George Mason University today announces pledges totaling $30 million to the George Mason University Foundation to support the School of Law. The gifts, combined, are the largest in university history, and will help establish three new scholarship programs that will potentially benefit hundreds of students seeking to study law at Mason.
In recognition of this historic gift, the Board of Visitors has approved the renaming of the school to the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University.
“This is a milestone moment for the university,” said George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera. “These gifts will create opportunities to attract and retain the best and brightest students, deliver on our mission of inclusive excellence, and continue our goal to make Mason one of the preeminent law schools in the country.”
Mason has grown rapidly over the last four decades to become the largest public research university in Virginia. The School of Law was established in 1979 and has been continually ranked among the top 50 law programs in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.
Justice Scalia, who served 30 years on the U.S. Supreme Court, spoke at the dedication of the law school building in 1999 and was a guest lecturer at the university. He was a resident of nearby McLean, Virginia.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, his esteemed colleague on the Supreme Court for more than two decades, said Scalia’s opinions challenged her thinking and that naming the law school after him was a fine tribute.
“Justice Scalia was a law teacher, public servant, legal commentator, and jurist nonpareil. As a colleague who held him in highest esteem and great affection, I miss his bright company and the stimulus he provided, his opinions ever challenging me to meet his best efforts with my own. It is a tribute altogether fitting that George Mason University’s law school will bear his name. May the funds for scholarships, faculty growth, and curricular development aid the Antonin Scalia School of Law to achieve the excellence characteristic of Justice Scalia, grand master in life and law.”
“Justice Scalia’s name evokes the very strengths of our school: civil liberties, law and economics, and constitutional law,” said Law School Dean Henry N. Butler. “His career embodies our law school’s motto of learn, challenge, lead. As a professor and jurist, he challenged those around him to be rigorous, intellectually honest, and consistent in their arguments.”
The combined gift will allow the university to establish three new scholarship programs to be awarded exclusively and independently by the university:
Antonin Scalia Scholarship – Awarded to students with excellent academic credentials.
A. Linwood Holton, Jr. Leadership Scholarship – Named in honor of the former governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, this scholarship will be awarded to students who have overcome barriers to academic success, demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities, or who have helped others overcome discrimination in any facet of life.
F.A. Hayek Law, Legislation, and Liberty Scholarship – Named in honor of the 1974 Nobel Prize winner in economics, this scholarship will be awarded to students who have a demonstrated interest in studying the application of economic principles to the law.
“The growth of George Mason University’s law school, both in size and influence, is a tribute to the hard work of its leaders and faculty members,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “I am particularly pleased that new scholarship awards for students who face steep barriers in their academic pursuits will be named in honor of former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton, an enduring and appropriate legacy for a man who championed access to education for all Virginians.”
The scholarships will help Mason continue to be one of the most diverse universities in America.
“When we speak about diversity, that includes diversity of thought and exposing ourselves to a range of ideas and points of view,” said Cabrera. “Justice Scalia was an advocate of vigorous debate and enjoyed thoughtful conversations with those he disagreed with, as shown by his longtime friendship with Justice Ginsburg. That ability to listen and engage with others, despite having contrasting opinions or perspectives, is what higher education is all about.”
The gift includes $20 million that came to George Mason through a donor who approached Leonard A. Leo of the Federalist Society, a personal friend of the late Justice Scalia and his family. The anonymous donor asked that the university name the law school in honor of the Justice.
"The Scalia family is pleased to see George Mason name its law school after the Justice, helping to memorialize his commitment to a legal education that is grounded in academic freedom and a recognition of the practice of law as an honorable and intellectually rigorous craft,” said Leo.
The gift also includes a $10 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation, which supports hundreds of colleges and universities across the country that pursue scholarship related to societal well-being and free societies.
“We’re excited to support President Cabrera and Dean Butler’s vision for the Law School as they welcome new students and continue to distinguish Mason as a world-class research university,” said Charles Koch Foundation President Brian Hooks.
The name change is pending approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
A formal dedication ceremony will occur in the fall.