Law School Community Saddened by the Passing of Brennan Gaeth (’17)
Brennan Gaeth, a member of the Law School’s most recent J.D. class, died unexpectedly on Nov. 23 in Milwaukee. He moved to Kansas City, Mo., to take a position with the firm of Shook, Hardy & Bacon after graduation, and in October he was sworn in to the Minnesota bar. As a student, Gaeth was an engaged member of the Law School community who volunteered with the Asylum Law Project and served as a Robina Summer Fellow doing housing advocacy work with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services.
Professor Chris Roberts, who taught Gaeth in two classes, recalled him as “the kind of student who makes teaching a joy.” In addition to Gaeth’s consistent preparation and respect for classmates, Roberts noted that he “possessed the simple, yet rare, ability to make others smile, even during discussions of the driest areas of legal doctrine.”
Professor Laura Thomas, Gaeth’s advisor and his supervisor in field placement work, remembered him as someone with an “absolute enthusiasm to be in law school.” When Gaeth was a 3L, Thomas asked him to mentor her new slate of 1L advisees. At a get-acquainted lunch, she said, “he was so enthusiastic about everything he had learned—both inside and, particularly, outside the classroom. I remember him telling the students that they could achieve anything—by either selecting a clinic, getting into a legal services organization as he had done, or just networking. Brennan was full of energy, and frankly fun to be around. He loved the practice of law, and he found purpose being in the trenches representing people.”
1L classmate Jorgen Lervick (’18) spoke for many in describing Gaeth as positive and full of life. “If you were having a hard day, he was always there to make a joke,” Lervick said. Classmate Taylor Stippel (’17) remembered Gaeth as a “constant source of encouragement, happiness, and joy” whose “distinctive laugh reverberated around the halls and never failed to bring a smile to my face.” At Gaeth’s memorial service, Quang Tran (’17) honored his friend for sticking up for him and others, noting, “Not a lot of people can pull off being larger than life and so sincere at the same time.”
At Gaeth’s memorial service, Assistant Dean of Students Erin Keyes (’00) spoke of the “incredible outpouring of stories and reflections about his huge heart, his hearty laugh, his hard work, and his ability to forge friendships. He was, in so many ways, our natural light in Mondale Hall,” she said.
“I’m sure many in this room are struggling with ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ today,” Keyes concluded. “I certainly am. But what we can do is to pledge to honor Brennan and keep his light shining, and to keep his laugh reverberating, through the halls of justice, in our hearts, and in all the ways we serve and uplift those around us.”