?2003 Golden Gate University
NEW LAW SCHOOL DEAN SELECTED
Frederic White from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law has accepted the post of dean at Golden Gate University School of Law. He will begin officially as of June 1, 2004. White received his J.D. from Columbia University School of Law in New York and brings expertise in administrative law, land use control, local government, wills and trusts, and property to his new position. He has served as the associate dean for Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, and has extensively published both legal and non-legal writings. He has been recognized for excellence in teaching and has been listed in Who’s Who Among Black Americans since 1988. Outgoing Dean Peter Keane says, ―Fred White is a
talented administrator, gifted scholar, and a warm, congenial person. He is the perfect choice for Golden Gate University School of Law.‖
White is an active member of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) and the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and has served on site-inspection teams for the latter. ―We are proud and delighted that Professor White will be leading our Law School and joining our team. His energy, focus, and commitment to legal education is an exact fit for what our university has represented for over a hundred years and promises to be as a quality urban, professional school,‖ said Dr. Philip Friedman, president of Golden Gate University.
―I feel that the similarities between our law schools make this a natural progression,‖
says Professor White. ―For over 100 years, both Golden Gate and Cleveland State University law schools have been providing access to a first rate education in law where there might not otherwise be any. GGU is a good school, and I hope to help make it great.‖
White will serve as a consultant to the university in the role of acting dean from January through May 2004. On June 1, he will formally assume the position of dean of the School of Law.
In My Years as Dean
Stepping down after five years, Peter Keane looks back on his tenure as dean of the Law School.
A Cinderella Story
The text of Hon. Marie-Elena James’s commencement speech on May 16, 2003
―Bright Girl: Law Student Loves Law‖
A profile of alumna Catherine Sherburne-Thompson (56)
Remembering Joseph R. Rensch (55)
Chris Pagano writes about alumnus Joe Rensch
Golden Gate Briefs
Honor Roll of Giving, 2002-03
One of the most pleasant aspects of my final semester as dean of the law school is taking some time to reflect on the past few years and remember the highlights that will become part of our institutional memory. Brilliant professors, motivated students, and an outstanding staff keep things running smoothly. The support of generous alumni and friends presents a financial picture of hope and promise.
Students are at the core of all that we do at the Law School, and I am pleased to report that the record of academic and co-curricular achievement has been steadily climbing. A GGU law degree is in demand. Our first-year class is our biggest class ever (we have four day sections). We continue to pride ourselves on being the law school that gives people an opportunity for a legal education and a career in law. While we continue to admit students with increasing LSAT scores and GPAs, we will always look beyond the mere numbers to welcome students who have other life experiences that demonstrate their ability to succeed as lawyers. We continue to attract applicants with a diversity of backgrounds who will enrich our law school community.
In this issue, I get the chance to talk about my experiences being dean for five years. This is my last message to you as dean of the School of Law. I want to go back to my first loves: teaching and writing. That is what originally drew me to
Golden Gate, and I want to be a more direct part of educating of the next generation of students.
In my time as dean, many good things have happened. We’re on stable footing with a future that is bright financially and economically. The Honor Roll of Donors, included in this issue, is not only a report about numbers, but about the people—people who show their pride in GGU by giving back to the place that
helped them take their lives in new directions. Listed on these pages are the names of people who make Golden Gate University School of Law an amazing place to teach and learn. Some 536 alumni and friends contributed financial gifts to the Law School totaling $780,840. More than 120 alumni volunteers gave their time to make the Law School a place where students want to learn and teachers want to teach.
I thank you all for the generosity you have shown to the School of Law during my tenure as dean. Let us go forward together in the coming year with the same enthusiasm, proving that GGU’s School of Law offers the best practical legal education you can get.
Dean Peter Keane
IN MY YEARS AS DEAN
by Peter Keane
The past five years as dean of Golden Gate University School of Law have been one of the most professionally satisfying and personally rewarding periods in my life. This is a great law school with a wonderful tradition and a terrific future. I have been very much blessed to be a part of it.
A year ago, the university offered me a second five-year term as dean. I declined. I said I wanted to step down and teach as a full-time professor. I am a great believer in the importance of knowing when to leave. I have attended many ABA meetings during the last five years and have seen too many deans who stayed beyond their time. Five years as a law school dean is enough. I did everything I set out to do, so it is best to quit while I am ahead. Here are some of my thoughts as I do my swan song.
The most outstanding component of this school is, and always will be, the students. They have a gritty, upbeat determination that is more than admirable. They are here to become lawyers, but each also hangs on to that identity and individuality that makes him or her unique. There is no cookie-cutter quality to our students. Each has a fresh and genuine humanity that defies stereotyping. Best of all, they share the colorful richness of themselves while they are here,
helping to create a vibrant atmosphere. In my opinion, the greatest defining attribute of this law school is that it allows students to nurture their own particular qualities and blend them all into the professional people they will become as practicing lawyers.
During the 30 years I practiced law in San Francisco, I saw these special characteristics in lawyers who were alumni of Golden Gate. They have a fierce dedication to their clients and to their profession. They work hard and diligently because they know that success is not just going to drop into their laps. This in itself puts them ahead of the game in dealing with many of their colleagues from other law schools who do not have this signature, common-sense attribute that goes with a law degree from Golden Gate.
Our alumni also have an empathy for the problems of their clients and an understanding of the importance of helping out people who are struggling in life and having a difficult time of it. This empathy brings with it one of the greatest skills that a lawyer can have: the skill of listening. Unfortunately, so many lawyers never develop this skill because they have the false idea that they are better than their clients—more intelligent and more important—merely because
they are lawyers. The majority of Golden Gate lawyers never lose that common touch of democracy that goes with the Mission Street experience. This enormous talent serves them and their clients well.
So one of the great joys for me as dean has been the students. It is a true pleasure to watch the new students arrive, get to know them, follow their progress, talk to them, counsel them, learn from them and, finally, hand them their diplomas at graduation.
It means greater day-to-day contact with the students. It means being more directly involved in shaping their legal training and molding them as lawyers. I look forward to this exciting and pleasurable time.
For me as dean, the next best thing has been getting to know the alumni. The alums are, after all, just the students who have shifted into drive gear and are out there displaying the benefits of this school. Over my five years as dean, I got to know, firsthand, the stories of hundreds of our alumni. To an Irishman like me who loves to talk and who loves to tell stories and hear them, a job that not only includes, but also requires, schmoozing and socializing with countless interesting people is an employment dream.
Much of the job of a dean is fundraising. Other deans around the country groan at the task. But I love fundraising. The alumni of Golden Gate University School of Law are incredibly generous. They recognize that they have an investment in
this school—in the education it gave them, in the value of its reputation, and in
the worth of its degree. They have always responded wholeheartedly when I’ve asked them to contribute to the school. I will always appreciate that great generosity. Even more, I feel deeply rewarded by the personal relationships and friendships I developed with alumni. I will cherish, build on, and nurture those relationships for a long time to come.
The staff of the School of Law never seems to get the credit they so richly deserve. They are some of the most dedicated people I have ever encountered. They are also some of the brightest, most creative, and nicest people one could find anywhere. Most of them are awesomely overqualified but are driven by a love for the school and for the students. I have worked with them daily and am often awed by their commitment and enormous effort. If I could, I would triple the salary of most of the staff. The contribution they make to the success of the school is so outstanding, and often so selfless, that the rest of us could take a great lesson from their example.
As for the faculty, I know I need to tread lightly here since I will soon be one of them on a full-time basis. But from the vantage point of being dean, it is apparent that they are loved and admired by the students and by the alumni who credit them fondly, and deservedly, for so much of their success. They bring their understanding and mastery of the real world of law practice to their teaching. This quality gives our graduates a significant edge when they serve their clients and deliver legal services. It also distinguishes Golden Gate from just about every other law school in the country. It is also the most important thing that we must work hard to keep, if we are to stay true to our roots and to the value of our identity.
As I step down as dean, I can happily report that this law school is in excellent shape. We completed a $20 million renovation of all of the Law School classrooms, auditoriums, and seminar rooms. We now have modern, state-of-the-art, technologically equipped facilities. We established an intellectual property program, which offers more than 25 courses and has blossomed into a rapidly growing LL.M. program.
In 2001, Golden Gate University School of Law celebrated its centennial, 100 years of providing a legal education in San Francisco. As part of our ceremonies, we sponsored a film series that featured impressive historical and political figures; a mock trial at the Palace Hotel set in 1906 after the San Francisco earthquake and featuring local celebrity Noah Griffin as opera tenor Enrico Caruso (who did indeed stay at the Palace that fateful night) suing the City of San Francisco; and an alumni banquet where graduates, faculty, staff, and students came together to celebrate.
Over the past five years, I made alumni relations and fundraising high priorities. One morning each week, I locked myself in my office to phone and talk to alumni. I constantly went to lunch and to other social events with alumni and with other friends of the Law School. On nights and weekends, I attended legal profession events and almost any other public event that I could. I never turned down a speaking invitation, no matter what the subject, unless I was already booked for another one.
On out-of-town trips, I gathered alumni together at receptions in New York, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans, Albuquerque, Atlanta, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, Modesto, Bakersfield, Portland, and Seattle. Alumni love these get-togethers. They reconnect to the school as they professionally and socially network with fellow alums who live and practice in their area.
The name ―Golden Gate University School of Law‖ has been prominently featured on national TV and in The New Yorker magazine, as well as in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and a score of other newspapers. All of this is free advertising that a school could not buy—even if it
spent millions of dollars to make itself an institution that everyone has heard of.
If this all sounds like blowing my own horn, it is, because I am immensely proud of all of these things.
I have loved being dean of this law school. It has been exhilarating for me and a lot of fun. In the future, hopefully for the rest of my professional career, I will still be a part of this law school. But I will do other things, as well. Whatever I do, I will try to make sure that it benefits our school.
A CINDERELLA STORY
Commencement Address by Judge Maria-Elena James on May 17, 2003
To you graduates: As someone who has gone through it, I know that law school has been a long journey, and today’s celebration has been a long time coming.
I, too, once stood where you’re standing, on the threshold of something grand,
resplendent with promise. That is why I behold you now with reverence and satisfaction. I am as proud of your accomplishment as if it were mine.
One of the first questions I’m asked when people meet me is whether I have always wanted to be a judge. Now, I do not like disappointing people, but mine
is more of a Cinderella story, minus the fairy godmother, the glass slippers, the pumpkin—or the prince.
Most of you who know me know that my earliest career goal was to be a princess.
I spent most of my childhood in preparation for that career by reading every
fairy tale book in the public library. My dreams were not in black and white, but in regal purple. I wrapped my ambitions of royalty around me like a velvet cloak
that protected me from the mundane reality of daily life in La Mirada, where I
grew up. One day, I realized that the circle of people around me were not my
court, I did not live in a castle, and I had no servants. These unruly subjects were my nine brothers and sisters, and I was babysitting because both of my parents
worked full time. There would be no lavender evening gowns, no fancy balls, no
diamond tiaras, and no glass slippers.
My reality was that I was the eldest daughter of 10 kids living in a house with
three-and-a-half bedrooms—and only one-and-a-half bathrooms. Many of us
went to law school so we did not have to do math, but you can easily calculate
how many minutes I had to get ready for school. As the eldest daughter, I was in
charge of my brothers and sisters. I dictated orders, mediated disputes, issued
sanctions, enforced rulings, cooked for 12, and on top of that, changed lots of
This Cinderella was not amused.
After it became fairly obvious that the royal family was never coming to claim
their missing heir and whisk me away from the Orange County suburbs, I
changed my career path. I was 12 and had just seen the movie A Nun’s Story
with Audrey Hepburn. Audrey looked so serene, so beautiful and so divine. Her
performance inspired me to become spiritual. I decided to dedicate my life to
God and transcend the earthly chaos of my family. My second career choice was
to become a nun.
I remained faithful to my new vocation until my mother’s sister, Marie-Annette,
came to stay for two weeks. Now, Sister Marie-Annette actually is a nun, and her
visit provided me with a vision of my future—without the Hollywood spin. I
was not deterred by the lifelong commitment to helping others; after all, I was
used to babysitting my brothers and sisters. But back then, my aunt wore the
nun’s traditional black robe called a habit. One day, several days into her visit, I
realized that she wore that same black robe every single day—day in, day out. It
dawned on me that in order to be a nun I, too, would have to wear the same
black robe, for the rest of my life, day in and day out.
You are looking at a woman who, even at age 12, could barely restrict her clothing changes to three times a day. I was not too keen on the prospect of getting up very early in the morning and praying all day long either. Finally, there was the prohibition against dating. That turned out to be the real deal-breaker. My hormones were just kicking in, and even God could not compete with Bobby Sherman or Sidney Poitier. With great humility, I must confess that sisterhood was my shortest career goal.
Now, some 30 years later, as fate would have it, look at me—I have a job where I
wear the same black robe every single day. I have to get up early in the morning. And, while issuing my decisions, I am basically praying all day long that justice has been dispensed.
Is there no escape from karma?
Luckily, I believe that individual courage, a good education, a great hairdresser, and a keen sense of style can overcome myriad obstacles, and if it can’t help you change your fate, it can at least help you change your wardrobe.
[At this point, Judge James removed her black robe to reveal a shimmering purple regalia.]
Now, I know you are all wondering, why is Judge James wearing this fabulous purple robe? Those of you who know me have probably figured out that I am tired of wearing that same old black robe. But it is really because purple is not only the symbol of royalty—and I have declared myself a princess—but also of
Quite simply, this is my message to you today: As you leave the safe haven of your family, community, and this university to embark on a new journey, drape yourself in courage. Up to this point, you have been defined by one standard: your academic ability. But I tell you, the qualities and strength of character that dreams are made of are not measured by academic performance alone.
At this moment, the one thing that is certain is that the woman, the man, the lawyer you will be in the future is unknown. Walking toward uncertainty is a daunting task. How do you weather this wearying, long, and winding journey?
You need to fail—of course, you must do it with as much grace as possible—but
you must fail. You must understand that it takes courage to embrace your failures. You must learn from those failures and go on to the next challenge. And I will tell you this: You will learn more about yourself from your failures than you ever will know from your successes.
Ours is not a culture that easily tolerates failure, though in truth I can think of no one who has succeeded without it. Our moments of testing and maturity are determined by how we deal with life’s inevitable failures. Where there is failure, there is life. It is life’s failures that help us move towards excellence. Failure teaches us what success is.
As you strive for excellence, understand that excellence is the willingness to be caught learning. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Step out of your comfort zone and walk purposefully away from that false image of perfection that does not tolerate mistakes, the perfection that takes pride in merely looking good. Don’t
be afraid to look the fool. Just don’t stay the fool. Keep learning, keep asking, keep being the student. Let humility lead the way. Dream big and be willing to fail.
Your degree is not a mark of perfection; it is a license to succeed—and to fail.
Those who seek to keep it pristine will never really practice law . . . or really live life.
I can still recall my own graduation from law school back in 1978. It was held in an auditorium much like this one. All of my nine brothers and sisters; my mom and dad; and various aunts, uncles, and cousins were there. When I crossed that stage, I realized how important it was to stack the deck. My huge, proud, beaming family cheered so loud it sounded like a stampede (a stampede of platform shoes, bad perms, and polyester disco suits because all the guys wanted to be John Travolta).
But as my family cheered, I remember the naked fear that gripped my heart as I wondered: Would I ever be able to pass the bar, ever be a bone-fide attorney. Would I fail?
Many of my failures occurred even before I was admitted to law school. For example, I was a senior social ecology major at the University of California, Irvine, with the dream of becoming a lawyer. Now, you must understand something, and I’m telling you this history for context. In 1974, there were very few black lawyers practicing in private law firms or the government. There were few women lawyers, even fewer black women lawyers, and black women judges were scarcer still. My desire to become a lawyer was daunting. But I had a dream.
I asked a professor I respected greatly to write me a recommendation for law school. After learning of my less-than-stellar LSAT score and unimpressive GPA, he declined to write me the letter. I stood outside of the old Social Ecology building weeping. I was crushed by his refusal and felt deeply rejected by him.
For a period of time I believed his opinion of me to be accurate. Yet underneath my feeling of rejection was the understanding that if I let someone label me inferior, and even worse, give up my dream, I’d spend the rest of my life in mourning and paralysis. And that realization compelled me to ask another professor for assistance, to risk yet another judgment and rejection. That second professor agreed to help me. Why, I don’t know. The only thing that was different about me was that I was more committed than ever to fulfill my dream of becoming a lawyer.
My second example occurred while I was applying for law school. I always wanted to attend University of California, Los Angeles. When UCLA Law School rejected me; I was devastated. Just think, if they had admitted me, instead of giving this commencement speech here in beautiful San Francisco, I would be sitting on the 405 freeway in the smog, wearing white weeks before Memorial Day, on my way to the dermatologist to have my sun spots removed.
But, despite my less than stellar LSAT score, and my unimpressive GPA, and the flat-out denial by the University of California, I applied to many law schools. If I had kept all of the rejection letters, I could build a tree. I remember many a day waiting for the mail, only to open yet another rejection letter. They came in droves. I was crushed by the constant refusals and felt inadequate to study law. But I did not let these feelings of rejection defeat me. I was determined to have my dream. I continued to apply.
It is ironic that the determination and conviction so necessary for my success was the product of my failure. I was accepted by the University of San Francisco. I graduated from law school smack dab in the middle of my class. But the fear of failure was still with me.
Three years later, after graduating from law school, I failed the bar exam. I failed by the slim margin of eleven points, but I failed. Again I was devastated. But for me the key was that I was crippled but not paralyzed. I got up and took that test again. I will tell you that I passed the bar on my second attempt and became a bona-fide attorney.
Now I’d like for you to think about my litany of failures. Two attempts at getting
help getting into law school, rejections from many law schools, and two times to pass the California Bar exam. I stand before you as a black woman who is now a federal magistrate judge for the United States District Court. I tell you this because I truly hope that you will embrace your failures as necessary and natural parts of your journey. Your measure will not be whether you are knocked down, but whether you stay down.