'Celebrating King Hall' event honors Professor Larson, Sister Simone Campbell '77
On March 14, UC Davis School of Law faculty, students, staff and alumni gathered at the Mondavi Center for “Celebrating King Hall.” The event included presentations of the Distinguished Teaching Award to Professor Carlton F.W. Larson and the Distinguished Alumna Award to Sister Simone Campbell ’77.
In introducing Larson, Professor Emeritus Joel C. Dobris, a past Distinguished Teaching Award winner, noted that Larson, the son of educators, “took in teaching at the dining-room table.”
Larson, a renowned constitutional scholar and expert on treason, also credited two late members of the King Hall community: Dean Emeritus Rex Perschbacher, who died in June 2018, and Professor Floyd Feeney, who died in January.
Perschbacher took a chance by hiring him when he was an untested teacher, Larson said.
“I owe so much to Rex,” Larson said. At his first campus-wide faculty orientation, Larson recalled, “a senior campus administrator told us we should spend about 90 percent of our time on research, and 10 percent teaching.” Perschbacher later told him it would be more like 50-50 at King Hall.
“That really stuck with me,” Larson said. “Even though Rex was committed to raising the scholarly profile of the school, he knew teaching was at the heart of what we do.”
Larson also noted this was his first “Celebrating King Hall” ceremony without Feeney, a founding faculty member and rare two-time winner of the Distinguished Teaching Award.
“Floyd was a model of how to teach,” Larson said. “The stereotype of the older professor is one who reads from crumbling yellow notes that haven’t changed in decades. That wasn’t Floyd. He was up to date on cases. Not just Supreme Court cases but lower-court as well. … He was a King Hall legend.”
Dean Kevin R. Johnson, the evening’s emcee, also praised Feeney and Perschbacher. Both men “made extraordinary contributions to King Hall,” he said.
Johnson also touched on Martin Luther King Jr. Hall’s well-known commitment to inclusion. Johnson referenced the national recognition UC Davis Law has received for its outstanding and diverse student body, and for its “majority-minority” faculty, ranked No. 23 in the nation for “scholarly impact.”
Such achievements are only possible with support from the King Hall community, Johnson said. Last year, UC Davis Law received more than $4 million from nearly 1,100 donors.
Campbell and student speaker Janaki Jagannath ’20 echoed Johnson’s sentiments. Campbell, executive director of NETWORK lobby for social justice, alluded to UC Davis Law’s longtime emphasis on underrepresented communities.
"I realized how important King Hall has been for me in shattering the concept from the beginning about who is able to be an effective advocate, to be a lawyer,” Campbell said. “The pleasure of our education and training was always to think a little outside the box.”
Jagannath, recipient of the Dean’s Merit Scholarship and the William and Inez Mabie Scholarship, worked on behalf of farm workers before arriving at King Hall, and foresees a similar path once out of law school. This area of law might be considered “unglamorous” elsewhere, but not at UC Davis Law, Jagannath said.
“I was thrown when I came to King Hall and found the adulation that is here for serving the rural poor,” she said. She can pursue such service as a career in part because of scholarships.
“Scholarships are not just for helping people get to school and buy their books, but to create the psychological and emotional latitude to really help create a world that’s better.”