Duke Law celebrates Goodson Law Library and Star Commons

November 20, 2008Duke Law News

Nov. 20, 2008 — Speaking at the Law School’s building dedication ceremony Nov. 8, Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy called the synergy between the J. Michael Goodson Law Library and adjacent Star Commons a fitting metaphor for the evolution of important ideas, from their isolated inception to their public presentation and discussion.

“[Students] go to the library and they begin to study and we hope they encounter what Holmes called ‘the secret joy of isolated thought,’” Kennedy said. “In the commons, the students discuss the ideas of the law, the concept of justice, the meaning of freedom, with students from other disciplines, other backgrounds, from other countries. And so it goes — from library to commons.

“The law… begins with intangibles, abstractions, philosophical concepts, so it is always a pleasure to participate in the dedication of a building, something that’s real and tangible and palpable,” Kennedy told a capacity gathering of almost 400 students, alumni, faculty, and friends of the Law School.

A week of community celebration
Kennedy’s remarks capped a week of lectures, panel discussions, and celebratory gatherings in the new spaces that brought the extended Duke Law community together and honored those who contributed to their development.

The new Star Commons was the site of a lunchtime series of lectures and panel discussions on such topical issues as the election of Barack Obama as president and international electoral systems, Duke scholars’ initiatives in matters relating to intellectual property and innovation, and the current financial crisis, all available for webcast viewing.

The Commons was also the site of a candlelit gala dinner Nov. 7. After the meal, Michael Dockterman, chair of the Duke Law Board of Visitors talked about his memories of the law school building, and the inspiration for improving on it.

“The reason that we created this building is not for yesterday, to help us have better memories, and it’s not for today, although today is an appropriate celebration,” he said. “It’s for tomorrow. It’s for the scholarship, and the research, and the teaching that this building enables for all of us.”

The Goodson Law Library was the focus of a special event on Nov. 6. Richard Danner, senior associate dean for Information Services and Archibald C. and Frances Fulk Rufty Research Professor of Law Richard Danner was joined by the heads of the Yale and Harvard law libraries for a discussion on the function and future of the modern law library, followed by a ceremony and reception.

Celebrating two remarkable spaces
Attendees explored the renovated Law Library, named in honor of J. Michael Goodson '66, which includes a new façade, larger windows in the reading room and mezzanine, and seating arrangements that take advantage of the two-story glass window walls that bathe the space in natural light. They also took note of the easy access to library, computing, web, and media services in the main “reading room.”

“The Goodson library celebrates and supports the life of the mind, the hard work of scholarship and rational inquiry,” Dean David Levi said during the dedication ceremony. “It is a place of contradictions: quiet and excitement, peaceful reflection and the agonizing grasping for understanding… It stands apart from the world and yet is very much of the world, as our new windows reflect and reveal.”

The new 4,200-square-foot Star Commons, named in honor of Stanley Star '61 and his wife, Elizabeth, provides a massive, window-walled space that also takes advantage of natural light and allows an expansive view of the campus outside the Law School’s walls. Balconies look out over the slate-floored commons, where students, faculty and visitors can eat, read, study, or work together. The adjacent Refectory Café has helped make the Commons a gathering place for people from across the Duke campus, Levi said.

“Already, it has provided the setting for programs and events that have enlivened the life of our law school. Already, it has attracted colleagues from around campus to the Law School. Already, it has become a central part of our daily lives.” Together, added Levi, the development of the Star Commons and Goodson Law Library amount to a “creation story.”

“[It is] a story of light and of word and how good it is to experience their happy unification.”

Duke University President Richard Brodhead reflected on how bricks and mortar complete the Law School.

“… [T]he real foundation of a law school … is not a building but rather a culture of thought, and if you should be able to develop that to a very high degree, nevertheless the day might occur to you when you might say to yourself, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a nice building too?’” Brodhead said. “And when you reach the point where a great law school has a great building, you realize it wasn’t just an ornament, it really is an enabler of things, and so it had a function that was not secondary after all.”

Danner and Professor Thomas Metzloff, who were instrumental in the design and planning of the Star Commons and Goodson Library, thanked everyone involved in executing the new spaces, including alumni Raymond “Buck” Ferguson ’70, Al Adams ’74, and David Ichel ’78, who served as Building Committee co-chairs. Metzloff, who managed much of the construction on behalf of the Law School, also praised former Dean Katharine Bartlett, the A. Kenneth Pye Professor of Law, under whose leadership the building projects were launched.

Jillian Harrison ’10, vice-president of the Duke Bar Association, spoke at the dedication ceremony, thanking Stanley and Elizabeth Star, J. Michael Goodson, and other alumni, for their generosity. “It’s not lost on the student body, and it’s certainly not lost on me, that the renovations over the past few years have been incredibly student-focused,” she said. “It was Duke Law School’s unique culture that brought me to Durham. That our alumni chose to support the school this tells me that they not only remember how special this community is, but that they’re committed to keeping it that way.”

Stanley and Elizabeth Star said the new Commons lived up to their high expectations. “This really is a tremendous addition, and it just blends in well,” Stanley Star said. “The wall around the commons, and the garden, — it’s lovely, it’s just beautiful. We had occasion to see it last night with the lights on, and it’s just extraordinary.”

“An edifice for the exploration and evolution of the rule of law”
Kennedy called the new building a fitting edifice for the exploration and evolution of the rule of law, which he said was crucial to the maintenance of justice around the world. “We still must make the case for the rule of law, and we still must remember that our freedom and our security consists of the world of ideas,” he said.

Kennedy traced the progress of “enlightenment ideals” from Isaac Newton, who he called “the poster boy for the enlightenment,” to George Washington and the founders of the American legal and political system, another step in the evolution of enlightenment-era principles. The Anglo-American legal system was a product of these ideas, Kennedy said, and is a necessary underpinning for a free civilization.

“These buildings are a tribute, not only to the liberality of your benefactors, but of their commitment to these purposes,” Kennedy said. “Your presence here and these magnificent projects indicate your commitment to that proposition that the work of freedom is never done.”
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