In classroom discussions he led at New England Law Boston, it was not uncommon for George Dargo to quote scenes from the hit sitcom “Seinfeld.’’
Injecting humor into lectures, colleagues said, was only part of what made him memorable. Approachable and respectful of students’ views, Dr. Dargo had a passion for teaching.
“He was a master teacher who knew how to make complex ideas simple and simple ideas profound,’’ said David Siegel, a friend who also teaches at the law school. “Professor Dargo wanted to know about every student’s life and interests. He was the only faculty member I’m aware of who had a Facebook fan page created by students, and one year students gave him a set of pencils engraved with ‘Dargoisms.’ ’’
Dr. Dargo, who taught at New England Law for nearly three decades, died of skin cancer Jan. 5 in his Brookline home. He was 76.
“George was a warm man who engaged with his students and spent many hours after class assisting them and just enjoying wide-range conversations,’’ said John F. O’Brien, dean of New England Law. “George had a wonderful working relationship with members of all parts of our community. His fellow faculty members held him in high regard and were very fond of him, and staff who worked with him had only good things to say.’’
Dr. Dargo taught administrative law, constitutional law, freedom of expression, and law and literature. He also wrote several books, including “Jefferson’s Louisiana,’’ which was valued for its scholarship on the Louisiana Purchase. Among his other publications were “Roots of the Republic,’’ “Law in the New Republic,’’ and “A History of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, 1890-1960.’’
An accomplished musician, Dr. Dargo “went by the name Maestro,’’ said Julie A. Franklin, a lawyer who formerly worked as his research assistant. “He was a very talented pianist and constantly listened to classical music in his office that reverberated throughout New England Law’s fourth floor,’’ she said.
Dr. Dargo grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was a 1953 graduate of Erasmus Hall High School.
He graduated from Columbia College with a bachelor’s degree in American history, and from Columbia University with a master’s and a doctorate in history. He also graduated from Northeastern University School of Law.
His wife, the former Lois Chasin, said he was interested in law from an early age because his father was a law school graduate and history teacher in New York City’s public schools.
She met him on a plane when she was returning to the United States after spending a summer in Europe.
“George was persistent and finally got my phone number at a refueling stop in Iceland,’’ she said.
They had two children, Jessica Dargo Caplan of Toronto and Stephen of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Dr. Dargo was in contact with his children almost daily.
“My father was a great teacher, but fundamentally I’m the person I am today because of everything he shared with me,’’ his daughter said. “Not only did he share his love of learning and knowledge, but he also shared his love of family. I miss him already.’’
His son said his father will long be remembered as a proponent for the underdog.
“He fought for rent control when no one else seemed to care,’’ he said. “He took care to support the underprivileged and underrepresented individuals, and he always believed that people were more important than politics or money. This was reflected in everything in his life, from his teaching to his liberal politics to the sports teams for which he rooted.’’
In addition to teaching at New England Law Boston, Dr. Dargo was a Brookline Town Meeting member for many years, and also a member of a Board of Selectmen advisory committee.
He played tennis and loved spending time outdoors. At home, he regularly listened to public radio talk shows and liked old cowboy and World War II movies.
He was diagnosed with a form of leukemia, which led to his skin cancer. Despite many surgeries, his wife said, he did not let his illness stop him from doing his job.
“He would go in to teach his classes often the next day after surgery,’’ she said. “He never let people know how serious his condition had become. I already miss just having him around. Who will I argue with about politics, baseball, and current events?’’
A service has been held for Dr. Dargo. In addition to his wife, daughter, and son, he leaves two grandchildren.
Franklin said Dr. Dargo always tried to see things from the perspective of his students.
“I think this unwavering affection for his students and his work is what made him so accessible, and consequently, what also made it impossible to get into his seminar classes without being wait-listed,’’ she said.
Dr. Dargo’s wife believed he was so popular because students “recognized a great teacher when they saw one,’’ and because of his ability to relate to his classes.
She said he “could see the humor in everyday happenings. This is why ‘Seinfeld’ appealed to him. The mundane is funny, and the series highlighted the absurdities in life. He could cite an episode of ‘Seinfeld’ to illustrate the points he was trying to get across, and the students appreciated the humor and got the point.’’
With the exception of family, she added, nothing was more important to Dr. Dargo than his students.
“George was first and foremost a teacher,’’ his wife said. “He felt a great responsibility toward his students, and they quickly sensed that he really cared about them. They came first, and his door was always open to them. He was concerned about them literally up to his last days.’’