COVER STO RY
I f the walls coul d s p eak, oh the stories they woul d tell . From its humble beginnings with 18 students right after the Civil War, Saint Louis University School of Law has experienced an exponential growth in its student population over its 170 year history, an everconstant struggle for space and the evolution of legal education, all of which have helped shape the attitudes of the law school community and the school’s survival itself. Outside its walls, the world experienced and reacted to the complexities of two world wars, the women’s movement, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the social justice movement and changing political environments. The school itself has undergone four location moves and numerous alterations and expansions. Inside the library, for example, the walls have nearly burst at the seams as dedicated staff members tried to, along with the work of creative architects, contain and display a collection that has grown to include more than 664,000 titles. The memories of the people who have come and gone through the years have helped keep the School of Law stories alive and build a rich history for the school both on the SLU campus and beyond. As the law school prepares to make the historical move beyond the halls of Morrissey, those who have built the school into the institution it is today give us a look back into the past.
hile no formal history of the school exists on paper in any one location, the story can be told through a hodgepodge string of historical notes appearing on plaques hanging throughout the school. But the essence of the place, its cultural history, the flavor of its hopes, dreams and aspirations lies in the memories of the staff, faculty, students and alumni. It is through them that the past comes to life and brings forth a rich and colorful narration that spans a century, reflects the wonderful characters who have graced the hallways and left their mark in one fashion or
another, and certainly cements SLU LAW’s position as a school that puts service to others above all. The memories have been passed down through generations in the ancient way of storytelling — word of mouth. With laughter and humility, the stories are retold with a spirit of reverence in memory of those about whom the subjects are speaking. The stories fill the space, continue to create tradition and lore, and make the school come to life. For without the stories to fill it, a building is just space bordered by its walls.
Eileen Searls sits behind her desk on the second floor of the Omer Poos Library recounting her 48 years as the SLU LAW librarian. The wealth of memories inside her mind are far greater than that which appears in the hundreds of law volumes and journals that line the floor-to-ceiling shelves. Historical photos hang on the walls in a haphazard way, as if to prove her mind showcases a greater pictorial overview of the school’s history. Her desk is piled chin high with research and historical notes. At 88, she is a vibrant, walking library. Favorite teachers of hers? She rattles off the names of some of the school’s more illustrious professors, staff and deans, including Alvin Evans, Vince Immel, Dick Childress, Joe Simeone, Sandy Sarasohn and Mike Wolff. Outside her office in the nearby hallway are boxes lining the walls, filled with volumes and supplies. Engineers walk around with tools, measuring wall space. Another move. With more than a half million volumes now fighting for space in the Omer Poos Library, and a rabbit hole-esque pathway of corridors, classes and courtrooms leading into the labyrinth of Morrissey Hall, students and faculty are preparing for one of the biggest moves in the school’s history. Rather than just eeking out more space in some unused corridor, the law school will be moving its operation to a 12-story building at 100 N. Tucker Blvd. in downtown St. Louis, just steps away from the Civil Courts building and within walking distance of the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse, providing students with daily exposure to the innerworkings of a life in the legal profession. The move is unprecedented in the history of SLU LAW. When completed in August 2013, the SLU LAW Legal Clinics, the classrooms and the library will, for the first time since the early 20th century, be under one roof. The vertical layout of the building will be something new to the students and professors who have traversed the old locations in a horizontal pattern without having to walk up more than a couple flights of stairs to reach any one particular place. The move will be a culmination of years of searching for space and struggling for a permanent residence, which started with the first law school class. The year was 1843, and there were just over 16,000 people who called St. Louis home. The two-story brick building on the north side of Washington VO LU M E 1 4 I SS U E 2