Hall of Fame Induction.
When Diane asked me to be MASTER OF CEREMONIES tonight, as you might expect, it got me to thinking about the school, the memories, what it means to all of us, and all in light of the honor and pride tonight’s inductees brings to the school.
I have to admit, when I did the math, I was a little shocked. To realize that next year it will have been 40 years since I graduated from San Joaquin.
After I caught my breath, what struck me was the connection between now, tonight, our outstanding inductees, and SJ 40 years ago.
When I showed up as a first year law student and found my seat in that classroom in that large round building over on the Pacific College campus, the school was new. It had graduated its first class, but that was about it. It wasn’t crystal clear the school would survive.
I have to pause here to mention my classmates. One made friends quickly in that situation. My study group included the likes of Paul Hinkley, John Suhr, Tim Magill and a dear friend we lost a couple of years ago, Steve Sefton.
We were all different, we all went different ways in our legal careers, but we all fell in love with the law at SJ, a love affair that never left any of us.
And in each of our careers SJ and the legal education it provided meant something special.
When, I attended, some of our professors were founders.
Dean Dan Eymann taught Torts. A classy guy. You knew you were in the presence of someone for which leadership was a characteristic come by naturally.
Mr. Loomis taught us Contracts. It was always MISTER Loomis. The man was universally respected. His hypotheticals were legend, still are, and in our study groups we all found ourselves imitating how he would propound them.
Then there was Oliver Wanger, who we called “Ollie” behind his back. This was well before he became a federal judge. He drove a big shiny black car, I think it was Lincoln, Lots of Chrome, and shoes so polished I always assumed they were patent leather. I like my bling so l thought the man stylish and cool. We all figured as a lawyer he was very expensive. And we also quickly found out the man’s intellectual gifts were staggering. And that lighting quick wit could be intimidating, oh so very intimidating.
We had Judge, later Justice, Hollis Best for Evidence. And I can remember him stalking around the classroom, up and down the aisles, making eye contact with students with which he was engaging. I remember seeing in my mind’s eye what he must have been like trying cases in the courtroom before he became a judge. I always thought he missed being a trail lawyer and the classroom gave him a chance to relive some of those moments. And, boy, could he teach evidence. He knew how to make us see how it actually worked everyday in the courtroom.
His teaching made a lot of us want to be trial lawyers. What we learned from him made us good ones.
SJ has a long history of having professors who were not just good at teaching, but the students could tell they were good at what they did outside the classroom. They were good at their profession. And you wondered sometimes if you could ever measure up.
But then after class there they would be, our teachers, up at the front of the classroom, surrounded by students, answering questions and laughing with them, sharing a moment of their busy, meaningful lives with us.
And of course that is the key. That is the connection from then – over the decades – to here, right now.
SJ and the culture passed down from the individuals who founded the school, and those practicing legal professionals who took the time to share their knowledge.
A culture of Caring about the students. Carrying about their success.
Because at SJ it has always been about the students.
SJ wanted the students to do good. They wanted them to pass the Bar, They wanted them to get a good legal job.
And not just that, they wanted them to be good lawyers, lawyers who respect the law, respect their role in a functioning democracy, who understood the importance of the legal profession to their community.
Yes, The staff, and the instructors were excellent, and they still are, but the bottom line for the school, in my estimation, was about developing good, reputable lawyers, those who would enhance the legal profession, make each of us proud to be called attorneys at law, make each of us proud to be called SJ graduates.
That is the ultimate accolade for the school.
And tonight’s inductees, in your career, connect back to all that, you exceeded that high bar of excellence the school expected of you and the school knew you could achieve.
You are the connection back to Dean Eymann, Mr. Loomis and all the rest. How proud they would be to know the school produced such excellent men and women of the law.
What hard work you did in your careers. What pride your loved ones and family must have in your demonstrated excellence, your outstanding careers in the law.
You were selected by your peers from lists of distinguished members of the profession. You have distinction among the most distinguished.
Your school is so very proud of you, every alumnus is proud of you and we are proud to induct you to the San Joaquin College of Law, Hall of Fame.