A Message from the Dean
Dear Alumni and Friends:
“…any person…any study”
That is the motto of Cornell University. In a letter about the design of the first official university seal, Ezra Cornell wrote to university president Andrew Dickson White on February 23, 1868, “after much discussion…my name should follow the legend thus, ‘I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.’” This motto was also spoken in Cornell’s first inaugural address on October 7, 1868.
When Cornell’s department of law opened its doors to students in the fall of 1887, this motto, more aspirational than practical in those early years, lived at the core of the new school’s vision. The school made a commitment to diversity in all its forms from the beginning. Our law school was the second in the country to graduate an African American, George Washington Fields, class of 1890. We were also among the first to graduate a woman, Mary Kennedy Brown, in 1893. By comparison, that’s a full sixty years before Harvard graduated a woman.
International students have been a part of the student body from the beginning. In this issue, you will read about the first two: Keigo Harada ‘89 and Masayasu Naruse ‘89, both from Japan. This feature, written by Professor Kevin Clermont, explores the Law School’s history with Japan, and offers a glimpse into what law school was like for the inaugural class. You’ll also meet two of our current LL.M. students who share the same surnames as our first Japanese students. Neither knows of a familial relation, but some people have found the coincidence in our 125th year to be auspicious. In all the years between 1887 and 2013, we have had more students from Japan than any other country outside of the United States. Indeed, Tokyo has our fourth largest alumni base, after New York, Washington D.C., and Boston. But in these 125 years, we have never had another Japanese student who shared one of these surnames, until now.
Today, our student body represents a range of cultural, ethnic, racial, and economic groups, varies in age and experience, and hails from nearly every state in the United States and countries around the globe. In this year’s entering J.D. class of 2015, 40 percent of students identify as racial or ethnic minorities and 44 percent are women (in recent years, we have occasionally had more women than men). Our 1Ls come from thirty-three states and six countries. We also welcomed eighty-three LL.M. students from twenty-eight countries. Students have opportunities to join any number of organizations that offer networks of support throughout the Law School and the broader university.
This spring, we are expecting a decision by the Supreme Court on an affirmative-action case that every higher education institution is watching, Fisher v. University of Texas. In this issue, we explore how this decision could change not only the fabric of our student body, but also that of the entire legal profession. I would argue that diversity is of particular importance to law schools as we train the future leaders of the world. Lawyers encounter people with varying points of view from many different cultural backgrounds. Lawyers are role models to many. Sensitivities to these differences are hugely important in all areas of law. By being inclusive to racial, ethnic, and gender identities, political viewpoints, and global perspectives, our law school exposes students to the cauldron they will encounter in the years ahead.
Coincidentally, I am writing this letter on the eve of Diversity Weekend. For many years, Cornell Law School and its diverse student organizations have sponsored a spring-semester event that focuses on issues of community at the Law School that is customarily held during the last Admitted Student Day. It is gratifying to sense the energy and enthusiasm that the student organizers bring to this event, and to see the pipelines being filled as returning alumni counsel and connect with current students.
A major goal of ours is to maintain and expand these pipelines in multiple directions, so that any person of any background can come to Cornell Law School, soak in and contribute to the intellectual life at Myron Taylor Hall, and with this training lead a life of service and distinction in the law.
Stewart J. Schwab
The Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law
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