Armed with golden shovels, a crew of current and former state lawmakers, lawyers, law school professors, law school deans, law school alumni, prominent donors and an architect broke ground Saturday on a $30-million expansion and renovation project at the UC Davis School of Law.
Speakers at the morning ceremony frequently evoked the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., after whom the now-40-year-old law school building is named.
"The new King Hall will ... be exposed to the light as law and lawmaking should be in a democratic government," said Rex Perschbacher, outgoing dean of the law school. "The new King Hall will have dignity, stature, yet be open to all. (And it will) keep alive the name -- and, most importantly, the vision -- of its namesake, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose dream of legal, social and economic justice for all is the animating vision for the School of Law at UC Davis."
Other speakers included UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef; California Assemblymember Lois Wolk, D-Davis; former Assembly Majority Leader Dario Frommer, D-Los Feliz; Thomas Stallard, president of the UC Davis School of Law Alumni Association; former California deputy attorney general Yeoryios Apallas; Ron Malone, director of the William & Inez Mabie Family Foundation; and architect Thomas Hacker, whose firm designed the expansion and renovation.
Along with Stallard, Frommer and Apallas also received their law degrees from UC Davis.
Helping the speakers to break ground were Edward L. Barrett Jr., founding dean of the law school; Bruce Wolk, professor of law and former dean; Joe Bernstein, a 1974 alumnus; and Steve Boutin, president-elect of the law school alumni association.
Although the law school's total enrollment has remained fairly steady, the methods of teaching have changed significantly.
"Today's legal education features seminars, skills classes, courses and technologies that did not exist in the 1960s," Perschbacher told the audience of about 150 law school alumni and supporters.
The new King Hall will support these new learning methods, accommodate modern technology, provide public spaces for students and faculty, make room for flourishing student organizations and student services, and create space for visiting lawyers, judges, academics and emeritus faculty.
The project will add 18,800 square feet, an increase of about 29 percent. It will also renovate 26,145 square feet of existing space.
New construction is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2009, and renovation work a year later.
The project will be funded with $17.9 million from voter-approved Proposition 1D funds, $3.9 million in campus funds and $8 million in private donations. Almost $5 million remains to be raised.
Stallard, a 1975 alumnus of the UC Davis School of Law, praised Perschbacher for his tireless efforts to secure state and private funds for the project. "Dean Perschbacher has poured all of his heart and soul into this," Stallard said. "I call it his 'victory lap.'"
Perschbacher, who has served as dean since July 1998, announced earlier this year that he will step down next summer as head of the law school. Perschbacher, in his remarks, thanked Vanderhoef for making the King Hall project a campus funding priority, and Frommer and Wolk for supporting the project in the California Legislature.
Perschbacher also thanked private supporters, including the William & Inez Mabie Family Foundation, which has contributed $1.5 million for the project, Apallas, Stallard and his wife Meg, Bernstein and "many others."
UC Davis School of Law enrolled its first students in 1966. King Hall was completed in 1968. The first class graduated in 1969.
Among the best small public law schools in the nation, the UC Davis School of Law is known for its strength in business law; criminal law and procedure; environmental and natural resources law; health care law and bioethics; human rights and social justice law; intellectual property law; international law; and public interest law. Roughly 25 percent of the school's graduates go into public service.