The Penn State Dickinson School of Law will remain in Carlisle because of the love it kindles in alumni and the surrounding town.
That was the message delivered by university and elected officials who spoke Wednesday afternoon at the ground-breaking ceremony for the $50 million construction and renovation project at the Carlisle-based law school.
The ceremony took place across South Street from the school, which is now enclosed by a fence as construction begins.
The law school was nearly moved to Penn State’s main campus before the board of trustees decided to retain the Carlisle campus.
They were pressured to do so by a group of dedicated alumni and local officials n who showed the trustees how important DSL was to them and to Carlisle, according to Gov. Ed Rendell.
He quoted Daniel Webster in saying of Dickinson: “It is a small school, but there are those who love it.”
State government receives hundreds of requests for funding each year, Rendell said, and must gauge the value of each before making a decision.
“But this was a pretty easy decision for me,” the governor added, “because of the friends of this school.”
Those friends included DSL graduates such as former Gov. Tom Ridge and former New Jersey Nets owner Lewis Katz, who made a $15 million contribution to the school.
The centerpiece of the Carlisle campus renovation is the construction of a new building named after Katz.
He recalled fondly the times he spent at the law school in the 1960s — he lived on Pomfret Street his junior year — while telling those gathered in the audience it gave him the skills to succeed in the world.
“If you spend time in Carlisle as a young person, you come to understand why you say you’re proud to be from central Pennsylvania,” Katz said.
The $50 million investment in DSL is offset by a $60 million investment by the university at its main campus law school project.
Together, the investment will help Penn State establish “one of the best law schools in America,” Katz said.
The DSL project budget, which is $10 million more than the original capital campaign target, comprises $10 million from Penn State, $15 million from private philanthropy and $25 million in matching funds from the state.
Officials say Lewis Katz Hall will feature state-of-the-art classrooms, a new courtroom and auditorium, an exterior courtyard, and an environmentally friendly “green” roof.
The facility will also feature the H. Laddie Montague, Jr. Law Library, named for the prominent Philadelphia trial attorney who donated $4 million to the law school.
Penn State President Graham Spanier said the cooperation between the main campus law school and its Carlisle counterpart will be beneficial to both.
“Throughout history, the Dickinson School of Law has trained distinguished graduates,” Spanier said. “We look forward to continuing this history.”
Throngs of local officials attended the ceremony, including state Rep. Glen Grell, R-87; state Rep. Will Gabig, R-199; state Sen. Pat Vance, R-31; Carlisle Mayor Kirk Wilson; and Cumberland County Commissioner Bruce Barclay.
They, along with Rendell, were congratulated by the speakers for helping retain the school.
Contracts are expected to be awarded by May, with construction finishing by December 2009.