“We have been waiting for today since September 18, 1998, when Dean John Montgomery appointed a nine-person committee, chaired by Professor Phil Lacy, to begin the design of a new law school building,” said Dean Rob Wilcox, beginning his speech at the dedication ceremony for the School of Law’s new home.
Then, turning to University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides, he continued tongue-in-cheek, “Nineteen years later, Mr. President, I am pleased to report on behalf of the committee that we have completedour work, and we submit this building as our final report.”
While the building has been long in coming, in the end its arrival couldn’t have been timed more perfectly, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the law school’s founding. The ceremony was held on Thursday, Sept. 14, and the audience of more than 600 who came to celebrate the ribbon-cutting included alumni, university and community officials, and some of the most esteemed members of the state’s and nation’s legal community.
Among the speakers were the Honorable Donald W. Beatty, ’79, chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court; William C. Hubbard, ’77, a university trustee and former president of the American Bar Association; Henry McMaster, ’73, governor of South Carolina; Stephen Benjamin, ’94, mayor of the City of Columbia; and President Pastides.
The Honorable Samuel A. Alito, an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, delivered the keynote address, reflecting on the building’s architecture, and complimenting
its ability to link to the past, look to the present and connect to the world beyond.
“Federal-style buildings were designed for a new republic populated by independent citizens with the hardy virtues required for self-government,” Alito said. “And the new law school building, by invoking [South Carolina architect Robert] Mills, links the school to the state’s cultural history and to our nation’s founding ideals. In this way, the building respects the past, but its focus is plainly on the future.”
Each speaker, in turn, addressed the school’s long legacy, the achievements of its remarkable alumni and the current and future generations of students who will take that legacy to new
heights — thanks in no small part to the excellent education they will receive in this new state-of-the-art facility.
After noting that the benches of some of the state’s most important courts are composed entirely of graduates from South Carolina Law, Chief Justice Beatty looked out at the audience
and said, “You should know when entering the University of South Carolina School of Law, you are entering one of the best institutions and facilities in the country.”
Reflecting on the law school’s previous homes, Pastides said, “Each move was made not only to be in a better building, but to accelerate our excellence. This building, that is an anchor to the
South Carolina legal corridor, exemplifies the excellence that we seek. Mediocrity simply cannot exist in excellent places like this.”
Indeed, the new building marks a milestone in the law school’s history, a moment to which all alumni can point with pride, and a turning point for how legal education is taught in South Carolina now, and for the next 150 years.