UCLA Law faculty member Skye Donald, widely admired for her excellent teaching and extraordinary student mentorship, succumbed to cancer on Oct. 16. She was 43.
Donald joined UCLA School of Law in 2009, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor the following year. She nonetheless taught the Lawyering Skills course to hundreds of first-year students and assisted in upper-division clinical courses, and became an enormously successful and well- regarded teacher. In recognition of her excellence as an instructor, she was awarded a continuing appointment as a lecturer in law in 2015.
“Even in the midst of her very serious medical issues, Skye was extraordinarily focused on the well-being of those around her,” said UCLA Law Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin. “She worked very hard to understand and connect with her students, and she coupled high expectations with extraordinary empathy. We have lost a wonderful teacher, colleague and friend.”Skye was my legal writing professor during my first year of law school. As my classmates and I attempted to manage our regular lecture coursework (including learning to glean rules and doctrine from cases and adapting to the Socratic method), we faced increasingly complex writing assignments that forced us to confront and adopt legal writing's terse analysis of facts and case law and the employment of cases as authority in legal arguments. For most of us, lecture courses were akin to learning to read in a different language and our legal writing course felt like learning to write in a different language.
Skye approached the task of teaching classes filled with stressed, confused, and stubborn students with an unceasingly positive demeanor. When finals and deadlines began to loom and tensions were high and tempers short, Skye defused the stormy atmosphere and renewed our confidence. She helped us see that with the right attitude and game plan, we could get through the seemingly endless piles of reading and work with which we were confronted. When I was confused about a grade or comment on an assignment, Skye took the time to talk me through my answer and her evaluation process and provided concrete guidance on how I could improve my work. Her cheerfulness cut through the darkest of days, and lifted the spirits of everybody in her presence.
My law school lecture courses gave me a doctrinal background that I have drawn on as an attorney. But without Skye's teaching, I would never have been able to employ my legal knowledge in motions, briefs, or blog posts. My legal writing abilities and my work as an attorney are both attributable to Skye and I will do my best to continue to employ and develop the skills she taught me. UCLA Law will not be the same without her.