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Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivers keynote at unveiling of new Washington College of Law

The Supreme Court Justice was one of several speakers at the official opening of the school’s new Tenley campus

Correction appended. 

The AU Washington College of Law celebrated the ceremonial opening of its new Tenley Campus on Friday with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the keynote speaker at the ribbon cutting.

Ginsburg commended WCL’s historic commitment to women's involvement in the legal field. Ginsburg herself is the second female justice to be appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States, and is perhaps the most well known justice today.

Much of Ginsburg’s keynote address focused on the school’s unique place in history due to its founding in 1896 by two women, Ellen Mussey and Emma Gillett. She also charged WCL graduates to use their education for good in the legal field.

“The legal profession that the graduates of this law school will join has among its practitioners legions of men and women devoted to and who work for the common good,” Ginsburg said.
“It is lawyers of that kind that American University Washington College of Law keeps preparing: lawyers who will use their talents and education to repair flaws in our society and world.”

The ceremony followed the unveiling of the new campus, which opened for classes on Jan. 11. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is an alumna of AU, also spoke at the event.

“I love hiring young law students,” Bowser said “You can apply whatever you’re learning to the issues in front of you. I invite you to think about helping us tackle the issues that make our city wonderful to live in.”

Before the move to the new Tenley Campus, the WCL was housed in AU’s Spring Valley Building located at 4801 Massachusetts Ave.

Construction on the new campus began following a groundbreaking ceremony on June 12, 2013, and lasted for two and a half years and was budgeted to cost $130 million. The new campus includes a new dining hall, cafe, five courtrooms and a 500-seat conference center.

“This new home for the school with its superb library and classrooms and its light and accessible location will further strengthen our wonderful community,” WCL Dean Claudio Grossman said at the ceremony. “It will help us continue to work on behalf of our core values: excellent education, the promotion of opportunity and access to justice for all.”

The WCL is currently ranked No. 71 by U.S. News & World Report, and a clear sentiment during the ceremony was a hope the new campus would revitalize the school, which has struggled over the past few years in rankings. Since 2013, the law school dropped 22 spots in the same rankings.

“A project of this magnitude undertaken in times like these reflects this university’s deep and abiding faith to the mission and work of the Washington College of Law,” AU President Neil Kerwin said at the ceremony. “Our confidence in this project is enhanced by the capabilities that this new facility will make available to students and faculty.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated where Bowser obtained her masters degree. She is an alumna of AU, not the WCL. This error was made during the editing process.

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