Former Philadelphia Bar Association staffer Nancy Hebble probably said it best when she observed that Peter Hearn possessed "a natural grace." Peter was fair and even-handed in his dealings with
everyone. He never raised his voice and one seldom heard him say an unkind word about anyone. He was open to new ideas, curious about people and always ready with a quick quip or humorous observation, usually delivered dryly. Peter Hearn was a good listener. He looked you straight in the eye and you knew you were reaching him in some way when he would respond with his trademark "Is that right?"
You could have called Peter Hearn the last of the brahmin chancellors but we never saw it that way because this gentlemanly counselor was well-versed on the issues of the day, up to date with the popular culture and always approachable. He had wide-ranging interests and, though he loved the law, he was not the kind of lawyer to be consumed by it.
We could tell you many stories about this fine Philadelphian and his admirable sense of equanimity but two in particular stand out:
- Once, during a meeting with the Chancellor, we found ourselves in a particularly heated exchange with another bar staffer and the zingers shot back and forth. gaining rapidity by the second. It was not a pretty sight but Peter sat calmly taking it all in -- up to a point. Then, he spoke up: "Wait just a minute," he said. "We'll have no more of this." The room fell silent. And that, as they say, was the end of that.
- On another occasion, during a Board of Governors meeting the Board embarked on a heated debate over the investment of bar employees' pension funds. The resolution being considered called for the board to take pension money out of funds that were in any way connected with the apartheid regime controlling South Africa. It wasn't like anyone was looking to support apartheid, but the resolution was broadly-worded and there were legal issues involved. The debate droned on and on. And then Peter rose to speak. "I think we're missing something here -- something very important," he observed. "This is not our money. We have something to say about it. We have a fiduciary responsibility., But the money is not ours. And there are quite a few people, hard-working people, depending on this money." The debate ended and the resolution was tabled.