School above legal bar

Fifty-five years after the inception of St. John’s University, the Vincentian mission was extended in the field of education by opening the School of Law. On Sept. 28, 1925 a new law school was opened dedicated to educating students regardless of race, creed, sex, age, financial stability,and anything else that had in the past been used as an excuse to deny individuals educational opportunities. Now, 76 years later, the School of Law at St. John’s University is known and respected nationwide and boasts a solid tradition and successful alumni who have and who continue to contribute to society.

“There’s really three reasons I want to go to St. John’s for law school,” St. John’s College senior and prospective student at St. John’s School of Law Rither Alabre said. “First, I’ve really enjoyed being an undergraduate at St. John’s University; it’s been one of the best experiences of my life. Second, being a Catholic is one of the most important things in my life, and being here has helped me to grow in my faith. I hope that if I go to St. John’s School of Law, that experience will continue. The third reason is that St. John’s School of Law is known for preparing some of the best public servants.”

“The law school tries to convey the mission of St. John’s University both to its students and to the public,” said Andrew J. Simons, associate academic dean. In addition to training our students to be good lawyers, we try to give them a special understanding of the poor and unfortunate, and an understanding of the canons of professional ethics. For example we have on premises an elder-law clinic, which specializes in things such as predatory lending and Social Services rights.” Continued Simons, “We have a domestic violence clinic, and are in the process of developing an immigration law clinic, all of which help to fulfill the mission of St. John’s University.”

The alumni reflect the quality of the School of Law. Graduates “have worked hard, and over the years have distinguished themselves in their professions,” said Simons. “Our distinguished alumni include two former governors of New York, a governor of California, a governor of the Virgin Islands, and a host of elected and appointed government officials, including many judges in state and federal courts, as well as many professors of law and successful practicing attorneys.”

The law school’s new dean, Joseph W. Bellacosa, came to St. John’s University during the 75th anniversary. He is an alumnus of both the School of Law and the university and retired as a judge of the New York State Court of Appeals to take on the job as dean.

The anniversary luncheon last year, which was prepared by then-interim dean Vincent C. Alexander and presided over by Dean Bellacosa, was the last public appearance of the late John Cardinal O’Connor. Several other cardinals, including his excellency Anthony Cardinal Bevilaqua of Philidelphia, a St. John’s Law alumnus, were present, as well as several members of the Supreme Court. During this luncheon the school honored several alumni, including a special remembrance for William Tucker Garvin of the class of 1934. Garvin graduated from St. John’s School of Law well before it was common for African-Americans to attend law school and he did an admirable job serving as Queens County District Attorney.

“[This luncheon] is representative of who we are and what we are about,” said Simons. St.John’s School of law is truly metropolitan, Catholic, and Vincentian; it represents the best this university has to offer.