Duquesne University faculty, staff, students and alumni are mourning the loss of Dr. Samuel J. Astorino, professor of law, who passed away on Saturday, May 12, from cancer at age 79.
Astorino first came to Duquesne in 1963 as a faculty member in the history department. His more than 20 years with the department included a 13-year stint as chair, during which he attended evening classes at the University’s School of Law. He earned his juris doctor degree in 1982 and joined the law school faculty in 1984.
“’Dr. Sam’ taught generations of students in both history and law,” said Duquesne Law School Dean Ken Gormley. “He was an extraordinarily popular professor who cared deeply about his students and made a difference in thousands of lives. As well, he had an extraordinary life, growing up and working in the steel mills in Carnegie; serving in the U.S. army; and serving as a special clerk to Justice Nicholas Papadakos on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”
A respected legal scholar, Astorino initiated the School of Law’s renowned Summer Study of Law in Vatican City program in Italy for which he taught a course on Roman Law. Additionally, he developed and taught a popular course for the law school that met during evening hours and on Saturdays to help students prepare for the Pennsylvania Bar Exam.
Astorino specialized in criminal law, American legal history and civil procedure. Outside of the classroom, he was known for leading lively discussions on legal issues and politics as well as for smoking his signature cigars. “We would just sit ou on a chair, smoking cigars,” Gormley told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Students would sit on folding chairs with him. There was usually a crowd around Dr. Sam.”
Known for the unique historical perspective that he brought to the study of law, Astorino published numerous articles on local and national public and legal history. He was recognized by the law school’s Student Bar Association, which presented him with its award for distinguished teaching.
Astorino, the son of Italian immigrants, was born in East Carnegie. He was the valedictorian of the former Clark High School, and earned a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree in history from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to Duquesne, Astorino taught history at Pitt, Waynesburg College and St. Vincent College.