During my eight years as dean of the School of Law, I have frequently received compliments from university trustees and our president, Father Dennis Dease, about our enormous progress and many achievements. Trustees congratulate my colleagues and me, not only for building an academically excellent law school, but also for establishing a law school with a distinctive mission. In May 1999, when the trustees voted to launch a new law school, they did so with the strategy of developing a program, not only with national aspirations, but with a strong Catholic identity.
What a great experiment this has been! As the School of Law has matured over the years, so has our understanding of our mission – of the integration of faith and reason in the search for truth with a focus on morality and social justice. The concept of “integration” calls to mind an image of the whole or centered person, the authentic individual – what God desires for each of us. The “search for truth,” we have come to understand, conveys that our formation as authentic individuals is a journey and a lifelong process. We are never fully formed as children of God. In our professional lives, for example, we should always be striving as law students and legal professionals to become the ideal lawyer – the servant leader who leads her community by serving others. Finally, the terms “morality and social justice” imply that we are called to serve others with integrity and for the common good. In words more elegant than I can express, Pope Benedict XVI has described the ideal Catholic university – and consequently the ideal Catholic law school – as a community where “the one who seeks the truth becomes the one who lives by faith,” an academic community where faculty and staff encourage the student to pursue the lifelong journey of the “move from ‘I’ to ‘we,’ leading the individual to be numbered among God’s people.”
I am delighted that this issue of St. Thomas Lawyer is centered on one of our signature programs, the mentor externship. Like every other core feature of this law school, the mentor externship has evolved and matured over the years from the initial insight of associate dean (now federal district judge) Patrick J. Schiltz to the capable and caring leadership of our mentor director Dave Bateson. The mentor externship has developed into a cornerstone of our commitment to help students continue to ask and answer the big questions about their professional and personal lives, and also to introduce them to the skills, habits, tools and ideals of the outstanding professional. The feature article on mentoring in this issue modestly describes our program as a nationally recognized leader among mentorship programs. That’s not quite right: I have no doubt, in my rightful role as proud dean, that we are the model mentoring program – the very best in the country.
We are grateful to our former and present colleagues who have developed and led this program: Judge Schiltz, Lisa Brabbit, Dave Bateson and Professor Neil Hamilton – who has mentored hundreds of outstanding lawyers in this community over 30 years and has shared his unique perspective on ethical formation. Special thanks to Dave Bateson and his assistant Erick Stubbs, who together nurture more than 450 relationships and almost 1,000 individuals.
But we are most grateful to the real stars of the mentor externship – our mentors – the hundreds of lawyers and judges in this community who have dedicated many hours to our students and the School of Law. These excellent men and women are working in tangible ways to pass on to the next generation lessons about professionalism, leadership and service. They have shared their practical experience and wisdom with their protégées. These community leaders have modeled excellent behavior through their selfless act of volunteering. Our mentors communicate the most important lesson to our students, future leaders of our communities. In Benedict XVI’s words, it is about “we,” not “I.”
Thomas M. MenglerDean and Ryan Chair in LawUniversity of St. Thomas School of Law