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Law School Timeline

Timeline of Major SIU Law Events, 1971 to 2023*

*Excerpted and edited from Frank G. Houdek, Celebrating the First Fifty Years of Southern Illinois University School of Law (SIU Press, 2023)

November 1971

The SIU Board of Trustees approves creating law school on Carbondale campus.

July 1972

SIU hires Hiram Lesar as founding dean of new law school.

September 4, 1973

In temporary quarters (the “Blue Barracks”), Associate Professor Edward (Ted) Kionka teaches first class in school’s history.

May 14, 1976

Members of Charter class awarded JD degree at school’s first commencement ceremony.

May 1976

Inaugural issue of Southern Illinois University Law Journal is published. Gayle Alexander (Pyatt) is editor-in-chief.

August 1978

Illinois Governor James Thompson signs bill providing almost $8 million for construction of new law building.

August 1980

American Bar Association grants full accreditation to the law school.

January 1982

Association of American Law Schools elects law school as a member.

September 18, 1982

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun delivers keynote address at dedication ceremony for new Lesar Law Building.

July 1983

Howard Eisenberg becomes new director of school’s legal clinic. He will change program’s emphasis from providing prisoners with legal services to focusing on legal needs of senior citizens.

July 1985

SIU moot court team wins national championship in ABA Appellate Advocacy Competition held in Washington, DC.

Spring 1987

Southern Illinois University Law Journal publishes first “Survey of Illinois Law.”

May 1987

Law Library celebrates addition of 250,000th volume to its collection.

April 1989

Competing against 47 teams from 34 countries in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, SIU’s team receives Dillard Award for best memorial (brief) in the world.

Fall 1989

Initial students in JD/MD dual degree program begin their first year of law school.

February 1990

SIU team wins National Environmental Law Moot Court competition against 53 teams from 36 law schools.

March 31, 1990

The first Barristers’ Ball is held at the Holiday Inn in Carbondale.

April 1991

SIU wins All Illinois Moot Court Competition held in chambers of Illinois Supreme Court in Springfield.

September 1992

Clinical program expands with creation of Alternative Dispute Resolution Clinic.

September 24, 1992

John M. Finnis, Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at Oxford University, presents inaugural Hiram H. Lesar Distinguished Lecture.

November 6-7, 1992

School of Law hosts National Health Law Moot Court Competition for the first time.

Fall 1996

School of Law hosts the first annual Professional Responsibility Day.


In partnership with city of Carbondale, School of Law establishes Domestic Violence Clinic.

September 1998

Members of the Charter Class and many others celebrate the 25th anniversary of first class taught at SIU Law with a group photograph and gala party attended by 250.

March 11, 1999

Dean Thomas Guernsey presents first Founder’s Medals to three individuals critically important in creation of the law school: SIU Board of Trustees member Ivan A. Elliott, state legislator Richard O. Hart, and founding dean Hiram H. Lesar.

May 20-21, 1999

The School of Law, School of Medicine, and Southern Illinois Healthcare co-sponsor the first annual Health Policy Institute.

September 30, 2002

SIU Law is first law school in Illinois to conduct an induction ceremony for its entering class.

October 28, 2003

Law school presents Founder’s Medal to Dr. Leo Garwin, a long-time supporter of the health law program.

August 6, 2004

The ABA presents its prestigious Gambrell Professionalism Award to SIU Law for the school’s Professional Development Workshops, inaugurated in 2002.

February 2005

Virginia Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth B. Lacy serves as first William L. Beatty Jurist in Residence.

December 19, 2005

In an investiture ceremony held in the law school courtroom, W. Eugene Basanta, a faculty member since 1980, assumes the school’s second endowed chair as the Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law.

March 2007

Mark A. Rothstein of the University of the Louisville School of Medicine is the inaugural John and Marsha Ryan Bioethicist in Residence.

July 23, 2008

The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs presents the law school with a $100,000 grant to start the Veteran’s Legal Assistance Program.

January 14-15, 2010

Professors Cindy Buys and Alice Noble-Allgire serve as co-directors of the first-ever Women in Leadership Workshop.

July 2011

The Juvenile Justice Clinic begins operation under the direction of Clinical Assistant Professor Joanna Wells.

October 25, 2013

SIU is first law school in Illinois to include pro bono service as a prerequisite for graduation.

March 26, 2014

U.S. Rep. William L. Enyart (‘79) recognizes the law school’s 40th anniversary while speaking on the U.S. House of Representatives floor, ending with the exhortation, “Go Dawgs!”

June 2020

The Illinois State Bar Association presents its Excellence in Legal Education Award to the law school’s clinical program, consisting of Civil Practice, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Justice, and Veterans Legal Assistance legal clinics.

May 2022

The law school hosts the inaugural Diversity Prelaw Summer Institute for diverse college and university students seeking information and strategies to prepare for law school.

October 13, 2022

The law school unveils a new Hall of Judges that honors, with photographs and brief inscriptions, the more than 160 SIU Law graduates who have become state or federal judges.

November 29, 2022

Governor J.B. Pritzker presents the Governor’s Engaging Aging Award to the law school’s Civil Practice/Elder Law Clinic.