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Fall 2019

Professor Emeritus Joseph Crea ’47, a Brooklyn Law School Icon, Dies at 104

PROFESSOR EMERITUS JOSEPH CREA ’47, who taught at Brooklyn Law School for more than 60 years and was a passionate champion of students, faculty, and excellence in legal education, died Aug. 2, 2019, at the age of 104.

“Professor Joseph Crea was a giant in the history of Brooklyn Law School,” said Stuart Subotnick ’68, chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees. “His life was nothing short of extraordinary, and his impact on the Law School will endure for generations to come.”

“There has been no more enthusiastic supporter of Brooklyn Law School, and quite possibly no single person who has shaped its history more, than Professor Joseph Crea,” said Dean Michael T. Cahill. “He was an icon, admired and beloved in equal measure by his students and colleagues, touching countless lives across the entire span of his own life. Joe’s intellect, energy, courage, and selflessness will never be replicated, or forgotten.”

Joseph Crea’s road to his career in law began in the 1930s when, while delivering bread in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, he found a stack of soaking wet law books. He took them home, dried them out, read them, and decided he would one day become a lawyer.

He was recruited to work at the Selective Service System just before the United States entered World War II; he was later commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. Crea applied to the Law School in 1944, only to be rejected because he could not commit to attending classes five nights per week. Undeterred, he convinced then Dean Jerome Prince of his work ethic and secured a spot, taking classes out of order or simply reading textbooks instead when he could not make his schedule work.

That winding journey culminated in a job offer in the library from Dean Prince, and a year later he became an instructor. In the early years of his career, he taught nearly every course in the curriculum.

“ I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Professor Joseph Crea,” said renowned entertainment lawyer Allen Grubman ’67, founding partner of Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks.

Crea became known as one of the Law School’s most enthusiastic and animated professors. His famous catchphrases, including “Never drop your briefcase and run,” are still frequently used by his former students. He taught at the Law School until 2014, continually advising faculty members and participating in admissions committee meetings.

He also played a major role in modernizing the curriculum at the Law School, helping to raise the Law School’s standing and reputation on a national level. He advised more than a half dozen deans and advocated for better compensation to attract and retain faculty. Former Dean Joan Wexler once called him a “shadow dean” who always put the interests of the school before his own.

In 2000, in recognition of his contributions to the Law School community, the Joseph Crea Dean chair was established in his name. The Regina and Joseph Crea Memorial Scholarship was established by alumni and friends in memory of Crea’s beloved wife, Regina. The Professor Joseph Crea Reading Room in the Brooklyn Law School Library is named in his honor. He also was honored in 2015 as an Icon of Brooklyn Law School at a gala celebration on Ellis Island.

He was the author of A Guide to Legal Research, served on a Mayor’s Committee for the Selection of Marshals, and served as judge advocate for a veterans’ group. He has also been honored with a Distinguished Achievement Award by his alma mater, Brooklyn College.

Crea is survived by his daughters Catharine Crea, Regina Mysliwiec (Ronald), Lorraine Crea, and Elizabeth Crea ’98 (Gloria Greco ’98); three grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.