Big Year, Big House, Big Ideas
By John Masson, Amicus Editor
It may take another 150 years to come up with a weekend in Ann Arbor as perfect as the one marking the Law School’s 150th anniversary.
Cloudless skies and comfortable temperatures punctuated a gala weekend packed with events underlining the importance of the past and the promise of the future. Headlining the event was Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr., who began his visit Thursday and didn't leave until after he witnessed the resurgent Wolverines dispatch the Fighting Irish in a Saturday afternoon nail-biter at the Big House.
During his visit, the Chief Justice found time to chat with faculty, drop in on surprise visits to several Michigan Law classes, and entertain well over a thousand rapt faculty, staff, and students during a conversation and Q&A session moderated by Dean Evan Caminker at Hill Auditorium.
But most significant for Michigan Law's next 150 years was the Chief Justice’s participation in breaking ground for the School's new academic building and student commons. The event, with 1968 grad and Alumni Development Committee Chair Bruce Bickner as master of ceremonies, also featured words from University President Mary Sue Coleman, Chairman of the Board of Regents Andrew Richner, ’86, and Dean Caminker. A crowd of alumni and students watched as the group turned over earth on the southeast corner of State and Monroe streets, where the new academic building will begin rising this fall.
"We've worked a long time and we've worked very hard for this day," Caminker told the audience, which was decked out in maize novelty hard hats in honor of the occasion. "We’re standing where the Law School's past meets its future."
In introducing the Chief Justice, Caminker noted that Justice Harlan F. Stone – later a Chief Justice himself – had attended the opening of the Law Quad 75 years ago.
Roberts – who at Hill Auditorium had described himself as something of a frustrated historian – went on to describe some of the work performed by the three Michigan Law students who ultimately sat on the High Court. William Day earned an AB from Michigan and continued his studies in the Law Department in 1871-72, and George Sutherland attended the Law Department in 1882. Frank Murphy graduated the Law School with an LLB in 1914.
The Chief Justice drew chuckles from the audience when he quoted one contemporaneous characterization of Justice Murphy's service: "The Supreme Court tempers justice with Murphy."
But there was no tempering the excitement in the crowd of alumni, faculty, and friends as their beloved institution took its most important step yet on a journey into the future.
"The Law Quad, as we know it, is the architectural jewel in the University’s crown," Coleman said. The additional space "will help ensure Michigan Law remains a world leader among law schools for many years to come."
Look for much more coverage of the Law School’s Sesquicentennial Weekend in October’s issue of the Law Quadrangle.