In Memoriam: Roswell B. Perkins

In Memoriam: Roswell B. Perkins

Roswell B. (Rod) Perkins passed away on March 10, at the age of 92.

“Rod Perkins was a beloved and admired leader of The American Law Institute for many years,” said ALI President David F. Levi. “He served as President from 1980 to 1993 and as Chair of the Council from 1993 to 2008.  He led our deliberations with dignity and graciousness. In later years, he was no less supportive of the work of the ALI. He attended most Council meetings and contributed helpfully to our discussions, bringing to bear the benefit of his wisdom and unparalleled experience in private practice. He was the model of professionalism, and we will miss him very much. On behalf of our members, I express our gratitude for his remarkable career and his dedication to a fair and effective legal system.”

ALI President Emeritus and Chair of the Council Roberta Cooper Ramo added, “I loved his ready laugh, enduring curiosity and incredibly open interest in diverse views.”

During his presidency he played a leading role in the development of the Principles of Corporate Governance: Analysis and Recommendations. An ALI member since 1964, he served on numerous projects and committees. In recognition of his years of service, ALI presented him with the Distinguished Service Award in 2008.

“The ALI meant so much to Rod, and he was hoping to attend the Annual Meeting this May,” said his wife Susan H. Perkins.  Ms. Perkins regularly accompanied Mr. Perkins to ALI meetings when travel became difficult.  “I am the daughter of a former ALI member, the late Henry Harfield of Shearman & Sterling, and as a lawyer’s daughter and wife I loved accompanying Rod to ALI meetings. I so admire the high standard, non-partisanship, collegiality, and shared work of brilliant members from the judiciary, academia, and practicing law that continues to strengthen the American legal system.”

Mr. Perkins leaves a lasting legacy at The American Law Institute.  As President, he oversaw the completion of several projects, and his daughter Nancy Leeds Perkins of Arnold & Porter is currently an active member.

Mr. Perkins, a native of Boston, received his undergraduate and law degrees, cum laude, from Harvard University, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He retired from partnership in Debevoise & Plimpton in 2001 – 52 years after joining the firm as an associate in 1949. In addition to his work at the firm, he also served in the government, chiefly as Assistant Secretary of the newly created Department of Health, Education, and Welfare during the Eisenhower administration, and as Counsel to New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller.

Following travel to Russia in 1985, Mr. Perkins spearheaded the inauguration of a Russian practice for the firm. Upon the decision of the firm to open an office in Moscow, Mr. Perkins relocated to Moscow in December 1997 to head up the new office, as Resident Partner of Debevoise in Moscow. He served in that capacity for three-and-a-half years, representing companies based in Russia, the U.S., UK, Europe, Scandinavia and the Far East. Among the projects included in the Russian practice of the firm in those years were project financings for three Russian oil refineries under U.S. Ex-Im Bank loan guarantee programs, two large investment funds targeted at Russia, joint ventures and extensive investment and general corporate activity.

In the course of his practice, he served on numerous committees of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the New York State Bar Association. He received a Special Merit Citation of the American Judicature Society in 1989, the Harvard Law School Association Award in 1994 and the Fifty-Year Award of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation in 2002. Mr. Perkins received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Bates College in 1988.

Mr. Perkins was a guiding force and a tremendous influence on the legacy of the Institute. He will be remembered for his warmth, wisdom, thoughtful communications, and dedication to ALI’s mission.