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Tulane mourns civil law legend Yiannopoulos

February 01, 2017


Civil law legend Professor Emeritus A.N. Yiannopoulos died Feb. 1 at age 88. In June, Tulane Law inducted him into its Hall of Fame.

Photos by Tracie Morris Schaefer



Tulane University Law School lost one of its most vivacious faculty members Feb. 1, civil law legend A.N. Yiannopoulos.

The Eason-Weinmann Chair Emeritus, Yiannopoulos reshaped major parts of Louisiana’s civil code and helped shape generations of students. He joined the Tulane Law faculty in 1979 after 21 years at Louisiana State University. Paul Verkuil, Tulane Law dean in 1978-85, was known to say luring Yiannopoulos to New Orleans was the greatest accomplishment of his tenure.

Yiannopoulos died at age 88. A memorial service in Baton Rouge is expected to be announced later.

“It is impossible to overstate what Thanassi meant to our community, both professionally and personally,” Dean David Meyer said. “We who were lucky enough to call him a friend know that his accomplishments as a scholar, teacher, and colleague — as truly great as they were — are only a small piece of his enormous personal legacy.”

The Louisiana Bar Journal recently called Yiannopoulos “Louisiana’s most influential jurist in our time.”

Professor Ron Scalise (L ’00), one of his former students who co-taught a civil law seminar with Yiannopoulos, said in a 2016 profile that he had “an encyclopedic mind” and influenced every aspect of property law.

“There isn’t a significant property case decided in Louisiana that doesn’t cite, consult or refer to his work,” Scalise said.

Yiannopoulos also was generous with his time as a mentor. Grateful friends and colleagues honored him through an endowed scholarship and an endowed professorship at Tulane bearing his name. In 2015, Yiannopoulos himself created an endowed scholarship fund that he intended to grow into a full-tuition award for a Tulane student focusing on civil and comparative law.

Born in the port city of Thessaloniki in Greece, Yiannopoulos had earned a law degree and served in the army before traveling to the United States to study for a master of comparative law degree at the University of Chicago through a Fulbright Fellowship.

He then received an LLM and JSD at the University of California, Berkeley, where he became friends with then-Dean William Prosser, author of one of the most-enduring textbooks on U.S. tort law. After completing another doctorate at the University of Cologne, Yiannopoulos moved to Louisiana.

At Tulane, he helped launch the admiralty law program, continued to write the most-influential treatises available on Louisiana property law, brought international conferences to campus and taught a wide variety of civil law courses to thousands of students. He was elected a titular member of the International Academy of Comparative Law and ran Tulane Law’s summer program in Greece for many years.

Professor Stephen M. Griffin called him “a lawyer of the highest stature and a pillar of our academic community.”

And Professor Sally Richardson, in a tribute to Yiannopoulos on the PropertyProf Blog, wrote: "Louisiana property law is better today because the man centrally responsible for drafting it in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s knew the successes and shortcomings of Greek property law and German property law and French property law and English property law and American property law. That vast knowledge is hard to acquire, but something I learned from Thanassi that we should all strive for, as understanding the property systems of others can help us improve our own."

See coverage at theadvocate.com.

Note: This story was updated on Feb. 2 to add professors' comments.  



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