“Today we gather for an even more auspicious occasion, to celebrate in a fitting manner the dedication of this splendid law school building,” said Marquette University president Jesuit Fr. Robert A. Wild, who will step down as the university’s 22nd president in 2011.
“I find it difficult to believe that barely more than two years ago, I stood very close to this spot when we welcomed quite a large crowd to the Eckstein Hall groundbreaking. Each of those present (was) handed a shovel to help with the digging. We failed to realize that the ground at that point was rock hard,” he acknowledged to a laughing crowd. “We moved very little dirt, but … at least we got a very, very gifted crew of excavators.”
“The architecture is splendid; the facilities rise above even our most hopeful expectations, and most important, the many wonderful features of this building will aid us mightily in delivering even better legal education to our students, and in serving more effectively as a resource to the public policy needs of our city and our region,” said Fr. Wild.
Eckstein Hall was made possible by a $51 million gift in May 2007 from the Ecksteins, an alumni couple from Cassville. At the time, this was the largest gift ever made by individuals to a college or university in Wisconsin, and it remains the second-largest gift to a law school within the United States, according to Marquette University records.
Milwaukee builder and philanthropist Joseph Zilber, also a Marquette law school alumnus, donated $30 million to Marquette law school in August of 2007, of which $5 million went to the building of Eckstein Hall. Zilber died this past March at age 92.
The new law school features a “library without borders,” which integrates the law library on all four floors of the building. It also boasts trial and appellate courtrooms and contains state-of-the-art broadcast capabilities, which enable satellite feeds into and out of the building for participation in events around the world.
Scalia, who presented the main address, noted that Marquette has done much as a Catholic university, and will continue to do so for years to come.
“Marquette has brought a distinctively Catholic perspective to its educational mission,” he said. “I did not believe that there is such a thing as Catholic contract law, or even, for that matter, a Catholic United States constitution. But there is a Catholic view of man, of man’s purpose. He’s not just another animal on mother earth. Of man’s God-given rights, and of man’s God-imposed obligations. I hope – I presume – that that Catholic view permeates this institution for writing moral formation, or at least the opportunity for moral formation, to all that pass through it.
“Marquette University has provided its students with knowledge and virtue – those two are not the same – for close to 130 years, and the law school for almost 100. This new building is a sign that both institutions continue to prosper.”
During her remarks, Abrahamson told the crowd it was fitting that the university dedicated the building during September, the month commonly known as “the rule of law.”
“In September, the framers signed the constitution; in September, Congress established the Supreme Court, a handful of district courts, and three add-on circuit courts,” she said. “To be sure that these courts would be put to good use, Congress established the position of attorney general. In September, Congress approved the first dozen amendments that would become the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, and sent these amendments to states for ratification.”
As these historic events are remembered today, so too is the hope that the dedication of Eckstein Hall will also be remembered in such a remarkable fashion, she added.
“It is not only the building that brings us together, however, but the principles it teaches,” she continued. “Architecture depicts the massiveness of the law. Architecture allows light to shine through and illuminate. This space connects us to the sky and the lake, and the light, to corner and home of the city, and most importantly, the building connects us, one to the other.
“The building embodies the American dream, the notion that anything is possible through hard work, no matter who you are or where you come from,” she added. “We are here to envision a more just and law abiding society, to be shaped by those who inhabit the building we dedicate today.”
Archbishop Dolan offered a blessing that formally dedicated the new building. Archbishop Listecki assisted, reading from the book of Deuteronomy.
“On this eve of Rosh Hashanah, during this holy month of Ramadan, on this day the church commemorates the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the love of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the light, we gather to praise our loving God,” Archbishop Dolan prayed with hands extended and head bowed. “To thank almighty God for generous benefactors, and to ask a blessing upon our new law school.”
Archbishop Dolan, along with Archbishop Listecki and Fr. Wild, sprinkled holy water over the entrance of the building.
“This afternoon we ask for his blessing upon Eckstein Hall, housing Marquette University’s law school. We ask that those entrusted with the following men and women in the institution, may teach their students how to yearn for virtue and righteousness, so that they will be able to pursue justice and practice it in their lives.
“Lord God almighty, through your graciousness hear our prayers,” Archbishop Dolan continued. “We dedicate this building to the education of the study of the law, and to learning. Make it a center where students and professors in tune to the words of truth will search for wisdom, pursue justice, and learn to know you, the source of all truth.”