SLU law school dedicates its new building downtown
The formal opening of Saint Louis University’s new law school building at 100 N. Tucker was hailed Friday morning as transformative for the school and for downtown, but the real essence of what it’s all about was captured in the invocation by the Rev. Chris Pinne, law school chaplain.
In his remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by faculty, staff, alumni and more, Pinne said the school is dedicated to the integrity of truth and justice, to helping people with any issue, “whether it be intellectual property or just how do I get out of this jam.”
The $30 million renovation of the building donated by Joe and Loretta Scott includes the addition of a rooftop deck and pavilion and a street-level restaurant, the Docket.
Technology upgrades and spaces of various sizes -- including a 200-seat courtroom and consultation rooms for clients and a two-floor library and reading room -- are among the highlights touted by SLU, but Dean Mike Wolff said in his introduction that the most important innovation may be the integration of the law school with the nerve center of courthouses and law offices downtown.
Thanking the university’s board of trustees and the Rev. Lawrence Biondi, SLU president, for their support for their move, Wolff said, “The decision to move boldly to the heart of the legal community downtown will be transforming for us.”
He added that the new high-profile location and its facilities will help the law school fulfill its social justice mission of meeting the legal needs of the most vulnerable members of the region.
Introducing Mayor Francis Slay, a 1980 graduate of the law school, Wolff noted that Slay was his student in a civil procedure class many years ago. Slay praised the university for moving the law school to its new location and recognized Biondi particularly for being the catalyst for revitalization in Grand Center and now downtown.
“It is a legacy that everyone involved should be proud of and grateful for,” Slay said, adding:
“Just as the Saint Louis University campus has been transformed, so has downtown.”
Noting that he could see what he said used to be a “nondescript building” from his office a few blocks away at City Hall, Slay admitted that he wasn’t sure at first how the project would work out.
“I did not see his vision,” he said of Biondi, “but I did not underestimate it.”
Legislators who are graduates of the law school presented resolutions from the Missouri House and Senate praising the move, noting that the nation’s first law school west of the Mississippi River had moved more closely to its roots.
Biondi picked up on that theme, saying, “Some years ago, I said we would stop the expansion of the Saint Louis University campus when we reach the Mississippi River. Well, we’re almost there.”
He then noted that SLU started in 1818 where the Gateway Arch is now located, then moved to 9th and Washington where the America’s Center complex is before finally pulling up stakes and going “way west” to Lindell Groves, where the main campus is located now.
Referring to Slay’s characterization of the law school building as less than distinguished before the renovation occurred, Biondi said, “Yes, the building was a boring building, but when you’re given a gift valued at $17 million, you take it.”
Giving the law school building the university’s traditional blessing, Biondi ended the formal ceremony by saying:
“Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of our benefactors. You still owe us $17 million.”
The celebration comes at the start of a new school year – classes start on Monday – that follows one filled with turmoil. A year ago, law dean Annette Clark resigned her post abruptly. Before leaving, she criticized Biondi – who later said she was about to be fired anyway – for misleading her and betraying the ideals of “common decency, collegiality, professionalism and integrity.”
Among the complaints she had was his handling of the law school move. When the university first announced plans for the move downtown in January 2012, it originally said classes would begin that fall. But the timetable proved too ambitious, and the university postponed the move for a year.
Then, the interim dean, Tom Keefe, left in March following reports that some comments he had made had angered some at the law school.
Before the Scotts donated the downtown building, SLU had planned to raise money to build a new law school building on campus, but that idea was scrapped when the financial crisis hit.