Osgoode Hall Law School of York University marked the 125th anniversary of its founding in 1889 with a sweet celebration Tuesday. The Osgoode@125 event featured a reading of the inaugural address by the first principal of the law school, the unveiling of two wood carvings, and hundreds of Osgoode@125 cookies, which were distributed to students and staff to mark the anniversary.
“Today is a day of pride and celebration and also to look ahead to how Osgoode will continue to make history,” said Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Lorne Sossin, who served as the event’s emcee.
“Osgoode is extremely proud to be celebrating this important milestone,” Sossin said. “Our 125th is an occasion for looking forward and looking back, but especially looking forward.”
Sossin then read an excerpt from an address made by Osgoode Hall Principal William A. Reeve that was given on Oct. 7, 1889 to mark the founding of the law school: “Let me express the hope that we will all, both teachers and students, bend our energies to make a success of the new law school which the Benchers of the Law Society, with so much anxious effort on their part, have at length established. Nothing is needed but a corresponding effort on our part, to do our duty as they have done theirs,” read Sossin. “What spot more favourable to the successful operation of a school of law could be selected on this continent? To begin with, in a great educational centre like Toronto — the educational centre of the Dominion — an effort towards intellectual progress feels itself in sympathy and emulation with similar enterprises going on around it. This is no small matter in itself… Surrounded by favourable circumstances like these, there can be no excuse for anything like failure. The most unqualified success must be the only legitimate sequence to opportunities so great. I trust that these opportunities will be equaled by our determination to improve them.”
“I am not sure what he meant,” chuckled Sossin, noting that the law school’s future would be guided by “our belief in our community and what we can accomplish in the future.”
As part of the event, Osgoode student ambassador and PhD candidate Allison Williams announced the launch of the Osgoode@125 Fund, a student-lead initiative to raise money for debt relief. The fund, which has a goal of $125,000, will be matched by the law school and again by its alumni through this year’s Annual Fund solicitation.
Following the announcement, Sossin screened a snippet of Happy Birthday Osgoode, a film about Osgoode’s history by Juris Doctor graduate Quinn Harris (JD ’14). Sossin also launched a 12-hour Twitter Contest that will make one Osgoode student club $1,125 richer. Using #oz125, students were asked to tweet their responses to the question: For 125 years, Osgoode has shaped the future of legal education. What’s your idea for our next innovation? A panel of judges will decide which tweets best illustrate how Osgoode can continue to make history by leading the way in legal education.
A pair of commissioned art pieces by celebrated Gitxsan First Nations artist and master carver Ya’Ya (Charles) Heit were unveiled as part of the celebration. The works, named The Black Hawk and The Red Eagle tower above Gowlings Hall. The enormous cedar wood carvings represent the connection between Osgoode, its physical location on First Nations land and the power of reconciliation and healing. The unveiling included a video greeting from Heit.
Visitors to Osgoode Hall Law School will see a display called the Osgoode History and Archives Project that aims to preserve the school’s past and advance research into its legacy of leadership and nation-building. The display consists of print and electronic materials, photographs, art, artifacts such as old books and exams, and archival records such as old yearbooks and other memorabilia.
In addition, Osgoode’s new website features a history page. Its centrepiece is a timeline with historical vignettes from 1889 to the present. The history page also offers a look at alumni who have blazed the trail (“Osgoode Catalysts”) and presents the “Osgoode@125 Index” – 125 interesting factoids about a great law school that will continue to make history.