During the annual Alumni Association luncheon in Phoenix, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said she was astonished when ASU President Michael M. Crow and Patricia White, dean of the College of Law, approached her about placing her name on the school.
"I tried to explain there wouldn't be megabucks to contribute," joked O'Connor, referring to the fortune some individuals pay to have schools named for them. "And I said it would be some time before I was able to commit to spending a substantial amount of time at the Law School."
O'Connor, who last spring retired from the nation's highest court, complimented White for "creating and presiding over a very fine atmosphere at the law school. The faculty is talented - I think they even like each other, they get along, and that's quite an achievement. The students are diverse and wonderful and talented."
Those students' commitment to the community is evident by the 66,000 hours of public service they contributed last year through clinics, externships and pro bono work, White told the audience of more than 200. The college's newest members, the class of 2009, hail from 77 colleges or universities in the United States, they range in age from 20 to 65, and nearly half are women, White said.
"The Law School is thriving in every possible way," said White, and is committed to finding creative solutions to critical problems in education and around the community and the world. "The law can't just sit by itself as an isolated discipline."
"As lawyers, we all know we need to work with others to come up with solutions …and help our world become a better place," she said.
O'Connor was introduced by Phoenix lawyer Charles Blanchard, who clerked for the former justice 20 years ago. On the bench, she was a reliable, conservative vote on the court, who cared deeply about the proper role of judges.
"She decided each case narrowly enough so future courts and state legislatures could have time to grapple with issues and not be foreclosed by decisions of the Supreme Court," Blanchard said.
The alumni also recognized Alan Matheson, a founding dean of the College of Law, as the Outstanding Professor of Law. Redfield Baum, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge and ASU College of Law alumnus, introduced Matheson, saying, "He has done it all, and he has done it with tremendous style and grace."
In typical fashion, Matheson gave credit back to the college.
"My life has been blessed because I've been a teacher. My life has been blessed because I've been a teacher in the Law School. My life has been blessed because I've been a teacher in a good Law School," he said. "My life has been blessed because I've been a teacher in a good Law School where I could teach Constitutional Law, including some wonderful opinions like Justice O'Connor's."