Professor Ralph Peeples – In Memoriam

Ralph Peeples, Professor Emeritus at the Wake Forest University School of Law, died on May 12, 2023. He was 71 years old.

Ralph was born in Charleston, South Carolina; studied as an undergraduate at Davidson College; and received his law degree from New York University. He worked for a few years as a municipal bond attorney in Cleveland, where he fell in love with the Cleveland baseball team, now known as the Guardians. He left Cleveland to join the law faculty at Wake Forest in 1979.

Ralph was a versatile and beloved teacher, whose wry sense of humor enlivened every class. His courses ranged from Business Associations, Securities Regulation, Corporate Finance, and Bankruptcy to Torts and Dispute Resolution. His greatest joy as a teacher was to create, assign, and discuss negotiation simulations for his students. As Ralph often told his classes, “Life is a negotiation.” His students enthusiastically accepted what he offered them, naming him as the Teacher of the Year four different times during his career.

As a scholar, Ralph was an early advocate for empirical research. He used statistical methods to draw insights about medical malpractice litigation and drew on his negotiation talents to gain access to the files of medical malpractice insurance adjusters—a fascinating new source of data about civil litigation settlements. Ralph thought of legal scholarship as a social enterprise, often working with co-authors and involving students in the research.

Ralph was also a service-oriented member of the law school community, both as an insider and outsider. As an insider, he served two different terms as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and held duties on too many committees to count. He mentored younger colleagues with insight and generosity. Ralph led colleagues on annual trips to visit Wake Forest law alumni in the Cleveland area and (incidentally) to watch baseball games at Jacobs Field.

As an outsider, Ralph often employed his good-natured humor to puncture pomposity. He would invariably point out when deans were overreaching or when university presidents were clueless, proudly claiming the essential role of “faculty curmudgeon.”

Ralph was also active in the broader community. He engaged with the North Carolina Bar Association in his areas of expertise and served on the Board of Directors for the Legal Aid Society. He worked long and hard to cultivate mediation practices in the state, hoping to make dispute resolution more affordable for more people. After his retirement from the law school in 2018, Ralph worked as the legal advisor for the SHARE Cooperative, a local non-profit that located a grocery store in the middle of a former food desert in Winston-Salem.

Read more about Professor Ralph Peeples’ legacy.