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A Look Back at 1914-15 to See Forward to Gonzaga’s 125th Anniversary This Year

Gonzaga’s first law graduates, June 1915. Back Row (from left): E. J. Ferris, J. P. Murphy, W. G. Boland and S. T. Gaglardi; Middle Row: A. O. Stuberg, F. N. O’Leary, R. E. Lowe, J. G. Rotchford, and M. A. Meagher; Front Row: E. M. Connelly, W. I. Lonergan, S. J., Dean Edward J. Cannon, Rev. J. M. Brogan, S.J, president, and F. J. McKevit. Photo courtesy of Gonzaga Archives.

By Mary Jantsch
Class of 2013

SPOKANE, Wash. – Under the leadership of Father James Brogan, S.J., Gonzaga’s 12th president, the Gonzaga University School of Law earned accreditation in March 1915. Several months later, on June 10, its first class of graduates – 13 in all – left Gonzaga with purple hoods and law degrees to begin the practice of law.

The Law School, led by its first Dean Edward J. Cannon, then bid adieu to its first graduates: William Boland, Edward M. Connelly, Edward Ferris, Salvi Gagliardi, William Lonergan, Roy Lowe, Frank McKevitt, Maurice Meagher, John P. Murphy, Frank O’Leary, John Rotchford, Alfred Stuberg and Albert Sundahl.

Rev. Wilfred P. Schoenberg, S.J., in his book “Gonzaga: Seventy-five Years,” noted that during these years the Law School “was characterized by an almost mystical kind of sereneness that one usually associates with seminaries or monasteries.”

As the Law School prepares to celebrate its centennial this year, it’s an apt time to look back and reflect on its beginnings. Founded on the motto “A First Class Law School, or None at All” the school opened its doors Oct. 1, 1912 with two classrooms set aside on the third floor of the Administration Building (now known as College Hall). With the addition of the Law School, Gonzaga also changed its name in the fall of 1912 to “Gonzaga University.” A three-year program was offered in the evening, five nights a week with two instructors. Saturdays were for debates and special assignments. The Law School has expanded from those two classrooms in 1912 to 511 students (2010-11).

As Schoenberg details in his book, Edward Connelly, who became a distinguished Washington State Supreme Court justice, shared his impressions of his first months as a student at the Law School: “After two months, the novelty and strangeness of the Law has been erased. It is no longer merely a pleasant interesting picture, but a science requiring careful analysis and diligent research . . . .”

More history on Gonzaga’s Law School will be available this coming fall (2012) in “Celebrating Gonzaga School of Law: The First Hundred Years” written by local journalist Dan Webster as the first compilation of the Law School history. Webster takes readers on a journey through those 100 years, introducing the creators and characters that elevated the Law School to national prominence. The book is being released as part of the Law School and University’s anniversary celebrations.

While working for Law School accreditation, Fr. Brogan also took up a fight for the athletic program. Suffering from casual beginnings focused simply on giving students a platform for body-building exercise and mental relaxation, the athletic program lacked a clear policy and direction. In 1914, however, Fr. Brogan lead the charge for Gonzaga to enter the Northwest Conference, then made up of the universities of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, the agricultural colleges of Washington and Oregon, and one private college, Whitman.

Fr. Brogan lost this particular effort and Gonzaga was not accepted into the Northwest Conference. However, Fr. Brogan’s efforts clearly helped make Gonzaga well known to these other schools just in time for the football program to flourish in the 1920s.

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