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USF School of Law Launches Centennial Celebration

September 21, 2012

The University of San Francisco School of Law began a yearlong celebration of its 100th anniversary this week with a centennial convocation featuring Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 

“Since the beginning of our nation’s history it has been attorneys that have been on the frontline of defining democracy and protecting our democratic institutions and the American people,” Kennedy said during his keynote address at St. Ignatius Church Sept. 19. “And this school in particular I think encourages its students to devote themselves, devote their lives, devote their careers and their education to something that is greater than themselves—that transcends their narrow self-interests.”

Kennedy, an environmental activist and professor of environmental law at Pace University, said that good environmental policy is good economic policy, pointing out the hidden environmental costs of illegal pollutants caused by companies focused on short-term profits over the wellbeing of society. He said that democracy is threatened by excessive corporate power. He expanded on his environmental law work during a morning question and answer session with law students in Kendrick Hall.

The USF School of Law opened its doors on the corner of Market and Seventh Streets in downtown San Francisco to 49 students on Sept. 18, 1912. Today, about 700 students attend classes taught by more than 30 full-time professors at the Koret Law Center. Social justice and diversity remain important aspects of the law school’s mission; students provided 22,000 hours of pro bono legal work through clinics that assist underserved communities in 2011–2012, and USF is ranked as the 10th most diverse law school in the nation.


“The centennial provides a unique opportunity for all of us to recommit ourselves to a struggle for justice that has been a signature statement of the law school since its founding—the struggle to bring about a fair and equitable society that is marked by respect for diversity of thought and culture, and fought by hardworking, compassionate lawyers in service to others,” said Dean Jeffrey S. Brand, who noted that the law school’s 1962 semi-centennial celebration included a telephone address by then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy was unable to attend in person because he was mobilizing troops to enforce Brown v. Board of Education in Mississippi.

USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J. also spoke at the convocation on the law school’s role in promoting justice.

“It is no accident that a law school established to ensure opportunity is today numbered among the most diverse law schools in the nation,” he said. “It is no accident that a law school founded on the principle of law as an instrument of justice has students and faculty combating human trafficking and child labor in Cambodia and India; developing policies for homeless persons in Argentina; promoting legal education, human rights, and rule of law projects in Indonesia, East Timor, Cambodia, and Vietnam; and advocating against the death penalty in Mississippi.”

The USF School of Law is sponsoring a number of events this academic year to celebrate the centennial, including a September presentation by Clarence B. Jones, former speechwriter, attorney, and advisor to the late Marin Luther King Jr.; the Public Interest Law Foundation Annual Auction and Award Ceremony, honoring renowned attorney David Boies in November; and the Feb. 7 Centennial Gala Dinner at San Francisco City Hall.

For information on centennial events, visit www.usfca.edu/law/about/centennial/events.