The University at Buffalo Law School is getting a makeover.
The centerpiece of the project — a brand new glass vestibule entranceway in John Lord O’Brian Hall — will be ready in time for graduation festivities this weekend.
“We all felt the first floor is the first impression people have about our law school, both visitors and prospective students in particular, and we want to make the strongest first impression we can,” said James R. Newton, vice dean of administration. “Equally important, our students spend the majority of time on the first floor so we wanted to create a much more livable space.”
Newton said the design for the new entryway was selected by students, faculty and staff from finalist drawings that were displayed for a couple of weeks. Construction on the entire project is more than half way complete. Work began last summer and is expected to be completed by the end of this summer.
“We’re redoing our entire first floor,” Newton said. “What that entails is a new glass entryway with a reception desk, new wood columns, new flooring, lighting, installed technology in some of the classrooms and a new student lounge.”
The renovation will also include display cases to showcase faculty and student work. Newtown said two new video monitors were installed at the end of April on the first floor that will allow the law school and students to displaying information on what is happening.
“It’s a much better way for us to welcome visitors and let everyone know what might be happening at the law school over the course of a week,” he said. “I think it’s really a very important step to make our law school appear to be very professional and provide our whole law school community with a space that’s more conducive to learning and collaborating with each other.”
Newton said Dean Makau W. Mutua and Law School leaders started planning for the makeover about a year ago. He said the university funded more than half of the $2 million project with the rest of the money coming from law school funds and alumni donations.
The student lounge renovation was funded with a major gift from the family and friends of Michael H. Doran, Class of 1982 and founder of Doran and Murphy PLLC, who died in a 2009 plane crash in Ohio along with an associate, Matthew J. Schnirel, Class of 2008.
Newton said the new lounge has a wall of windows, beautiful furniture including leather seats for students to relax or study in, a conference table and new lighting and carpeting.
“It was a complete refurbishment of a space that gets a lot of use by the students,” he said. “The students really love that new space.”
The last major project at the law school was construction of the Cellino and Barnes Conference Center in 2006.
Newton said an open house may be planned in the fall when the new project is completed. Parents can check out the new lobby Saturday when they are in town for the school’s 122nd commencement ceremony.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will address more than 230 graduating students at 3 p.m. in the Center for the Arts on UB’s North Campus.
Gillibrand, an attorney appointed U.S. senator in January 2009 to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, was elected in November 2010. In the Senate, Gillibrand helped lead the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the policy that bans gays from serving openly in the military. She also fought to provide health care and compensation to the 9/11 first responders and community survivors sick with diseases caused by toxins at Ground Zero. Gillibrand worked to bring Democrats and Republicans together to win both legislative victories.
Mutua and Satish K. Tripathi, Ph.D., UB’s new president, will lead the ceremony. Included will be presentation of the Dean’s Medal to U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott, U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. The Dean’s Medal is given to an individual who is distinguished by his or her commitment to justice and the rule of law.
The Ken Joyce Excellence in Teaching Award will be presented to Erie County Supreme Court Justice Kevin M. Dillon. The Joyce Award recognizes a member of the adjunct faculty for excellent teaching and longstanding service to the UB Law School.