Supreme Court; Sandra Day O’Connor; Fordham University School of Law


On October 24, 1984, a few years after becoming the first woman Associate Justice of the U.S Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor arrived at Fordham University School of Law (“Fordham Law School”) to rededicate the school’s renovated and expanded building. Founded in 1905, and occupying a succession of sites in New York City, it is now located at 150 West 62nd Street in Manhattan. The school had undertaken for the first time a major capital campaign among its alumni to raise $7 million to make the rededication possible. Justice Earl Warren, then Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was present at the school’s original ground-breaking in 1960, and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was the dedication speaker when the building was finished. The opening of the 140 West 62nd Street building for classes in September 1961 marked the beginning of Fordham University’s presence at Lincoln Center. Justice O’Connor’s participation in 1984 reflected a joint effort to secure that presence by Professor Constantine N. Katsoris and Fordham Law School graduate Robert J. Corcoran, then serving as a member of the Arizona Court of Appeals and later serving on the Arizona Supreme Court. To mark the occasion, Father Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., the university’s president, created an exception, at my suggestion, in awarding her an honorary degree at an event other than the university’s commencement. The moment was an exciting one, and the law school’s assistant dean, Robert M. Hanlon, Jr., prepared a beautiful citation to accompany this honor. He sat in the dean’s conference room and wrote the words of the citation. For the next thirty years, the citation would hang for all to see in the law school’s first floor atrium until the school moved into its new building at 150 West 62nd Street. Fordham’s historic law dean, William Hughes Mulligan, who served as master of ceremonies in 1984, remarked to laughter that it was his planning in 1960 that made the occasion “inevitable.”