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Class Notes

MILESTONESHonoring a Defining Leader
clinton‘A MAN OF CONSEQUENCE’: Clinton is celebrated at his retirement gala at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City.

In the fall of 2015, a cover story in Penn Law Journal, the magazine of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, announced “The Close of the Clinton Era.”

As anyone around the school would know, they were, of course, talking about Gary Clinton ’73, the dean of students, who was on the cusp of retirement after 25 years in the role and 40 years of work at the school. Elite law schools are not often known as sites of copious warmth and affection, but the Journal couldn’t help but run “a valedictory valentine to a man of consequence.”

One alumnus recalled Clinton’s advice, at a critical moment, “to never forget the reasons why I chose law and justice.” Another recalled his dogged pursuit of a space for private prayer for Muslim students. Yet another told of Clinton’s counsel as he was constructing a new identity as an openly gay man—and how Clinton and his husband, Don Millinger ’76, together a regular presence at law school events, became friends and role models for how to approach life as part of a married couple.

A community spirit is what Clinton brought to the school, many students and faculty say. Among the tools he brought to his job were a master’s degree in divinity, as well as natural gifts of insight and empathy, according to his admirers. He oversaw a notable expansion in the numbers of student organizations, part of a concerted effort to encourage more face-to-face interaction among students in the digital age.

During his tenure, the school maintained, and even slightly improved, its place among the nation’s top 10 law schools, according to several rankings. A welcoming environment, it turns out, is not only compatible with rigorous professional training, but also part of what defines it. As Clinton sees it, participation in a rich community life is an important part of a lawyer’s education.

“For many students, this is where they begin the process of becoming professionals,” he told a school publication in 2010. “As opposed to simply taking classes and then going into the world, they learn how to build relationships with colleagues, how to engage in civil discourse even with those they diametrically oppose. At the end of the day, that’s really what being a lawyer is about.”

—Karen McCally ’02 (PhD)