There’s a lyric in the musical “Hamilton” that defines a legacy as “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” In my role as dean, I’m constantly reminded of the legacy we create as legal educators and as lawyers. We may never see some seeds in full bloom; others we see just as they start to sprout; and on occasion, we are fortunate enough to see them blossom.
This past spring, we celebrated the life and legacy of my friend and colleague, Joaquin Avila, who led our law school’s National Voting Rights Advocacy Initiative (see page 6). Just days before he passed away, he learned that his tireless work on the Washington Voting Rights Act had finally borne fruit, as the bill was passed by the state legislature. Our graduate, Molly Matter ’15, now continues her mentor’s transformative legacy with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, an organization Avila once led as president.
In April, we celebrated Professor John Weaver’s many legacies. The last of our founding faculty members to retire, he regaled us with memories from the law school’s earliest days in Tacoma. Those few visionary souls, barely older than the students they taught, created a law school out of whole cloth, and today we stand as one of the region’s preeminent educational institutions. What a remarkable legacy they left for us.
Watching seeds take root and grow is one of the many daily privileges I enjoy. The distinguished civil rights lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, was the inspiration for the Calhoun Family Fellowship. Thanks to the generosity of the Calhoun family, our students have the opportunity to confront the toxic legacy of slavery in our country as Calhoun Family Fellows. I had the privilege of joining them for a life-changing trip to Montgomery, Alabama (see page 14).
It so happens that Stevenson also inspired a member of our faculty. Professor Sara Rankin studied with Stevenson while she was a student at New York University School of Law, and his theory of justice via proximity – getting close to a problem – drives her current work helping people experiencing homelessness (see page 16).
Professor Rankin’s students have already taken their advocacy beyond law school and into their careers, showing early signs of a promising legacy in formation. I’m so proud to see them fully engaged in the political challenges of our city and country.
Every day we plant seeds. I invite you to tell us about who has inspired you and the legacies you’re creating or continuing in your lives and careers. We would love to hear from you, via Seattle U Law Connect or any of our other social media channels. (P.S. I’m now on Twitter! Find me at @seattleulawdean.)