CU Phi Delta Phi Inn Celebrates Centennial 2/6/19 02/06/19 11:32:34 AM
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CU Phi Delta Phi Inn
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
The Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society chapter of Creighton School of Law is celebrating its centennial this year with a series of guest speakers and an alumni reunion and banquet later this year. It is the oldest student organization at the law school and one of the oldest on campus.
The 100th anniversary coincides with the 115th anniversary of Creighton School of Law, which will also have its own events scheduled.
At 150 years old, the Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society (PDP) is the oldest legal organization
in continuous existence in the United States, pre-dating even the American Bar Association.
Founded in 1869 at the University of Michigan School of Law by four law students at the urging of their faculty, they endeavored to create an association that would foster “scholarship, civility, and ethical conduct” in the legal profession.
Christopher McMahon, a part-time law student at Creighton, is the school chapter’s president.
Assistant Professor Carol Knoepfler, is the chapter’s faculty advisor.
The festivities get underway today with Governor Pete Ricketts speaking at noon in the law school’s room 124.
“He’ll be addressing topics of concern for our law students – judicial appointments, lawmaking, employment opportunities for Nebraska attorneys, etc.,” McMahon said. “The event is open to all Creighton students, not just law students or Phi Delta Phi members.”
Other speakers scheduled include Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson in March, and Nebraska Supreme Court Justice Stephanie Stacy in April.
Since its founding, Phi Delta Phi has grown to establish chapters in Canada, Europe and Latin America. It has 131 active chapters – called Inns and Halls – and the number increases yearly.
According to its website, the society celebrates “academic excellence and embraces the finest attributes of professionalism and scholarship.
“I am looking forward to Judge L. Steven Grasz, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, speaking next October as the lead speaker for the new school year,” McMahon said. “We also expect representatives from the national Inn to attend our alumni banquet.
"And retired Professor Dick Shugrue, for whom the local chapter’s honor scholarship is named, has graciously agreed to attend our reunion.
“I’ll be working with Dean Kelly to plan an alumni reunion and banquet, scheduled sometime this October. We will be welcoming many former members back to campus and that should be an exciting event."
In addition to the local scholarship, the chapter’s national branch offers a national scholarship,
whose newest recipient in McMahon.
“I just found out that the national chapter has awarded me with our national honor scholarship, not only a tremendous honor but also a wonderful financial aid for myself and my family,” McMahon said. “I am very proud to be a part of this venerable institution, both nationally as well as at Creighton. I have personally spoken to past PDP leaders at Creighton and they have shared stories of the generosity that their members exhibited toward the Creighton campus, the law school and the community.
“It has been my privilege to play a small part in the story of our chapter, and I very much look forward to meeting more members emeritus when we have our 100th anniversary gala next October.”
Since its founding, Phi Delta Phi has emphasized to students and lawyers alike the importance of its calling, the organization asserts.
In the somewhat quaint language of a century and a half ago, the organization’s website expands on its purpose: “Our active membership is drawn from those students of the law who not only have shown themselves companionable, but have manifested ability and industry in legal study. Integrity, service and excellence in all facets of human experience are considered factors for membership.
“In the words of our Phi Delta Phi forefathers, we intend that those so selected shall lead the legal profession. Once accepted, a member of Phi Delta Phi will be recognized as one whose moral compass, academic ability, and personal integrity is beyond reproach. In other words, membership is a mark of distinction.”
The total initiated membership of Phi Delta Phi exceeds 200,000. More judges, American presidents, senators, representatives, cabinet members, ambassadors, American Bar Association presidents,
Association of American Law School presidents and law school deans have come from the ranks of Phi Delta Phi than from any other legal society.
Those who have been initiated into Phi Delta Phi include: U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and William H. Taft; members of the U.S. Supreme Court Hugo Black, William J. Brennan, Anthony M. Kennedy, Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O’Connor, William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens, Earl Warren and Byron R. White.
“PDP is a natural fit for Creighton University School of Law and for our students, in that PDP, like Creighton, encourages successful scholarship and community service,” Knoepfler said. “PDP encourages students in their studies by offering scholarships … to students who excel in their studies. PDP encourages service by considering students’ community involvement in the awarding of scholarships and by making service to others an aspect of each Inn’s obligations. So students who join PDP are participating in the law school’s mission as well.”
McMahon shared some of the activities of Creighton’s Inn, which accepts applicants from the top third of their class.
“We have an enduring award that is given out each year to the member who contributes to the law school, the chapter and the community. We hold an annual charity auction and this year I am pleased to announce that the proceeds will go to benefit VLSN.org, a non-profit that provides free legal service to veterans in need. VLSN.org was founded by Creighton law grad and adjunct professor Mick Wagoner. He also allows law students to perform pro bono work for his organization. Several members, myself included, have done this and it has been very rewarding.”
Recent Creighton law graduate and Phi Delta Phi member Cory R. Wilson, now at Erickson|Sederstrom law firm, said PDP made a huge impact on his world view.
“While in law school, I was exposed to the idea that there is no force in existence more powerful than incremental change,” he said. “This simple truth became more evident than ever to me after I was asked to join Phi Delta Phi at Creighton University.
“Phi Delta Phi’s success over the past century is no doubt a result of the incremental changes it has made for the better of the legal field and society as a whole by incrementally adopting one law student at a time and commissioning him or her with the duty stewarding
that mission. I am better for having joined Phi Delta Phi in law school, and I am hopeful that despite all of the animus in our society, Phi Delta Phis will continue lead the charge for a legal field that is civil, ethical, and rooted in scholarship.”