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Thai University to Honor UB Law Professor David M. Engel

By Ilene Fleischmann

Release Date: December 27, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A University at Buffalo Law School professor with a special interest in the legal system and culture of Thailand will receive the honorary degree of doctor of laws from one of that nation's major universities.

SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, David M. Engel, will be honored January 24, 2011, at the commencement ceremonies of Chiang Mai University, located in Chiang Mai—the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand. The degree will be conferred by Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, daughter of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej. It was announced by Dr. Pongsak Angkasith, president of Chiang Mai University.

Engel, who served in the Peace Corps in Thailand where he met his wife, Jaruwan S. Engel, has for many years taken UB law students to Chiang Mai during the January "bridge term," in a course called The Legal Culture of Thailand. Engel works closely with Chiang Mai University and its law school to ensure a rich cross-cultural experience for the UB Law students. Students study the interaction of law and culture, explore a national legal system based on civil law rather than common law, and learn about the changing nature of Thai culture, which is being deeply influenced by globalization.

"When you're in another culture, you can see more clearly how the law is linked to its cultural surroundings," Engel has said of the rationale for the course. "My hope is that the students will then see that connection in their own cultural situation."

The honorary degree recognizes that bridge-building work. "His thoughtfulness and friendship have created a close bond with Chiang Mai University faculty members and students, particularly with the group of law professors with whom he has collaborated most closely," the university's proclamation says.

"Professor Engel was a key figure in initiating a scholarly exchange program between Chiang Mai University and the University at Buffalo and will remain important to the future of that program. His scholarship is well known and extraordinarily abundant and will forever enrich the Chiang Mai University Faculty of Law."

UB Law School Dean Makau W. Mutua states, "Professor Engel is among a small cadre of American professors that has distinguished itself with the most searching and edge-cutting study of culture, society and law in Asia. His work on Thailand is simply unequaled. With this honor, which recognizes his excellence as a scholar, Professor Engel has received a fitting tribute from the highest authorities in Thailand and one of the premier academic institutions in Asia. We at the UB Law School are honored that Professor Engel calls our law school home."

Engel, a specialist in interdisciplinary studies of law and society in the United States and other countries, has studied and written about Thai law for more than 30 years. His most recent book, co-authored with Jaruwan S. Engel, is Tort, Custom, and Karma: Globalization and Legal Consciousness in Thailand (Stanford University Press, 2010), a study of injuries and the law in a rapidly changing Asian society.

Since its founding in 1887, the University at Buffalo Law School – the State University of New York system's only law school – has established an excellent reputation and is widely regarded as a leader in legal education. Its cutting-edge curriculum provides both a strong theoretical foundation and the practical tools graduates need to succeed in a competitive marketplace, wherever they choose to practice. A special emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, public service and opportunities for hands-on clinical education makes UB Law unique among the nation's premier public law schools.

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