Investiture of Dean Anthony E. Varona as the M. Minnette Massey Chair

BY:  
CREATED:  

President Julio Frenk; Chair of the Board of Trustees, Hilarie Bass, J.D. '81; Dean Anthony E. Varona; H.T. Smith, J.D. '73; Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost, Jeffrey Duerk

President Julio Frenk; Chair of the Board of Trustees, Hilarie Bass, J.D. '81; Dean Anthony E. Varona; Board of Trustees member H.T. Smith, J.D. '73; Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost, Jeffrey Duerk

The thread of diversity and inclusion wove through last night's investiture at the Newman Alumni Center of Miami Law Dean Anthony E. Varona as the M. Minnette Massey Chair.

The Massey Chair was established to honor the late, former acting dean who was one of the “First Wave,” the fourteen woman pioneers who elbowed their way into the male-dominated world of American law school professors in the 1950s. Massey was the second woman in the country to serve as dean of a law school.

Board of Trustees member H.T. Smith, J.D. '73, was among the first Black law students to attend Miami Law and at the investiture, connected his mentor, Massey, to the future journey of the law school.

"You are, sir, heir to a great legacy," Smith told Varona. "Please honor Minnette's legacy by continuing to be a champion for true equality and a leader who cherishes excellence."

Chair of the Board of Trustees, Hilarie Bass, J.D. '81, spoke of the women of Massey's generation who paved the road that led to many of Bass's successes: the first woman to lead an international law firm and a past president of the American Bar Association.

"Dean Varona, we are here to support you," Bass said. "We are so excited to help you implement your vision and we are thrilled that you are a member of our University of Miami Law School community."

When the Cuban-born Varona took to the podium, he congratulated the University on the legions of women in leadership positions today and connected it back to Massey's legacy.

"Minnette Massey's legendary trailblazing and the values that she held so dear and started rooting in the Miami Law soil over five decades ago are in full bloom and bearing fruit today at Miami Law in ways that I am sure would make Dean Massey very proud," he said before announcing that he and his husband, John Gill, pledged $100,000 to support student scholarships and faculty development.

He ended by pledging to "work as hard as I possibly can to do justice to Minnette's memory in partnership with all of you to build upon her extraordinary legacy. Thanks to everyone in this room, Miami Law's future is a bright one. So, I say, Adelante! And thank you."

Varona is Miami Law’s 12th dean and joins the law school after a storied career at American University Washington College of Law, where he established his place as a groundbreaker in the fields of media and sexuality law. At AU Law, he served as faculty advisor to the Latino/a Law Students Association, and the Lambda Law Society.

He previously served two years as vice dean at AU Law and was associate dean for faculty and academic affairs for six years.

The Boston College, Boston College Law School, and Georgetown University Law Center grad spent nearly five years as chief counsel and then general counsel and legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization. Varona has served on the national boards of directors of HRC and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and currently serves on the board of the Stonewall National Museum and Archives.

Massey, who served a half-century on the faculty, was an early adopter of diversity, and the undisputed queen of civil procedure. She first arrived at the University of Miami in 1944 as a freshman, class of 1948. She graduated from Miami Law in 1951, and joined the faculty in 1958, while simultaneously earning an LL.M. as a Kenison Fellow at New York University.

Massey began teaching legal research as an assistant law librarian, but rapidly asserted her dominance in the machinations of Florida civil procedure.

She ascended to assistant dean, then first woman dean from 1962 - 1965, all the while imprinting armies of young lawyers as masters of the intricacies of litigation and the rightful leaders of their profession. She was a force to behold and used her powers to lead the law school into the integration of both the faculty and student body.

The Massey Chair was established through the generosity of a consortium of Miami Law alumni and friends, and by a lead gift from the late Lawrence B. Rodgers, J.D. ’67. The first chair holder was constitutional law scholar Professor Charlton Copeland.

The occasion marked the first Dean of the School of Law to hold the endowed chair.

President Frenk closed by calling Varona "a shining example of the value that Professor Massey held so dearly."