University of Houston Law Center Professor Emeritus Stephen Zamora, an authority on International and Mexican law, died Friday in Mexico City at the age of 72.
Zamora joined the Law Center faculty in 1978, and served as the Law Center’s dean from 1995 to 2000. He founded and continued to direct the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law at the law school, served as director of the North American Consortium on Legal Education, and as an adviser to the Houston Journal of International Law. He retired in November 2014 from the classroom where he taught courses on International Business Transactions, International Trade, NAFTA and others.
Stunned colleagues at the Law Center remarked about Zamora’s intelligence, determination to build relations between the U.S. and Mexico, and kindness to all.
“Steve Zamora was an incredibly accomplished member of the Law Center faculty,” said Dean Leonard M. Baynes. “He was best known for his in-depth analysis of international economic issues, especially as they related to the U.S., Mexico, and the whole North American continent.
“His tenure as dean was notable for two reasons: First, he was the University of Houston and the Law Center’s first dean of Hispanic origin; and second, at the same time, his wife, Lois, was dean at the University’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, making them quite unique in academia.
“After his retirement,” Baynes noted, “he continued to lead the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law, which is the premier institute in the country studying these issues. Steve possessed a dogged determination to advocate for stronger economic and legal relations between the U.S. and Mexico and better understanding between the lawyers of both nations. His unique voice brought clarity and understanding to these issues. He will be sorely missed.”
“I am in disbelief and profoundly sad,” said Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson. “He was such a dear friend, colleague, and dean. He didn’t even know how to be unkind.”
“I am in shock at the loss of a good friend who was critical in building our international law program,” said Professor Jordan Paust.
“When somebody is so essentially decent, whatever you (say) can sound trite,” said Professor Peter Linzer. “But decency isn’t trite. Add Steve’s piercing intelligence and culture and his devotion to his family and you have quite a man. Un hombre.”
“Steve was the consummate gentleman,” Bradley J. Richards, a partner in the firm of Haynes and Boone where Zamora served as of counsel for more than 15 years, wrote in a message to the firm. “He was kind, thoughtful, and even-tempered. He was a great professor. He was always prepared, shared his knowledge with enthusiasm, listened to his students and offered them a helping hand whenever he could.
“He was a great scholar. He co-wrote (with a Mexican professor) the single best book in English on the Mexican legal system, published broadly, and founded the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law at the UH. He was a great lawyer. He advised on international law issues (particularly involving cross-border arbitrations) and was sought as an expert on NAFTA and Mexican law, and he was diligent in every project undertaken by him. He was a great friend to this law firm, the Houston and Mexican legal communities and to me personally.”
Zamora earned a B.A. degree from Stanford University in 1966 and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall) in 1972, where he graduated first in his class and served as chief articles editor of the California Law Review. Together with Lois, he served in the Peace Corps in Colombia, South America, from 1967 to 1969.
Prior to joining the Law Center faculty, he practiced international law in Washington, D.C., first as an associate in the law firm of Clearly, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton, and then as an attorney with The World Bank. He had been a Senior Fulbright Lecturer in Mexico, and a visiting professor at Yale Law School and Fordham Law School. An expert on NAFTA, in 1996, Zamora served as a member of a dispute resolution panel that decided the first government-to-government dispute under NAFTA (U.S. v. Canada — Dairy, Poultry and Eggs from the United States).
Zamora was a member of the American Law Institute, the American Society of International Law, and of the American Society of Comparative Law. In 2006, he received the highest distinction awarded by the Mexican government to a foreign national, the Order of the Aztec Eagle, in recognition of his work in promoting U.S. – Mexican understanding. He was the lead author of the book Mexican Law, published in 2004 by Oxford University Press, and has authored numerous articles and book chapters on international economic law, international banking law, international trade law (NAFTA), international monetary law, and Mexican law. His areas of expertise included contracts, international trade law, conflicts of law, Mexican Law, and NAFTA.
He is survived by his widow, Lois Zamora, a UH English professor, a son, Peter Zamora, his wife Marcela, a daughter, Camille Zamora, and her husband Thomas, grandsons Landon and Nate, and siblings Carol, Mary, Anita, John, Paula, and Tony, and many nephews, nieces, cousins, aunts, in-laws, and friends.
Memorial donations in memory of Stephen Zamora may be made to Sing for Hope, an organization founded by his daughter that brings music and arts programming to under-resourced schools and healthcare facilities, and the University of Houston Law Foundation.
Sing for Hope
575 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1812
New York, NY 10018
University of Houston Law Foundation
Attn: Zamora Memorial
4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204
Read Texas Lawyer’s piece on Professor Zamora here.