UC Hastings Remembers Beloved Tax Law Professor Peter K. Maier

Tax Law Professor Peter Maier

There was a time when, if a UC Hastings student considered tax law as a concentration, that student would peruse the course catalog and see a class called Basic Income Tax. But if it had Peter K. Maier’s name next to it, it was known by a different name: “Tax for Poets.” Regardless of that student’s prior knowledge about tax law, by the end of the course, that student stood head and shoulders above their peers.

“Whereas the rest of us taught that same course a little harder-edged, Peter prided himself on being able to bring along students who did not have any exposure to numbers or to sophisticated transactions,” said Leo Martinez, Prof. Maier’s longtime colleague and fellow UC Hastings professor emeritus.

Martinez is among the UC Hastings colleagues and alumni mourning Prof. Maier’s death in December at the age of 93. Regarded as a gifted teacher and an exemplary colleague, Prof. Maier enriched the lives of many through his love for teaching and education during his nearly 30-year tenure at UC Hastings.

At the University of San Francisco’s Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning, he taught older adults about investing with just as much skill and charisma.

“He had a knack, in a very charming and conversational style, for getting across his topic and making it accessible to a broad audience,” reminisced Steve Schwarz, another colleague and UC Hastings professor emeritus. “That was his gift as a teacher. Peter had his own style and I think the students really enjoyed it and appreciated it.” That is, right up until they faced the professor’s final exam, a rigorous four-hour multiple-choice test that appeared to cover the waterfront of tax law. “I saw it once,” chuckled Schwarz. “It was impressive.”

“I can only remember Peter with a smile on his face, and he brought smiles to mine–to everyone’s–with his amazing repertoire of jokes and with his humorous ripostes,” said Marsha Cohen, another UC Hastings colleague and friend of his. Cohen added, “His humor could be teasing, but never mean, because he was a very kind gentleman.”

Born in Würzburg, Germany, and raised in a town near the Rhine River, Peter Maier, along with his parents and sister, fled Hitler’s Germany and settled in the U.S. in 1938, just shy of his 10th birthday. He worked as a paperboy, a shoe salesman, a bellhop, and a dance instructor before leading a successful career in real estate and tax law. He earned his undergraduate degree from Claremont McKenna College, an advanced degree from New York University, and a J.D. from UC Berkeley. After law school, he joined the U.S. Air Force, which he described as a transformative experience. While stationed abroad in England, he developed a love for theater.

Debra Bogaards, a 1981 UC Hastings graduate, recalls fondly her very first memory of her friend. As she and Maier’s wife, Melanie, were cramming for the bar exam, Prof. Maier handed her a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, and, with a warm smile, imparted some words of encouragement. The two of them reconnected when she joined the Board of Trustees at UC Hastings. “Being in Peter Maier’s company was a gift,” Bogaards said. “He was a true mensch and a big macher at UC Hastings.”

Prof. Maier taught tax law at UC Hastings from 1967 to 1995, during which a scholarship fund was established in his name to support aspiring tax lawyers. Dan Lathrope, a UC Hastings colleague and professor emeritus, credited Prof. Maier with being instrumental in the expansion of the tax faculty and curriculum in the early 1980s, “I was a new faculty member during that period, and I consider Peter to be one of my early mentors.”

Ina Levin Gyemant, a former student of Prof. Maier’s (and one-time roommate of Melanie Maier at UC Berkeley), extolled his dependability, “He was always someone you could count on for sage legal advice, of course, but also for life and career advice and help. Whether he was asked or he offered, he always extended himself to others.”

Cliff Jernigan, a 1968 graduate of UC Hastings who created the Maier Scholarship Fund, said he owes his successful career to Prof. Maier, “He inspired me, along with many others, to go into tax law.”

Outside of UC Hastings, Prof. Maier made his mark in a long and illustrious career in real estate and securities management. He held positions at Winokur, Maier & Zang, a San Francisco tax law firm, and Property Resources, Inc., now a division of Franklin Resources. He founded Maier & Siebel Real Estate Investment Advisors and was a partner at Siebel Capital Management.

Barry Sacks met Prof. Maier in 1974 as a young associate at Winokur, Maier & Zang, “Peter was a superb and generous mentor, helping me to learn how to think about and analyze legal issues, how to relate to clients, and how to put my thoughts into writing. A particular recollection from that time was that Peter’s writing was exceptionally clearly organized, with underlined captions at the beginning of each paragraph or section. To this day, my writing has always tried to follow that well-organized model.”

Prof. Maier co-founded Wood Island Associates, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that was later purchased by the U.S. Trust Company, and a real estate investment advisory firm that also became a division of the U.S. Trust Company. In 2005, he reacquired the securities firm from the U.S. Trust, renaming the company Private Wealth Partners.

He also was active in various professional organizations and philanthropies, including as board member and chair of the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning at the University of San Francisco and as president of the John B. Huntington Foundation. He also served as a trustee of the Alfred and Hanna Fromm Fund, the University of San Francisco, and the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco.

He is remembered for his devotion to his loved ones.

“I knew Peter best for his commitment to his friends and family, and, above all, to his wife, Melanie, and daughters, Michele and Diana, and their families,” said his friend, Stan Cohn. “His memory will live on through them, through us, and through the many others whose hearts he touched.”

David Faigman, the chancellor and dean of UC Hastings, described how the memorial service for Prof. Maier in January left an indelible impression on him, “I was always so incredibly proud to have known him. The remembrances of his beloved family, the love for him, made me ever so much more proud. Indeed, as Peter’s family spoke about him and his devotion to them, I thought of my own family and how Peter’s example will inspire me to be a better husband, father, and grandfather.”