Dear Seattle University School of Law Community: Fifty years ago this year, on Sept. 5, 1972, a momentous series of firsts transpired. The University of Puget Sound School of Law’s first students walked through the doors for the first time, to attend the first class. This seminal moment was the culmination of remarkable foresight and vision to establish a brand-new law school with a straightforward goal: to provide the best legal education possible to future lawyers in the city of Tacoma, throughout the Northwest, and beyond.
Since that day, our law school has flourished by constantly evolving. Although it’s fair to say we have traveled a unique path in our relatively brief history – affiliations with two different universities in two different cities – I am confident that our founders would be immensely proud of what our law school has become. They would see the impact it has had on the lives of the many thousands of students who have earned their degrees here, and the way in which the brilliant work of our alumni, faculty, and staff has enriched the legal profession, our region, and the nation.
Reviewing the law school’s history is a study in contrasts. When the law school began, there was little diversity in the entering class, and enrollment was first-come, first-served. We now have one of the most diverse law schools in the nation, with highly selective admission criteria and a student body that hails from across the nation and around the world. We have steadily grown our alumni base, from a mere 18 students who comprised the first class, to nearly 13,000 alumni today. Our legal writing, clinical, and part-time programs have grown in prestige and stature, drawing students who desire innovative and effective practical training. Our original home in a nondescript office park has given way to a magnificent facility in the heart of the world’s innovation hub.
These contrasts are accompanied by constants that are deeply rooted in our DNA. We chose our anniversary’s theme – 50 Years of Access, Opportunity, and Community – in part because of our resolute commitment to providing a path to law school and a better life for anyone, including those from underrepresented and marginalized communities. This vision – that access to those who were historically shut out of law would benefit not only these students but the entire legal profession – made us trailblazers among law schools nationally.
Our golden anniversary is also the ideal time to look forward. Over the coming year, together we will implement our collective vision for guiding Seattle U Law in the present and into the future. We will accomplish this by building on the strengths that are hallmarks of this institution to take us into new and unprecedented heights of achievement. These include a passion for advancing social justice, the innovative spirit with which we approach legal education, and our commitment to upholding the Jesuit values of discernment and lifelong learning.
A 50th anniversary comes only once, and this is a time to pause and celebrate all those who have been a part of this amazing community, including the many accomplished alumni, generous supporters, and visionary faculty and staff past and present who helped to build this institution. As your new dean and a newcomer to the Northwest, I am thrilled that the starting point of my tenure coincides with this occasion, and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible to learn about and honor your personal connection to our law school.
Anthony E. Varona
Dean and Professor of Law