Faculty Profile: Tom Roberts

After 33 years of teaching property law, Professor Tom Roberts retired in June. A nationally recognized authority on land use law, Roberts possesses a particular expertise in constitutional property rights litigation. He is co-author of the leading case book on Land Use law, used in more than 100 law schools across the country, as well as a treatise on the same subject.

While Roberts said goodbye to the law school in June, he probably won’t be saying hello to an unusual vacation anytime soon. He’ll be sticking closer to home. Before law school, Roberts served in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, which led to several more trips to the region in recent years. On several occasions he has spent time in the Amazon jungle.

A recent trip to Asia, however, didn’t go well. “Three years ago, while hiking in Bhutan, I became quite ill and had to be evacuated by helicopter from a mountain top,” he said. “That has, temporarily at least, caused my interest in exotic hikes and vacations to wane.”

Roberts’ appreciation and admiration for Wake Forest are strong. During his tenure here, he says, the school has only gotten stronger.

“When Tom Hearn became president (of Wake Forest) in the early 1980s, he invested a great deal of time and money on the law school, enabling us to lower our class sizes and to hire new faculty, dramatically improving our student/teacher ratio,” Roberts recalled.

“The school prospered greatly under Dean Bob Walsh from the mid-80s until 2008. He was a great leader and very capable administrator. Under

Dean Blake D. Morant, we continue to do well, and I have no doubt the students in the years ahead will receive a superior education and have more resources and choices available to them.”

Roberts says students have changed little over the past three decades.

“They’re still 22 years old and highly qualified,” he said. “The objective credentials of the students are likely higher now (I haven’t charted the changes), but they were good when I came. And, if I think about students in terms of subjective traits like caliber, quality, and enthusiasm, the students I taught early on were the equal of those I teach today.”

Roberts has served in leadership positions in the Section of State and Local Government Law of the American Bar Association including as chair of the section.

Prior to coming to Wake Forest, Roberts was Assistant Dean and Supervising Attorney of Clinical Programs at the Ohio State University College of Law, and, prior to that, he was in private practice with Porter, Stanley, Platt & Arthur, of Columbus, Ohio.