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Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law hosts dedication of its Lewis Katz Building

April 24, 2009

University Park, Pa. — Today Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law celebrated the opening of its new 114,000-square-foot Lewis Katz Building with a dedication ceremony. The event also marked the start of a yearlong celebration honoring the 175th anniversary of the Dickinson School of Law, which held its first class on April 1, 1834.

Participants in the ceremony include Penn State University President Graham B. Spanier; Philip J. McConnaughay, dean of the Dickinson School of Law; Lewis Katz, the Dickinson School of Law class of 1966; H. Laddie Montague Jr., the Dickinson School of Law class of 1963; James Broadhurst, chair of Penn State’s Board of Trustees; and Richard M. Olcott, design partner, Polshek Partnership Architects.

“The Lewis Katz Building is a signature work of architecture that reflects the progressive educational program of our school of law. It offers the perfect setting for our faculty and student scholars to engage in the serious study of the law,” said McConnaughay. “It is especially appropriate that the dedication of our new Lewis Katz Building coincides with the 175th anniversary of our school of law, thus enabling us to celebrate the achievements of past, present and future graduates of the Dickinson School of Law.”

Construction of the Lewis Katz Building, which is named in recognition of Katz’s unprecedented $15 million gift to the law school, was completed in December 2008. In addition to housing the law school, the facility also is home to Penn State’s School of International Affairs.

The focal point of the Lewis Katz Building is its glass-enclosed H. Laddie Montague Jr. Law Library. Named for the class of 1963 alumnus who donated $4 million to the law school, the law library has a volume capacity of 100,000 and seating for 294 students. It features a third-floor reading room overlooking Park Avenue, Beaver Stadium and the Arboretum at Penn State; seven AV-equipped group study rooms; custom-milled hardwood study carrels lining the ramp along the glass curtain wall; and a digital commons that facilitates student research.

“The architecture of the new building draws from the idea that the law library is the theoretical and physical heart of the legal educational experience, the center in which students spend much of their time,” explained Olcott, the building’s designer. “As such, the library is conceived as a floating element, sheltering the rest of the school’s program beneath. Clad in glass, the curving library volume creates a constantly changing backdrop of reflected sunlight throughout the day and a beacon of light at night.”

Additional building features include the 250-seat Greg Sutliff Auditorium; a courtroom equipped with the latest in trial technology, including videoconferencing and electronic evidence display monitors for judges, counsel, jurors, and witnesses; four 75-person classrooms; several intimate seminar rooms; legal clinic and student organizations suites; outdoor terraces and reading gardens; and plentiful student study space. The entire building is equipped with advanced videoconferencing technologies, allowing for meaningful interaction with faculty and peers around the globe.

“Nearly every inch of the Lewis Katz Building is designed to draw students and faculty together in a close community in which students develop the analytical, communication, and interpersonal skills the legal profession requires,” said Marie Reilly, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law.

The Lewis Katz Building was constructed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification requirements. “Reflecting the goals of the Dickinson School of Law, the Lewis Katz Building uses numerous sustainable initiatives within its design,” said Olcott. “From its continuous planted green roof to its reintroduction of pervious surfaces on what was a massive parking lot, the building helps reduce the amount of rainwater runoff generated by the site.”

Olcott added that the building is designed to maximize the use of natural light and that most individual offices are equipped with operable windows and climate control, further reducing the building’s energy consumption. Local and recycled materials are used throughout the building.

“The Lewis Katz Building has far exceeded my expectations,” said third-year Penn State law student Meghan Cashman. “I knew I was getting a fantastic legal education since my first year, but it is truly rewarding to finish in this atmosphere.”

Founded by Judge John Reed, the Dickinson School of Law is the oldest law school in Pennsylvania and the fifth oldest in the nation. Over the course of its distinguished 175-year history, its graduates have included three U.S. senators, including the first U.S. senator from Oregon; five governors, including Minnesota’s Civil War governor; the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the first woman to serve as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; more than 100 federal and state judges, including recent appointees to U.S. District Courts in Pennsylvania and to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; the founder of one of the nation’s leading law firms led by African-Americans; the first woman president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association; the first elected attorney general of Pennsylvania; and the owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

The law school completed a merger with Penn State in 2000 and currently operates from University Park and Carlisle as the only ABA-approved unified two-location law school. Since affiliating with the University and adding a law school presence to its University Park campus in 2006, the law school has been successful in recruiting leading faculty scholars and the most highly qualified and diverse student body in the school’s history. Applications to the law school this year topped 4,100; a marked increase from statistics as recent as 2003, when 1,471 students applied for admission to the school.

Renovation of the law school’s Carlisle facility, which includes the addition of Lewis Katz Hall, is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The law school will host a dedication ceremony for its Carlisle facility in April 2010.

For event photos, visit Penn State Live.

An illustrated architectural narrative of the Lewis Katz Building, prepared by Polshek Partnership Architects, is available online.

Kelly Rimmer
(717) 240-5217
Pam Knowlton
(717) 240-5212

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