Lecture series designed for law

by Laura Miller

A new lecture series will soon become an annual occurrence at Transylvania University, joining the ranks of the William R. Kenan and the Creative Intelligence lecture series.

The Harlan Lecture Series is the brainchild of President Owen Williams. Harlan, an 1852 graduate of Transylvania’s law program, was one of the historical figures Williams concentrated on in his dissertation.

The series, sponsored by McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie and Kirkland PLLC, is named for the reputable U.S. Supreme Court justice who served from 1877 to 1911 and will center on legal history and constitutional law issues, two of Williams’ fields of interest.

“John Marshall Harlan is one of my heroes,” Williams said.

Williams noted that the admiration he had for Harlan before coming to Transylvania has continued to grow since becoming president of this institution, which is so connected to Harlan in history.

Once the concept for the series was established, Williams’ next step was securing funding.

Throughout this year, Mark Blankenship, vice president for alumni and development, arranged lunches for Williams with members of the board of trustees. McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie and Kirkland PLLC’s sponsorship of the developing lecture series resulted from one such lunch meeting between Williams and trustee James Frazier.

According to Williams, after hearing of the plans for the lectures, Frazier, a Transylvania alumnus and the managing member of the firm, said Transylvania would need to go no farther to find a sponsor for the series.

“(The firm was) very quick to come on board as a sponsor and at a very generous level,” said Williams.

Frazier’s firm was the first Williams approached about a sponsorship.

“We were really lucky to find somebody willing to underwrite (the series) that quickly,” said Blankenship. “Usually what it takes is a period of time after talking to multiple donors.”

Blankenship followed up with the firm after the initial discussion between Williams and Frazier and secured a commitment to fund the first year of lectures.

“Many law firms would be very excited to have their names associated with this series,” said Williams.

“McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie and Kirkland PLLC is honored to partner with Transylvania University for the inaugural John Marshall Harlan Lecture Series,” said Frazier. “We believe that the Lexington community and surrounding areas will benefit immensely from the lecture series presented by some of the country’s brightest constitutional law historians, authors and scholars.”

Frazier described the firm’s donation as “a small token of appreciation for the influence Transylvania continues to have on the Lexington community and its students.”

Largely because of the lecture series’s connection to Harlan, Williams believes many scholars are and will continue to be interested in participating in the series.

“People will want to be part of this series,” said Williams.

Williams himself made the arrangements for next year’s two lecturers: legal historian William Wiecek and constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar.

Wiecek, a visiting professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law from Syracuse University, will give the first Harlan Lecture on Sept. 28. Among his other accomplishments, Wiecek has published many articles and books about a number of U.S. Supreme Court justices, including Harlan.

Amar will present next winter term. A Yale University and Yale Law School professor of constitutional law, Williams described him as a “wonderful, electric speaker.” He most recently published “America’s Constitution: A Biography” in 2005.

Excitement is already building on campus for the lectures, especially because of the historical ties.

“This is one more way to get scholarly discussions flowing on campus,” said Deana Ison, executive assistant to the president.

At the same time, she added, the series will serve to increase “institutional pride” as it “highlights our history and brings it into the future” through combining the honoring of one of Transylvania’s most notable alumni with the advancing of our newly inaugurated president’s particular interests.

The John Marshall Harlan Lecture Series will be a “great opportunity for us to showcase the legacy of Transylvania,” said Williams. The lectures will be free and open to the public.


One Response to Lecture series designed for law

  1. Pingback: New lecture series shows promise « The Rambler

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