The law school kicked off Diversity Awareness Week with an event honoring an accomplished advocate of equality and law school board member, Judge Louis H. Pollak of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Following opening remarks by Dean Roger Dennis, Naomi McLaurin, the director of diversity for the Philadelphia Bar Association, spoke about the importance of diversity in the law. McLaurin specifically noted the contribution of men like Pollak to promote racial and gender diversity in a field that was once dominated almost entirely by white males. After McLaurin’s remarks, event organizer and Co-President of the law school’s Latin American Law Student Association, Tanishka Cruz, presented Pollak with the inaugural Earle Mack School of Law Diversity Award, recognizing his enormous contribution to diversity in the law.
Pollak recounted his firsthand experiences, focusing on the contributions of his former colleague, William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr., the first African American to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court law clerk. Pollak described Coleman’s role as one of the drafters of the legal brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court case finding racial segregation in schools unconstitutional.
Like Coleman, Pollak had been involved in Brown. As a young attorney, Pollak provided counsel to the NAACP, the entity that represented the plaintiffs in Brown. Pollak worked under the direction of Thurgood Marshall, then lead attorney for NAACP in Brown and, later, the first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice. By the time the NAACP submitted its brief in Brown, Pollak had moved on to the U.S. State Department. However, even as an attorney for the State Department, he stayed involved in the case, making requested revisions to the Brown brief. Having helped craft the brief which convinced the Supreme Court to end racial segregation in schools, Pollak has had a significant impact on U.S. constitutional jurisprudence, and on equality and diversity in general.
Pollak concluded his remarks by stating that the law school’s core strengths, such as its promotion of diversity, gives him great confidence that it will continue to produce attorneys that exemplify the highest ideals of the profession.