News - Capital University Law School

Tannenbaums’ Gift Honors ‘Life Changing’ Role of Capital University Law School

6/9/2021  - 

Earning his law degree at Capital University Law School changed the trajectory of David Tannenbaum’s career. And, now, David and his wife Mary Tannenbaum have decided to return the favor.

The David H. (L’66) and Mary C. Tannenbaum Law Scholarship gives preference based on financial need to a part-time student in good academic standing enrolled in Capital University Law School. David says it was Mary’s suggestion that the couple “turn around and give somebody a scholarship” based upon how their family has benefited from tuition assistance.

Capital University Law School Dean Reynaldo Anaya Valencia says, “It’s gifts like the David H. and Mary C. Tannenbaum Law Scholarship that provide the resources to help other Capital University Law School students succeed at the highest levels of our profession. We continue to be proud of our graduates like David Tannenbaum who attain great prominence in not only law, but other disciplines as well.”

David remembers having a fascination with law as a young child, especially the legal exploits of Perry Mason on television. He took a particular interest in criminal law, but he also had a fondness for “electricity and building stuff.”

“In the back of my mind, law was there, but engineering was No. 1,” says David, who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. After college, he took a job as an engineer for Western Electric, which brought him to Columbus.

His intellectual curiosity led him to learn more about the role of patent attorneys. “I knew instantly that’s what I wanted to do.”

David met with then-Dean Ralph Klapp to talk about possibly enrolling in law school the following year. “He said, ‘You can start tomorrow night,’” David recalls. “I said, ‘I don’t have any money,’” and explained that he had just bought a new set of tires.

Dean Klapp told him that when he finished paying for his tires, he could pay the same amount to attend Capital.

“That’s how I went to law school,” David says, “and that’s exactly why I am doing the gift.”

And, he knows better than anyone the stresses of attending law school at night and raising a young family, without having to worry about finances. He recalls getting up at 3:30 in the morning to study, attending school three nights a week and reading and studying on the weekends.

Following graduation from CapLaw in 1966, David became a patent counsel for Bell Labs before leading the Intellectual Property section of the Dallas office of Fulbright & Jaworski (now Norton Rose Fulbright) before retiring in 2012.

A true Renaissance man, he has found time to write several books, including nine mysteries under the pen name of David Harry, and three novels: “Standard Deviation,” “Out of the Depths” and “Adventures in the Law.” The latter includes tales of his time at CapLaw, in particular his encounters with the late Professor Emeritus John Sullivan, who David calls, “one great teacher and motivator … and tyrant.”

David has said he owes his legal career to the man who initially challenged him. During David’s second year in law school, Professor Sullivan announced that the class grade breakdown would be one A, two Bs, two Ds, one F and the remainder of the class would receive Cs. Upon hearing this and after having had a couple of run-ins with Professor Sullivan, he said to himself, “David, you’ve only got one choice here: You’re going to get the A.”

Sure enough, when the first grades were posted and the students congregated in the hallway to see how they did, Professor Sullivan appeared and said, “Tannenbaum, how in the hell did you get the A?”

David would thereafter go on to receive the only A from Professor Sullivan in every class he took from him. “That’s what changed my life,” he says. “I practiced law for the rest of my life against Yale and Stanford graduates and I did very well. Capital did very well by me and John Sullivan even better. Whatever it was, he resonated with me and I learned from him.”

David met wife Mary, an engineer, while working for Bell Labs, and the two married in 1991. The couple share three grown children, Dan, Sebastian and Chuck and three grandchildren. David’s daughter Debi, who passed away in 2015, also had attended Capital University Law School.

David and Mary Tannenbaum now reside in South Florida and Pittsburgh where David is currently writing a new detective series.