George J. Alexander (1931-2013) served as Dean of Santa Clara Law from 1970-85, a period during which the school expanded greatly in terms of enrollment, diversity, and key academic programs. Alexander’s firm vision for a global future, coupled with his passion for social justice and his commitment to adding female and minority students, led the law school through a time of great change.
“As professor, dean and friend of Santa Clara, George embodied the University’s mission and values by combining a high regard for academic rigor with a personal commitment to making the world a better place. While we mourn George’s death, we also thank God for the gift of his life. The University community will miss his leadership, wisdom, and friendship,” said SCU President Michael Engh, S.J.
Alexander earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and his LL.B. from Pennsylvania Law School in 1959, and LL.M. and J.S.D. from Yale University Law School. Prior to joining Santa Clara Law in 1970, Alexander taught and served as assistant dean at Syracuse Law School in New York and also served as Director of Regulations in Space, a Syracuse project. He was vice chairman of the board of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and served as a consultant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 1962-63. With a background in technology and civil liberties, Alexander was particularly equipped to lead the law school through the social changes of the 1970s and into the high tech 1980s.
Alexander recruited across the country with a focus on increasing enrollment of women and minorities—he sent personal letters to minority students who had taken the LSAT encouraging them to apply. In addition, he recognized the increasing need for lawyers to be trained for a global understanding, and in 1974, the Law School launched its first summer abroad program, which has blossomed into the largest program of its kind in the nation.
While dean, Alexander taught at least two courses a year, and one year he taught four. After his deanship, he was awarded the title Elizabeth H. and John A. Sutro Professor of Law, also known as the Sutro chair, which was the first endowed chair in the school’s history.
Alexander also sowed the first seeds of the law school’s high tech program by adding intellectual property to the curriculum, a move that turned out to be essential to the school’s future in the heart of what would become Silicon Valley.
In 2004, Alexander and his wife, Katherine, made a generous donation to what was then called the East San Jose Community Law Center at Santa Clara Law. In recognition of their gesture, the ESJCLC was officially renamed the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center. Today, the Alexander Community Law Center focuses on consumer law, immigration law, workers’ rights and tax matters, and serves about 1,000 clients on-site per year. It also reaches out to about 1,200 individuals through its mobile workshops on Consumer Rights, Workers’ Rights and Tenant-Landlord Rights, given throughout the community. (For more information, see law.scu.edu/KGACLC.)
In 2008, Katharine & George Alexander created an annual prize, called the Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize, with the goal of bringing recognition to lawyers who have used their legal careers to help alleviate injustice and inequity. The hope is that recognition of such individuals will improve the image of lawyers around the world.
The winner receives a substantial cash award, and is invited to SCU to be honored. The winner is also invited to participate in lectures and classes and may choose to serve as a teacher, mentor and scholar for a limited period at Santa Clara Law. Past recipients have included: Bryan Stevenson (2008), Mario Joseph (2009), Shadi Sadr (2010), Paul Van Zyl (2011), Alumedena Bernabeu (2012), and Chen Guangcheng (2013). For more information see law.scu.edu/alexanderprize.
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