Five Supreme Court justices joined the George Mason University community Thursday to honor their former colleague and the namesake of Mason’s Antonin Scalia Law School, at a “trifecta of celebrations” that culminated in the unveiling of a new statue and dedications around the school.
“I am humbled and appreciative and deeply honored to be a part of the program here today at Scalia Law School to witness and participate in the dedication of this amazing statue of a wonderful friend and a great jurist,” said Justice Clarence Thomas, who spoke on behalf of the court.
Thomas shared that Scalia often wondered whether his work would be of meaning and consequence in the future.
“But as much as the work mattered to Justice Scalia and as much as he wondered if he would have any lasting effect on the object of our work, he never, ever spoke about personally being remembered or honored,” Thomas said. “Let this statue be a constant reminder to each of us to solemnly increase our devotion to that great promise, the promise to the rule of law, to which [Scalia] dedicated his life.”
About 400 law students and faculty members attended the program. Also in the audience were Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, and Elena Kagan. Honored guests also included Virginia Supreme Court Justice William C. Mims as well as Scalia’s family.
A cast bronze statue of Scalia, crafted by internationally renowned artist Greg Wyatt, was unveiled in the atrium of Hazel Hall, as a tribute to the man Law School Dean Henry N. Butler described as a “larger-than-life scholar and jurist.”
“Justice Scalia once said that he thought the worst opinions in his court had been perhaps unanimous decisions because he thought there was nobody on the other side pointing out all the flaws,” Mason President Ángel Cabrera noted. “Let his name and his statue be a reminder to all of us, faculty and very importantly students, of the importance of reasoned, informed, vigorous, and civil debate of ideas to move us forward as a university, and most importantly, as a society.”
Dean Butler echoed the sentiment in a video played at the ceremony: “My hope is that when our students see this statue they will be inspired to apply the same rigor that Justice Scalia applied every day of his career.”
The Maureen McCarthy Scalia Reading Room on the second floor of the Scalia Law School Library was also dedicated Thursday.
“The Scalia family extends its heartfelt gratitude for these great honors,” said John F. Scalia, the late Justice’s son. “What a lasting tribute to a truly exceptional woman…without whom Justice Scalia would not have accomplished what he did, and certainly would have not have had as much fun along the way.”
The third dedication at the ceremony was the Greg Wyatt Gallery, which will house artwork at the school, “teach by its beauty, …and be a reminder here to all of [each person’s] higher calling,” said Fr. Paul Scalia, the late Justice’s son, who offered an opening prayer.
This event marks the second time a contingent of the Supreme Court has visited Mason to honor Scalia. The first was at the Antonin Scalia Law School dedication ceremony in October 2016 with Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, as well as Kagan, Thomas and Alito.
Named one of the top 20 law programs by Shanghai’s Global Ranking in 2018, and consistently ranked among the top 50 law schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, Mason is a premier destination for law students who want year-round access to opportunities for high-level connections, internships, and employment in different areas of government, at federal agencies, and at private law firms.
“[Mason is] the youngest university in the nation to have achieved the nomination of a tier-one research university,” said Cabrera. “The key to that success has been the Scalia Law School.”
Justice Thomas commended the work of Scalia Law School, as well as the Mason community, in his final remarks.
“Justice Antonin Scalia certainly did his job right,” said Justice Thomas. “And this law school, this extraordinary statue, and your presence here today will go on to perpetuate his memory and continue his amazing work.”