By Mark Reutter Law schools have been at the forefront of legal reform and social change throughout the 20th century, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in a speech last Thursday on the UI campus. Speaking at the rededication ceremony honoring the $12 million renovation and expansion of the Law Building, Ginsburg said that law professors advanced legal reform after World War I by establishing the American Law Institute, "an organization devoted to systematizing, clarifying and reforming the law." In the 1930s, Charles Hamilton Houston, dean of Howard University's Law School, trained Thurgood Marshall and other lawyers who eventually ended racial segregation through landmark court cases. Ginsburg herself was instrumental in organizing the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which was credited with breaking down gender-based discrimination. After serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington for 13 years, she was appointed to the Supreme Court last year by President Bill Clinton. "My own work in the 1970s to help secure equal rights for women and men relied on inquiries I pursued as a law teacher, ideas my law faculty colleagues helped me formulate, and endeavors of dedicated students who worked with me in litigation and on law revision projects," she said. Ginsburg received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the university during the ceremony at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. She was hooded by Deborah Jones Merritt, a former Ginsberg law clerk who is now associate dean of the law school, while another former Ginsberg law clerk, UI law professor Stephen F. Ross, read the proclamation nominating her for the degree. Afterward, Ginsburg helped UI President Stanley O. Ikenberry, Chancellor Michael Aiken, College of Law Dean Thomas M. Mengler and Kenneth R. Boyle, chairman of the university board of trustees, cut the ceremonial ribbon to rededicate the Law Building. The ribbon-cutting marked the end of a nine-year campaign to update and expand the college's physical plant. Some 50,000 square feet of space was added to the original building, and the auditorium and existing classrooms were completely remodeled. The project was a joint effort by law school alumni, who raised more than $6 million for the project, and the state of Illinois, which provided a grant of $5 million to the college. Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar attended the Krannert ceremony. In her prepared remarks, Ginsburg said that while teaching law at Rutgers Law School in 1970, students asked her to organize a seminar on women and the law. "Gathering materials for that seminar prompted me to study, think and write about the stature of women under the U.S. Constitution," she said. "That effort in turn helped arm me for the Supreme Court litigation in which I participated over the next decade." Law students here have shown similar initiative, she said. "At Illinois, students requested a course on Women and the Law. Your colleague, John Nowak, answered the call. More recently, and with equivalent public spirit, Illinois students worked with Professor Richard Kaplan to publish the nation's first journal of Elder Law, a publication that will advance the legal rights of the elderly." Ginsburg said she was pleased to follow in the footsteps of former Chief Justice Earl Warren, who participated in the dedication of the original UI Law Building in 1956. "Legal education is a shared adventure for students, teachers and alumni," she concluded. "May that adventure flourish in the facility we dedicate this afternoon."