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Photo of Hugh Robson, son of H.A. Robson, for whom the school is named, during the opening of Robson Hall, September 15, 1969. Photo courtesy of University of Manitoba Archives.

100 Years, 100 Reasons to Celebrate

Robson Hall, Faculty of Law turns 100 this year

August 20, 2014 — 

One hundred years is certainly something to celebrate, and the Faculty of Law is doing just that through a unique project connecting students from the past and present.

The project, entitled 100 Letters, 100 Years, paired alumni with first year law students and then had them write letters to each other, giving students the chance to ask alumni everything from advice on their future careers to what things were like at law school many years ago.

Approximately 100 students sent letters this past February, and received replies by March.

Sun Im Chung, wrote to Reeh ‘Ray’ Taylor, of Taylor McCaffrey about how she hoped to be an advocate for justice when she graduates. The letter she got back from Taylor [LLB/51] included information about his time at law school, more than 60 years ago—when the Faculty of Law was operated by the Law Society of Manitoba. Back then, he told her, the faculty consisted of only two members.

“Mr. Taylor was exceptionally funny,” says Chung.

Taylor also advised Chung to focus on worthy causes.

“Not to chase after money or fame, but to do something you’re really passionate about in areas of law,” says Chung. “I really loved that letter; I kept it.”

Other students received advice on the value of the field of work they are entering; on the importance of keeping an open mind; that it can be a struggle to find work-life balance; and that it is important to maintain integrity and compassion.

“I think the students liked hearing the stories, having their eyes opened to the many different ways that careers unfold,” says Dean Lorna Turnbull. “The alumni were offering advice, sharing stories of similar feelings or laughing about some of the same professors that are still here. There was a real personal aspect to it that I think helped the idea of building a bridge between the centuries, those human bridges that make the difference.”

The 100 Letters, 100 Years project concluded in early April with a reception at Robson Hall that gave first year students and their mentors a chance to meet; although the centennial festivities are far from being over.

The Faculty of Law has planned a number of special events to honour their milestone; including a networking event, an ethics symposium, and a gala and dance.

During Homecoming (September 15-21), Robson Hall has scheduled a professional development and networking evening for alumni on September 18. The event will feature guest speaker Sherri Walsh, LL.B., a lawyer known for her work in Winnipeg resolving respectful workplace issues.

On October 17, an Ethics and Professionalism Symposium at the Inn at the Forks will bring in panelists to engage in discussion on what to do when a client engages in dishonest, fraudulent or illegal behavior. The faculty is excited to have Edgar Schmidt [LLB/82], Roberta Campbell [LLB/94], James E. McLandress [LLB/88] and The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair [LLB/79, LLD/02] take on the role of panelists to lead the ethically-charged talks.

Lastly, on October 18, the celebrations will wrap up with a Centennial Gala Dinner and Dance Celebration at the Met theatre. At this red carpet event guests will be treated to the premiere of “Robson Hall: The Movie,” along with entertainment by the Danny Kramer Dance Band, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and the University Singers; and a special address by The Honourable Justice Marshall Rothstein [LLB/66, LLD/10] of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Online, the faculty has launched an interactive historical timelineshowcasing the changes and significant historical achievements of the past century. From its inception as the Manitoba Law School through to becoming Robson Hall, Faculty of Law, the site explores approximately 100 people, events and reasons to celebrate.

Here is a sampling of just some of the interesting facts you can find online:

  • Forty-four Robson Hall alumni have been appointed to the Order of Canada, and 11 Robson Hall alumni have been named to the Order of Manitoba.
  • In 1916, Isabel Maclean Hunt became the first woman in Manitoba to receive a law degree. She was also the first woman in Manitoba to be named Queen’s Council in 1953.
  • The 1919 influenza epidemic forced the Manitoba Law School to close at the start of the academic year, although a mail-in course program was established to keep the school going.
  • The 1000th student graduated in 1959.
  • In September 1969 the Faculty of Law opened its new building on the Fort Garry Campus, named Robson Hall after the founder of the Manitoba Law School.
  • Marion Ironquill Meadmore graduated from the Faculty of Law in 1977, and became the first Indigenous woman to receive her law degree and be called to the bar in Canada.
  • Gender parity in the faculty was first reached in the 1990-91 academic year.
  • In 2012 the Centre for Human Rights was established with Professor Karen Busby, LL.B./81, as its founding academic director.

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