12/02/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Adversity and Comedy, the Venerable Studs

In the late years, the bane of Studs Terkel's life was his ever-deteriorating hearing.

"Can't hear a damn, thing," he'd mutter, incessantly adjusting and tapping his fingernails on his hearing aid, to little avail.

True to form, though, he could turn the malady into something of a comedy routine, as he did memorably in 2001 when he and Judge Richard A. Posner, a distinguished former law professor at the University of Chicago, received honorary degrees from Northwestern University.

Neither their personalities nor their philosophies could have been more divergent -- Terkel the effervescent leftist, Posner the reserved conservative. But they did have one thing in common: their association with the U of C Law School, from which Terkel had matriculated in 1934, and where Posner had continued as a senior lecturer after going on the bench nearly half a century later.

"Judge Poster," Terkel began as they sat down for dinner, "are you still teaching at my alma mater?"

"Yes, Studs," Posner replied.

"What are you teaching?"



"Evidence, Studs."

"Avarice! Why would you teach avarice!"

"Evidence, Studs."


"Damn hearing aid. Can't hear a thing!"