On June 21, 2023, the Cornell Law School community gathered in the foyer of Myron Taylor Hall to celebrate its dedication as the Peñalver Foyer, after Eduardo Peñalver, former Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law. The naming was first announced in June 2021, and a portrait of George Washington Fields, Cornell Law School’s first Black graduate, was installed in the foyer in August 2022.
The sixteenth dean of Cornell Law, Peñalver served from 2014 to 2021 before departing to become the president of Seattle University, when he was succeeded by Jens David Ohlin. “Seeing students collaborate with each other, socialize, and bask in the warmth of this space is a fitting tribute to someone who really made the student experience the center of his deanship,” said Ohlin, in a brief introduction.
Members of the law school community celebrate the official dedication of the Peñalver Foyer.
Peñalver then observed the celebration was a full-circle moment for him. As a Cornell undergraduate in the 1990s, he had been among some 150 Black and Latino students who had occupied Day Hall to protest a lack of representation and services—resulting in the expansion of the Latino Studies Program and the creation of the Latino Living Center.
“When I think about this portrait [of Fields] and the naming of this room, I think about my twenty-year-old self and just that feeling [I would’ve had] walking into a room like this and seeing a name that I would’ve recognized or that the other 150 students would’ve recognized,” said Peñalver. The foyer also happens to be where he met his wife, Sital Kalantry, a fellow undergraduate who went on to serve as a clinical professor of law at Cornell. Peñalver said he spent the next thirty years trying to convince Kalantry to move with him to Seattle, the city he had always thought of as home. She finally did in 2021, becoming associate dean of graduate and international programs and an associate professor of law at Seattle University School of Law.
Once they moved, however, Peñalver realized that Ithaca and the Law School had come to feel like home as well. “So, thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for this celebration,” he said. “I now have two homes.”