On Dec. 6, more than 250 well-wishers gathered at the Law School to welcome, as Law School Dean Taylor Reveley told the assemblage, “our marvelous new Wolf Law Library … into the ‘family’ of the country’s oldest law school.”
College President Gene R. Nichol, College Rector Michael Powell, and members of the William & Mary Board of Visitors joined the Law School community for the celebration.
The new library was completed over the summer, on schedule and slightly under its budget. During the two-year construction phase, the 1980 facility underwent a floor-to-ceiling renovation and new space was added. The new library totals 57,100 net square feet, a 56 percent increase in size from the old library. The project was the beneficiary of a naming gift from Hank and Dixie Wolf. Hank Wolf, an alumnus of the College and the Law School, serves as vice rector of the College’s Board of Visitors. He retired earlier this year as vice chairman and chief financial officer of the Norfolk Southern Corporation.
Festivities began in the entrance hall with a medley of songs by The Gentleman of the College. After a welcome by the Dean (and his brief on the mechanics of a “responsive” toast), the hall rang with the cheer of “Wolf – Wolf – Wolf; Library – Library – Library.” Dixie Wolf did the honors of cutting the ribbon on the library’s front doors, assisted in her efforts by her husband, Student Bar Association President Sarah Fulton ’08, and Wolf Law Library Director Jim Heller. The Dean then invited everyone to tour the library before reassembling for further remarks and refreshments in the Gladys & Franklin Clark Reading Room.
Dean Reveley began his remarks by reminding the audience of the history of the law library at William & Mary. In its early days it had no permanent home, “always moving from pillar to post.” The building of the “new” law library on South Henry Street in 1980, he noted, was one of Dean Spong’s many achievements. However, all too soon, ABA accreditors began to criticize the library as “too small and too technologically primitive” for a law school growing steadily in size and scope.
With a nod to the spacious and graciously appointed reading room surrounding them, Reveley said, “I think to the ‘hounds’ of the accrediting process we can now say: ‘Behold, and be gone!”
Reveley hailed the private donors and foundations as the project’s “staff of life.” Among them, he said, the Gladys and Franklin Clark Foundation made a million dollar gift, the first seven-figure gift in the Law School’s history. The Dean noted the galvanizing effect on fundraising efforts made by the financial support given by Hank and Dixie Wolf, enhanced further by gifts from Norfolk Southern and from the couple’s friends at the company. Contributions from alumni such as Nicholas St. George and Ernest Goodrich, and entities such as the Beazley Foundation in memory of Chief Justice I’Anson, also played important roles. There were many others, he said, that played roles “in smaller but cherished ways as well.”
President Gene Nichol told the audience that the building of the Wolf Law Library was an event of “elation and celebration” on campus, and that the building serves “one of the great law schools in American life – the most historic of American law schools, and therefore, among the most inspiring.”
Nichol underlined the importance of the Wolfs’ commitment to the project. “Hank has provided leadership at the College on the widest array of fronts,” he said. “I know one of the ways he was particularly anxious to provide leadership to the Law School was with this gift and the example that it sets, the inspiration that it engendered. It has unfolded exactly in the way that Hank thought it would.” In the couple’s honor, he added, many friends from Norfolk Southern contributed to a remarkable donation to the law library which is acknowledged on a plaque in its lobby. “The marriage of the Wolf name and this remarkable facility,” he said, “is one of character, and commitment, and contribution.”
Wolf Law Library Director Jim Heller began his remarks by quoting Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young: “It’s been a long time coming.”
Heller offered enthusiastic thanks to the project’s architects -- Hayes, Seay, Mattern & Mattern, and RCG, and to W.M. Jordan, the contractors. He praised the “unsung heroes” at Business Technologies and Office Movers. His thanks also went to the College’s project managers, Dave Rudloff, Ron Russell, and Steve Wasilefsky; to Dean Reveley and to Associate Dean Lizbeth Jackson; to Sally Kellam and Kathy Pond in the development office; to Professors Pete Alces and Jim Moliterno who served on the building committee; to the Law School’s Housekeeping staff and Mike Wood; and especially to the library staff, noting that Shelley Dowling, Senior Reference/Special Projects Librarian, was his “primary co-conspirator” on the project.
He acknowledged the cooperation of the students who used the library even “as jackhammers were pounding from below and the smell of tar was coming from above.” Dean Reveley said later that the Class of 2007 deserved special thanks as they graduated too soon to enjoy the new library, but had suffered through the hardships of its construction. “I thanked them at graduation and hailed them as the ‘Construction Class’,” he said, “I thank them again now.”
“We hope you like what we built for you,” Heller said, playfully eyeing the students in the audience, “and, please keep your feet off the couches.”
As testimony to the Wolf Law Library’s attainments, Heller read excerpts from comments he has received from other law library directors. Among them:
"You have made me extremely jealous. This is absolutely beautiful and it looks like an amazing amount of thoughtful preparation and work went into it."
"I marvel at the aesthetic vision provided in your new library space. It is a facility of marvelous spaces. Well done!"
"The new library is beautiful and functional - perhaps the best use of natural lighting that I've ever seen in a library."
Heller closed with a quote from a friend who is the director of Bodleian Law Library in Oxford. "What a marvelous transformation,” the director wrote, “this is just wonderful to see."
Sarah Fulton ’08, president of the Student Bar Association, expressed the gratitude of the student body. It was especially meaningful for her and her third-year classmates, she said, as construction began and was completed during their law school years. She joked that a “younger version” of herself would be surprised at how excited she was at the prospect of a new library. “But,” she joked, “law school definitely changes you.” She added, “I now know the true benefit that this building has brought to my education and the education of those who will follow me.”
In his remarks, Hank Wolf said that his wife needed to be given the greater share of credit for the family’s gift. “Dixie taught me a very, very important lesson in life … that there is great joy in giving. That is something that I didn’t really understand as a young man but with the help of my wife over the years I’ve learned that lesson.”
“The one thought that I would like to leave with everyone is that the foundation of our lives was really laid here, at the oldest law school in America,” he said. “We were able to walk a path that someone else had cleared for us … To the extent that we are able to do something to make someone else’s life a little bit better or a little bit easier is an important thing to do. I hope in the years ahead – particularly for the young people here who are going to have the opportunity to enjoy this library – that you will also have an opportunity to do something to make someone else’s life a little easier. I hope you will seize that opportunity because it is really a joy and a blessing.”