“I Hope Marquette Will Always Be a Teaching Law School”

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia called Wednesday for Marquette University Law School faculty and students to focus on the basics – teaching and learning core knowledge of the law – and for lawyers who support the Law School to be advocates for maintaining that emphasis.

Speaking at the dedication of Ray and Kay Eckstein Hall, the Law School’s new home, Scalia said, “I hope Marquette will always be a teaching law school.”

About 1,500 people, including all seven members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, took part in the dedication ceremony in a large tent next to the $85 million building. The building was described by both Scalia and Chief Justice Shirley A. Abrahamson of the Wisconsin Supreme Court as “magnificent.”  

In her remarks, Abrahamson said, “Only one word can describe the building and Ray Eckstein said it at lunch. He said, ‘Wow.’”

Scalia, a member of the high court since 1986, presented separate messages to the faculty, the students, and bar members connected to the Law School.

To the faculty: He recalled when he was a law school professor (“before I became part of the problem in Washington”).  He said he got to a point where he begrudged the time he had to put in to teaching classes and preparing for those classes because he preferred to work on law journal articles and similar research. “When I look back at those feelings, I think, ‘What fool I was.’” Legal research has a life of maybe tenyears, he said, while the impact a professor can have on students lasts for many decades. “Do not delude yourselves,” he told faculty members. “The reality is that the part of your academic career that will have the long lasting impact” is the work with students.

To the students: Law school is the time to study the law systematically, with an emphasis on developing a broad knowledge of the basic areas, Scalia said.  He “feel[s] deeply the existence of some gaps in [his] education as a lawyer” because of courses he did not take as a law student. “Make the best of your time here.”

To supporters: Scalia said nationwide there was” a disturbing trend of a gradual estrangement of the academy from the practicing bar.” Some law school professors regard teaching about matters related to the practice of law as too mundane, he said, and prefer to focus on philosophy. He said he disagreed.  He said that while law school leaders and faculty members bear some of the blame for this trend, blame also goes to members o f the bar who support law schools without paying enough attention to what is being taught. “The job of keeping the  academy close to the bar must fall mostly to the bar itself,” he said. In what appeared to be a semi-serious suggestion, he urged bar members to “take a law professor to lunch.”

Abrahamson said Eckstein Hall “connects us one to the other.” She added, “The building embodies the American dream, the notion that, no matter who you are, anything is possible with hard work.” She called the building a place “for all who dare to dream.”

“This building will shape the education of generations of lawyers who will go forth to shape the future,” Abrahamson said.

Abrahamson said that Wisconsin lost the only Supreme Court member with strong ties to the state when Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a native of Shorewood, died in 2005. She said Scalia had visited Wisconsin many times, and she declared him now to be “the state’s ex officio justice.” In his remarks, Scalia responded that he was pleased to become “an honorary cheesehead.”

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, joined by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, blessed the building. Listecki read from the Book of Deuteronomy, including the verse, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”

Law School Dean Joseph D. Kearney recalled that Dolan said in 2008, when he was unable to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for Eckstein Hall, that he would be part of the building dedication, and Dolan returned to Milwaukee to keep his word.

The Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., president of Marquette University, called Eckstein Hall “the symbol of Marquette’s commitment to both quality legal education and to the communities that we serve.”

Father Wild received a lengthy standing ovation when he was introduced by Kearney, who called him “the person most responsible” for the new building.

Both Father Wild and Kearney praised Ray and Kay Eckstein, whose $51 million gift was the key to the campaign for the building, and the late Joseph Zilber,  who donated $30 million, including $25 million to be used for scholarships. The Ecksteins were in the front row for the ceremony, along with many members of their family. The Ecksteins live in Cassville, Wisconsin, where Ray Eckstein, L’49,  founded and ran a business specializing in shipping  freight on the Mississippi River.

The $85 million Eckstein Hall was more than seven years in the making. The outdated and overcrowded facilities in Sensenbrenner Hall, home to the Law School for decades, had become an increasing concern to Marquette leaders. Discussions about renovating the building soon became discussions about creating a new building. Planning sessions, including input from faculty members and students, helped shape ideas for what a new home for the Law School should offer.

But the biggest question was to how to pay for it. A $1 million gift from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in early 2007 was the first seven-figure gift in the Law School’s history and got the ball rolling. The turning point came soon after that when Ray Eckstein called Father Wild to say that he and  Kay (Sp ’49) had decided to make a “significant” gift. The $51 million donation stands as one of the two largest gifts to an American law school, according to Marquette officials.

The principal architect for Eckstein Hall, Ralph Jackson of the Boston-based firm of Shepley Bulfinch, said his goals in choosing the design were to make the building student-centered and to send several messages. To Milwaukee as a whole, the message was that the Law School and Marquette are connected to the community in important ways. The curving exterior glass wall on the south and east sides of the building, facing Wisconsin’s most prominent traffic crossroads, the Marquette Interchange, conveys that message of openness. The more traditional north and west sides of the building are intended to communicate respect for the identity and traditions of Marquette, Jackson said.

The interior of the building centers on the beautiful four-story atrium, the Zilber Forum, and the dramatic central staircase connecting the floors. The ground floor of the Forum will be used for hospitality in connection with public events, and is used heavily for informal socializing by everybody who uses the building.

A state-of-the-art library without walls, located on all four floors in the northeast section of the building, is a key feature of Eckstein Hall, with the spectacular two-story Aitken reading room on the upper floors offering terrific views of downtown Milwaukee, as well as a great place to study. Spacious study areas are also offered in other places in the building, many of them with views of the Forum.

The Appellate Courtroom  on the first floor offers not only a first-rate setting for proceedings but the capacity for television and radio broadcasts of events. A recent session with the two Republican candidates for governor, Scott Walker and Mark Neumann, was broadcast live across Wisconsin.

The building also provides state of the art technology in classrooms, a conference center, a café offering hot breakfasts and lunches, a fitness center, and a chapel.

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