GMU to rename law school for Justice Scalia

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George Mason University's law school in Arlington will be renamed for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The announcement was made March 31, along with news that the university foundation has received pledges totaling $30 million to support the law school and that three new scholarship programs will be established.

A university press release said in recognition of the historic gift, the board of visitors approved renaming the school The Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University to honor the U.S. Supreme Court justice who died Feb. 13 at age 79. The name the university originally announced was tweaked April 6 because of an awkward acronym.

"This is a milestone moment for the university," said George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera in a statement. "These gifts will create opportunities to attract and retain the best and brightest students, deliver on our mission of inclusive excellence, and continue our goal to make Mason one of the preeminent law schools in the country."

According to the university, the gift includes $20 million from a donor who approached Leonard A. Leo of the Federalist Society, a personal friend of the late Justice Scalia and his family. The anonymous donor asked that the university name the law school in honor of the justice.

"The Scalia family is pleased to see George Mason name its law school after the Justice, helping to memorialize his commitment to a legal education that is grounded in academic freedom and a recognition of the practice of law as an honorable and intellectually rigorous craft," said Leo.

Related article: Cardinal, chaplain praise Scalia as man of faith, family and the law

The gift also includes a $10 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.

Justice Scalia, the longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court, spoke at the dedication of the law school building in 1999 and was a guest lecturer at the university.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, his colleague and friend on the Supreme Court for more than two decades, said Scalia's opinions challenged her thinking and that naming the law school after him was a fine tribute.

"Justice Scalia was a law teacher, public servant, legal commentator, and jurist nonpareil. As a colleague who held him in highest esteem and great affection, I miss his bright company and the stimulus he provided, his opinions ever challenging me to meet his best efforts with my own. It is a tribute altogether fitting that George Mason University's law school will bear his name. May the funds for scholarships, faculty growth, and curricular development aid the Antonin Scalia School of Law to achieve the excellence characteristic of Justice Scalia, grand master in life and law," added Ginsburg in the university release.

"Justice Scalia's name evokes the very strengths of our school: civil liberties, law and economics, and constitutional law," said Law School Dean Henry N. Butler via the statement. "His career embodies our law school's motto of learn, challenge, lead. As a professor and jurist, he challenged those around him to be rigorous, intellectually honest, and consistent in their arguments."

Scalia was nominated to the high court in June 1986 by President Ronald Reagan and was confirmed by the Senate that September. With his death, there are now five Catholics among the remaining eight justices and the likelihood of more split votes on court decisions.

Related article: Fr. Paul Scalia's homily at his father's funeral

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016