It could well have been the most glorious evening in the history of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, the first event in a joyous three-day celebration of the law school.
"We are here to both formally dedicate the new, extraordinary building, but also to mark a ritual in the development of this law school," said Master of Ceremonies, Beth Kransberger, TJSL's Associate Dean for Student Affairs. "Were are thrilled that you all have honored us with your presence."
The pride in everyone’s eyes was evident, as TJSL held the formal dedication ceremony for its new downtown campus at the Historic Balboa Theater. There was a stage full of luminaries led by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and an audience of proud, cheering students, faculty, alumni, trustees, the legal community and friends of TJSL. Special guests also included the retired Chief Justice of Brazil, Carlos Ayres Britto, and former French Supreme Court Justice Noëlle Lenoir.
“I am glad to be with you this evening to celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s brand-new facility,” said Justice Ginsburg. “To make a fine law school, of course, it takes something beyond LEED Gold state of the art housing and equipment. It takes a dedicated creative faculty – determined to educate students to regard law not simply as a trade but as a public calling.” See Justice Ginsburg’s Full Remarks
“This is a day of celebration for Thomas Jefferson School of Law,” said Randy Jones, chairman of the TJSL Board of Trustees.“Let it stand as a lasting tribute to those who worked tirelessly to create the facility we are dedicating today as a symbol of our ongoing commitment to the rule of law in our society. The entire law school community has worked tirelessly to create the facility that we are dedicating today.”
In his remarks, Dean Rudy Hasl likened the conception to completion of the law school with Homer’s Odyssey, a journey that faced many of the same challenges Odysseus faced - the Sirens, Cyclops and Scylla and Charybdis (the clashing rocks and whirlpool.) “Our odyssey began in 2005 when I arranged for our then Board Chair, Sandy Kahn, to come up to Seattle for an ABA Conference on law school architecture, called Bytes, Bricks, and Continuous Renovations. That conference set in motion a series of events that culminated in our dedication today. “
The school now stands as a monument to the mission of TJSL to create a “diverse, welcoming atmosphere,” as Dean Hasl put it.
And Dean Hasl also spoke of the incredible connection between the law school’s namesake Thomas Jefferson, and a discovery made during the excavation of the construction site:
“I still remember the call in February 2009 when the excavator discovered the fossil remains of a Columbian Mammoth (300,000 years old), a shell bed of unique scallop shells, the remains of a baleen Whale ( 500,000 years old), and even gold particles from an ancient river bed. But none of these discoveries slowed us down. They established an even closer connection to the namesake for this institution – Thomas Jefferson - who was known as the father of American Paleontology and had a fascination with the discoveries of mammoth remains in the Hudson Valley and in Big Bone Lick, Kentucky. The Notes on the State of Virginia, an original copy of which is in the library, make clear that an incentive for the Lewis & Clark expedition was the discovery of mammoths in the western United States. I invite you to look at the fossil collection on the 4th floor of the library and to see the Jefferson written and signed documents in the lobby.”
San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, who represents the East Village, said “the law school turned the community around overnight and brought a wonderful, iconic addition to our skyline.”
Former French Supreme Court Justice Noëlle Lenoir praised the new campus for its “magnificent architecture,” but the effort put into the new building value students, while “enabling the bringing together of faculty and students in a sense of truly real community.”
Professor Thomas Golden, one of the longest tenured faculty members, related a colorful and humorous account of the transition from the Old Town campus, to TJSL’s new home.
“When I look at my faculty colleagues who rose earlier, I firmly believe that any of us could and would teach in a cornfield if called on," said Professor Golden. "But our jobs are more pleasant, and hopefully more productive in terms of what we contribute to the future lawyers who cross our paths and to the legal profession on the whole, as a result the new home of Thomas Jefferson School of Law that we dedicate today.”
In an emotional speech, Alumni Association President Renee Galente ’08 said, “If there is one thing the new downtown campus should symbolize to all of the alumni of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, it is that change is good. Thomas Jefferson School of Law does not let itself fall prey to an easy acquiescence. Instead, it constantly challenges itself to be better. To provide more for its students. With the new campus, the programming, the faculty and staff, we are what a law school is meant to be.”
According TJSL’s Student Bar Association President Gabe Baldini, “There are three words that come to mind when he thinks of our new building: Opportunity, Excitement and Legacy.” Baldini added, “Never in my wildest dreams did I think when I began my first class in Old Town that I would be standing here, giving a speech before a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.”
After the ceremony, everyone was invited to an open house at the law school, where the guests enjoyed great food and conversation, while some were fortunate enough to greet Justice Ginsburg in person.
Also at the reception, the TJSL Alumni Association made a special presentation to its newest Wall of Fame members. Bonnie Dumanis '76 was honored as an Outstanding Practicing Attorney; Gary Bloch '81 was honored as an Outstanding Judicial Offer, and Leslie Alexander '77, owner of the Houston Rockets of ther NBA, was honored for Alternative Use of a Law Degree.
We leave you now with Justice Ginsburg’ closing remarks at the dedication ceremony:
“Legal education is a shared adventure for students, teachers and alumni. The adventure, as I hope my presence tonight shows, also includes jurists who have traded academic gowns for judicial robes. The good people assembled here, students, faculty, staff, alumni, community leaders, members of the legal profession, and public supporters of the Thomas Jefferson Law School, all of you have contributed in meaningful ways to the creation of a finely designed building. As you rejoice in the spacious new quarters and take pride in the innovative education that occurs here, may each of you participate and thrive in the shared adventure of legal education. And may that adventure, led by a talented and caring faculty, flourish in the grand facility we dedicate this evening. Every good wish.”