http://cumberlink.com/news/local/dickinson-school-of-law-dedicates-renovated-building/article_d5f8d695-a65b-5b90-8394-eb9b4a1e04b7.html April 16, 2010 12:00 am
For Lewis Katz, Carlisle was his coming of age as a student of the Dickinson School of Law Class of 1966.
The veteran attorney returned Friday to where he started his law career, just across the street at historic Trickett Hall.
“As I think about this community, the wonderful memory is of a small town that gave you a feeling of caring,” Katz told an audience of more than 500 who celebrated the dedication of the newly renovated and expanded Carlisle campus.
Katz was a student when everyone had to attend classes on Saturday. Looking back, he thought it was a great idea because it kept the students in Carlisle over the weekend and their thoughts focused on study.
“I’ve been blessed in a material way,” Katz said during his speech under the tent. “The source of that fortune came from preparation. That preparation came from a group of country lawyers who devoted their time and energy to teaching young men.”
Minutes later, Katz was standing in line with a pair of scissors cutting the ribbon to the building named in his honor in recognition of his $15 million gift to Penn State University Dickinson School of Law. The Lewis Katz Hall was completed in December and hosted its first classes in January.
‘Look to the future’
The ceremony Friday marked the end of a year-long celebration honoring the 175th anniversary of Dickinson School of Law, which held its first class on April 1, 1834. The oldest law school in Pennsylvania, Dickinson operates buildings in both Carlisle and State College making it the only unified, two-location law school approved by the American Bar Association.
Penn State spent more than $130 million over the last several years to build the Lewis Katz building at University Park along with the improved facilities in Carlisle. Richard Olcott was the lead architect on the dual campus building project as a design partner with Polshek Partnership Architects.
Olcott called the experience “a wild ride” between the two extremes of totally demolishing the Trickett Hall campus to remodeling all its old buildings. A compromise was reached where some buildings were taken down to make room for the Lewis Katz Hall and its 250-seat auditorium/courtroom, three classrooms, several seminar rooms, a student commons area and study space.
From the start, the challenge was how to develop a law school with a “unified identity in a binary reality,” Olcott said. What came out of the planning was a renovated Trickett Hall housing a law library named for H. Laddie Montague Jr., a Philadelphia trial attorney who donated $4 million toward the project.
For Olcott, it made sense to house the library in the old building to recognize the historic legacy Trickett Hall represents. As for Lewis Katz Hall, it became a venue for advanced video-conferencing technology allowing for real-time interaction between faculty and students at both campuses and around the world.
“We can look to the future without erasing the past,” Olcott said.
‘It wasn’t easy’
Gov. Ed Rendell explained how the dual campus concept came out of tough talks between Penn State and advocates for keeping a law school presence in town. The state helped by providing a $25 million grant that was used in the Trickett Hall renovation project.
“It wasn’t easy,” Rendell recalled. “There were many twists and turns, but we kept it in Carlisle. We got it right for the benefit of future law school students who will do so much good for so many causes.”
Steve Garban is chairman of the Penn State Board of Trustees. He called the ceremony Friday a great day for the University and the law school.
“Trickett Hall is looking fantastic,” Garban said. “The law school is the new model for legal education. It combines the stateliness of Trickett Hall with the emerging of new technology. The value of this building will be seen through the generations of students.”
First-year students Allison Gerhart and Rebekah Saidman-Krauss chose Carlisle over State College because Carlisle offered a small town feel without the distractions of a large university town.
“I’m glad they’ve elected to keep the Carlisle campus,” said Gerhart, adding she feels privileged to be a part of law school history. Saidman-Krauss thought Penn State has done a good job balancing the fine points of its Carlisle location with those of University Park.
The future of a continued law school presence in Carlisle ultimately will be decided by the administration, Saidman-Krauss said. She added that as long as there are students like herself and Gerhart, Penn State will also have the demographic who prefers the Carlisle campus.
Attorney Brian Addison of York is a 1979 graduate of Dickinson School of Law. He thought the idea of a two-location law school was a good idea because it combined the resources of University Park with all the traditional benefits of having the Carlisle campus in a county seat near the state capital.
Before the dual campus concept, Dickinson School of Law was only able to draw 1,600 student applications each year, Dean Philip McConnaughay said. Applications for the 2011 academic year have exceeded 5,300 and the current student body is the most diverse in the school’s history.
McConnaughay added, in recent years, the law school has been able to recruit some of the world’s leading legal scholars and pioneers in the field. It has also introduced new programs including one where students spend an entire semester in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., immersed in the workings of state and federal government.