Fred Chandler, a beloved professor and colleague at Rutgers Law School’s Camden location and a scholar of federal income tax law, passed away at his home in Houston on Dec. 18, 2017. He was 91.
In his 32 years at Rutgers Law, he made a lasting impact on students, inspiring some to pursue a career in tax law.
Dallas attorney Don Lan enrolled in Chandler’s federal income tax course as a 1L and was hooked.
“Fred not only made the course interesting, he was able to explain complex tax concepts simply, and I realized fairly quickly that I had an aptitude for tax law,” says Lan, RLAW’77. “With 40 years of hindsight, taking his first class was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally, as I am still practicing tax law today.”
They remained in touch over the years and sometimes met for lunch in Texas.
“I will miss Fred dearly, as I am sure many will,” says Lan. “He was a very soft-spoken man, with a heart of gold.”
A popular faculty member, Chandler was a recipient of the Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Chandler received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas in 1950. After attending one year of law school, he decided to become a cotton farmer in west Texas. In his late 30s, Chandler returned to University of Texas Law School to complete his degree. He served as a clerk to the Hon. Robert Calvert, chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, and at the age of 43 in 1968, he came to teach at Rutgers Law School’s Camden location. Chandler also earned an LLM in taxation at New York University. He retired from Rutgers in 2000.
“He applied practical, actual-life stories to explain aspects of the law which made understanding the code easier and more fun,” says his daughter, Sally Chandler, adding that he took a genuine interest in his students, and would take time to get to know each of them.
“Fred was one of the classiest people I have ever known,” says Patty Glaser, RLAW’73. “He was sort of a Southern gentleman.” Glaser says he helped guide students on issues inside and outside of the classroom. “Whether it be a personal matter, or I didn’t understand something in class, he was just terrific,” Glaser says.
After graduating from Rutgers Law, Glaser and her family remained friends with Chandler and his family.
In addition to teaching at Rutgers Law’s Camden location, Chandler also taught tax law at seven universities in China: the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, Peking University, Nankai University in Tianjin, Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, Yangzhou and Changchun Tax College, and the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade.
During Chandler’s time in China, he researched China’s developing legal system, and after he returned to the United States, he taught a course on the topic at Rutgers.
Outside of his teaching and research, Chandler was an avid sportsman. In his 60s, he completed 30 triathlons across the United States. Chandler convinced his wife, Xiao Hua, to participate in one triathlon with him in New England.
“I was in awe of him being able to finish the competition against everyone younger than him, and in such bad weather conditions,” says Xiao Hua Chandler. “Doing a triathlon together with Fred was one of the happiest things I had ever experienced.”
The couple also owned an international brokerage business in Texas selling cotton to China. Xiao Hua Chandler says in recent years, her husband had been at home raising their 15-year-old son while she handled the business. Xiao Hua Chandler says Fred was very proud of Henderson and enjoyed having time to spend with him.
Faculty have fond memories of Chandler. In the 1980s, Bob Williams had been teaching at Rutgers Law for just a few years when he began teaching the Migrant Farmworker Litigation Clinic, which gave law students an opportunity to handle cases representing members of a migrant farm workers union to protect union organizing activities.
“In a state like New Jersey, the Garden State, agricultural interests and farmers are very powerful economically and politically,” says Williams, an expert in state constitutional law and the director of the Center for State Constitutional Studies at Rutgers University–Camden. “The last thing they wanted to see was their workers forming unions and working to get workers to join.”
Williams says “Tex,” as he was called by his colleagues at the law school, went to Williams’ office and gave him a vote of confidence for offering the controversial course.
In his “very deep, Texas, Southern accent,” as Williams describes it, “He said to me, ‘Bob, I am so proud of the work that you are doing for those farm workers. It is extremely important work, and you have my complete support, and I will help you in any way I can.’”
Although Williams didn’t need any assistance with the course in tax law – Chandler’s area of expertise – Williams says having the support of a senior faculty member was meaningful.
“From a young faculty member doing something controversial, to get a vote of confidence from a senior faculty member who some people thought would have the alternative point of view because of his farming background.”
Chandler’s influence on Rutgers Law remains today. In honor of Chandler, Lan formed the Fred Chandler Scholarship at the school in 2013 to provide financial assistance to students.
“I wanted to find a way to express my thanks, admiration, and frankly, love, for Fred in a way that would hopefully outlive both of us,” says Lan.