Distinguished Teaching Award


Samuel D. Brickley II
Professor of Business Law and Criminal Justice

Samuel Brickley loved his career in law. “I was a partner in a large law firm in Wilmington, DE, had great colleagues, and fantastic cases to work on,” he says.

But when he started teaching the Legal Environment of Business one night a week at the University of Delaware, he discovered another love: education. “I was hooked; I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he says. That experience was enough to get him to seriously consider embarking on a second career in higher education … someday.

That day came much earlier than Brickley expected. When he learned from his mother, longtime PSU economics professor Colleen Brickley, that a teaching position had come up in the business department in late spring 2005, he came north for an interview, and was hired for the fall semester.

Brickley didn’t take the decision to switch careers lightly. He knew he’d be walking away from a highly successful—not to mention well paying—law career. “My wife and I made the decision together,” Brickley says. When they considered the quality of life that New Hampshire would offer them and their three young children, and Brickley’s desire to have more time for family than his demanding law career afforded, they knew PSU was the right choice for them. “I tell my students all the time that life’s about choices,” he says. “You can’t have it all, or do it all. You have to choose what’s more important to you, based on your passions.”

Combining his passion for law with his passion for teaching, Brickley, who is a professor of business law and criminal justice, creates a stimulating and supportive learning environment for his students. “My goal is for my students to learn the basics of the law, and have a reasonably fun time along the way,” he says. Discussions are full of real-world examples, either drawn from Brickley’s 12-year legal career or from current local or national events that he or a student will bring up in class. To give his students the best learning experience possible, he says, “I strive to keep my courses current, interesting, and relevant.”

A strong proponent of free speech, Brickley welcomes and encourages differing opinions in classroom discussions. “That’s what education is all about, learning how to think critically, analyze, and reason,” he says. “I remind my students that even the Supreme Court—supposed legal geniuses—can’t agree on issues, so how are we expected to?”

For Brickley, being honored with the Distinguished Teaching Award is thrilling and humbling, but he believes that the student experience is the best measure, if not the sole measure, of his effectiveness as a teacher. “[Basketball coach] John Wooden said, ‘You haven’t taught until they have learned,’” he says. “I hope my students learn from me. I certainly learn from them.” –Barbra Alan

Photos by Kaleb Hart ’11

2016 Excellence Award Winners

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