For over sixty years (1903 to 1965), the Gantenbein family left its imprint on Lewis & Clark Law School as students, professors, registrar, dean, trustee, and proprietors. They propelled the school in burgeoning years and rescued it in waning times.
Until 1915, the law school was known as the University of Oregon School of Law. In that year, the University decided to move the school to its Eugene campus. The faculty and students elected to stay in Portland, independent of the University, trusting in the leadership of Calvin Gantenbein to lead the school through its loss of University sponsorship. James Gantenbein, Calvin’s elder son, got the school back on its feet after the death of his father and the call of World War I had depleted enrollment. John Flint Gantenbein (Calvin’s younger son) kept the school afloat when World War II closed the books and emptied the classrooms. The Gantenbeins were there for the school when pressure for change was launched at various times from the bench or the bar through the roar of the 1920’s and the panic of the 1930’s. In times of crisis, they were redeemers; in times of opportunity, liberators; for service, they were deliverers. In nurturing and reviving the hopes of those who sought legal careers, the Gantenbeins enriched their study by the value of their devotion. Their gifts, standards and guidance were critical foundations for the law and lawyers in Oregon and for our law school’s development.
The study of law is a demanding intellectual pursuit. By their example, the Gantenbeins showed us that to live the life of the law fully, lawyers must join their hearts with their minds. Dean John Gantenbein was passionate not just about the law but about enabling his students to become great lawyers. Dean Gantenbein frequently made informal loans to students, asking only that they “pay me when you can”, and he made numerous personal sacrifices to keep the law school alive in its early years. Gantenbein’s faith was amply repaid. Over the years, for example, a majority of the Oregon judicial bench have graduated from his law school. In honor of the Gantenbeins’ commitment, the Gantenbein Society was formed. “Dean Gantenbein’s life of service inspired the Gantenbein Scholarships, which seek to foster dedication to compassion, kindness, and fulfillment of dreams,” said Carr Ferguson, Lewis & Clark Life Trustee and founding member of the Gantenbein Society.
The Gantenbein Society is composed of loyal alumni and friends who give back by helping fund scholarships for incoming students. This scholarship is granted to a select number of entering students each year who have a strong academic record, a demonstrated background of leadership, and have shown a commitment to good citizenship and giving back to their communities. Recipients of this distinctive scholarship are also recognized as Gantenbein Fellows who, during their time as students at Lewis & Clark, are introduced to Gantenbein Society members so that they may benefit from the members’ insight, mentorship, and guidance. The recipients of this scholarship are expected to carry the scholarship’s legacy of good citizenship in the law and community into their legal careers long after they graduate. Each recipient receives a scholarship of $5,000 toward the cost of their law school tuition.