On Thursday, Sept. 22, WMU-Cooley Law School faculty, students, alumni, and community members celebrated the 10th anniversary of the law school’s Tampa Bay campus, as well as the 50th anniversary of the law school being chartered.
Distinguished individuals present during the event included WMU-Cooley President and Dean James McGrath, The Hon. Ronald Ficarrotta, chief judge of the State of Florida 13th Judicial Circuit; WMU-Cooley Board Chair The Hon. Louise Alderson, WMU-Cooley Board member Mustafa Ameen, WMU-Cooley Student Bar Association President Alberto Gonzalez, and WMU-Cooley Alumni Association Secretary Robert Johnson. The program culminated with the reading of a proclamation from City of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor followed by a champagne toast.
“Every family, every culture, and every faith have traditions of celebrating what they deem as the key moments in an individual’s, a family’s, or a community’s life,” said McGrath. “The same is true for institutions and organizations. Today is certainly one of those occasions that demands our attention and a celebration. This will be the only time we can celebrate the 10th anniversary of this campus and the 50th anniversary of our law school.”
Pictured: WMU-Cooley Board Member Mustafa Ameen
During his presentation, McGrath spoke about the law school’s commitment to the Tampa Bay community.
“Each year, faculty, staff, and students from the Tampa Bay campus provides hundreds of hours of pro bono and volunteer service hours in the community, equaling well over 3,000 hours of service throughout the past 10 years,” said McGrath. “We have collaborated with the Hillsborough County Bar Association and its Young Lawyers Division, the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers, the Tampa Hispanic Bar Association, the George Edgecomb Bar Association, and numerous other legal and community service organizations in Tampa and south Florida as partners in advancing social justice and in ensuring all those in our community have access to legal representation.”
During the celebration, Gonzalez shared with the audience that he was drawn to WMU-Cooley’s accelerated program enabling him to graduate in less than three years.
“What I found here has helped me achieve many great accomplishments,” said Gonzalez, who is expected to graduate in December. “And the gifts granted by Cooley are those that are not easily given. Commitment, Camaraderie, Compassion. Cooley commits to and invests in all their students, the number of resources that the school offers can lead any student to be successful. As the voice for the student body, I know that I am speaking for everyone when I say, ‘thank you Cooley,’ for bringing a campus to the Tampa area 10 years ago, and allowing us to be where we now are.”
Ameen, who began his legal career at the State Attorney's Office before opening his own law firm, has served as adjunct faculty member at the law school’s Tampa Bay campus since 2013. During the celebration, he reflected on the dedication of the school’s board members throughout the past 50 years.
“At every juncture and critical decision-making moment along the way, one thing has remained constant among successive generations of board members – expanding access to legal education,” said Ameen. “That is why this Tampa Bay campus exists. The desire to expand access to legal education in the state of Florida and especially to those who call the communities in south Florida their home. We recognize and applaud all those who have worked together to achieve the vision of access to legal education.”
During Ficcarotta’s comments he shared that he is proud of the work WMU-Cooley Law School has accomplished in Hillsborough County and proud that local judges continue to be a part of Cooley through teaching, which is valuable for both the judges and the law school’s students.
“I congratulate Cooley Law School on this 10th anniversary,” said Ficcarotta. “Cooley has been a remarkable and valuable partner for the local legal community. I have seen first hand the quality of students that graduate. The faculty and staff are to be commended for the work you do in educating and preparing your students for the legal profession in the real world.”
Following the presentations and the reading of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s proclamation, Alderson, who serves as chair of the law school’s board and is a retired chief of judge of Michigan’s 54A District Court, joined McGrath and Ameen in presenting a champagne toast.