor of Law. “As neighbors on the fourth floor of the Law School, I had plenty of opportunities to see Ann and seek her advice and counsel. She was always gracious with her time and advice and welcoming to faculty, staff, and students alike. She was warm, funny, kind, and smart. She will be missed by all who knew her and who benefitted from her presence in their lives.”

Professor Carol Chomsky says she looked forward to celebrating retirement with Burkhart this spring. “She was a valued friend and colleague all the years I have been at Minnesota Law. As many have already mentioned, she was a beloved teacher by generations of students, and we will all miss her greatly."

Peter Estall ’19, now an associate at Norton Rose Fulbright’s Minneapolis office, was inspired by Burkart’s teaching style and chose to take additional courses with her. “I took those courses not because I was particularly interested in the subject but because of Professor Burkhart,” he says. “She’s one of the best educators I’ve ever had in my life, and I’ve had some stellar ones. She will be sorely missed.”

 It is no surprise then that Professor Burkhart was also an outstanding student. She received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Purdue University. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Illinois College of Law, where she was lead note and comments editor of the University of Illinois Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif. After graduating from law school, Burkhart clerked for the Honorable James C. Hill of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She then practiced law with Sidley & Austin in Chicago and with Alston & Bird in Atlanta.

Ann was simply remarkable,” says Professor Perry Moriearty. “On a personal note, my father was Ann’s civil procedure professor at the University of Illinois, a connection that Ann and I made shortly after I came to Minnesota. Even 40 years later, my father did not just remember Ann, he revered her. Ann’s intellect, kindness, integrity, and vibrance are not only legendary at Minnesota Law but also were cemented in place long ago when she was a student at the University of Illinois College of Law.”

Daniel Schwarcz, Fredrikson & Byron Professor of Law, shared that Burkhart regularly guest taught property law in his Law 3000 class. “Her sessions were always a highlight of the semester,” he says. “As I witnessed on numerous occasions, Ann's ability to connect with and inspire her students was truly special. Ann was also without fail a kind, gracious, and thoughtful colleague. She will truly be missed.”

Burkhart deeply valued her students and loved teaching and many aspects of real estate law, but she also carried deep admiration and respect for her colleagues at Minnesota Law. In an interview earlier this year, she said she was lucky to have worked with amazing colleagues. “They are the best in the country,” she said. “They are so willing to give their time, and I’m amazed at how much they contribute.”

The passing of Professor Emerita Ann Burkhart is a tremendous loss for the Minnesota Law community. We will miss her dearly. Our deepest condolences to Ann’s husband, Chris, and her family, friends, and countless former students.

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