Blair Fensterstock Awarded Harlan Fiske Stone Society Award by Columbia Law School

Columbia Law School celebrated the members of the Harlan Fiske Stone Society with a reception at the Morgan Library in New York City on May 3.  The Harlan Fiske Stone Society recognizes the Law School’s most generous and ardent supporters.  The reception also marked the introduction of the Harlan Fiske Stone Society Award, a newly established honor, that recognizes an individual who exemplifies leadership, volunteer service, and community engagement with the Law School, as well as leadership in annual giving.  Dean Gillian Lester presented the inaugural award to Blair for his “unstinting commitment to Columbia Law School.”  “Always with a confident smile, always asking what more he can do, Blair is the ultimate Law School citizen who dedicates his time and energy to all of us,” said Dean Lester.

In response to this award, Blair gave the following address:

Dean Lester, Faculty, Family, Friends, and Members of the Harlan Fiske Stone Society. Thank you for the fabulous introduction.

It is indeed an honor for me to have been chosen to be the inaugural recipient of the Harlan Fiske Stone Society Award.

I accept this honor as a second generation Columbia Law Alumnus. I intend it be a foundational exemplar for my daughter, a third generation Columbia Law alumna, who is already chairing her 5th reunion class, and who was just selected to be on the Board of the Columbia Law Association.

I also accept this honor as a member of the class of 1975, who had a most successful 40th reunion two years ago. I applaud our classmates, as we approach our 45th with the same appreciation and love for our alma mater that we displayed with our excellent giving record on our 40th reunion. It is always easy to look good when your team is good.

Dean Lester, you have already made a remarkable imprint on our Law School. You have invigorated our alumni, you have laid out plans for substantial betterment of our physical plant, you have focused on our diversity and attractiveness to potential applicants all over the world, you have been a magnet for the attraction of outstanding educators, and, most of all, you have listened to our voices and our ideas. You have continued the tradition of our great deans in making it an honor to be a graduate of Columbia Law School, and to give freely of our time, our effort, and our affection.

Fellow Harlan Fiske Stone Society members, today we honor you and your incredible philanthropy. We honor you in the name of Harlan Fiske Stone, as a Dean of our Law School from 1910-1923, as Attorney General of the United States in 1924, and as a Justice and then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1925-1946, when he passed away while reading his dissent from the bench in Girouard v. United States, 328 U.S. 61 (1946).

As I lay in bed the other morning, thinking about what I might say today, I thought about the walk I make every morning. I thought about the following question: what is it that binds us to Columbia Law School? As I walk by the southern gate of Trinity Church, I see, on almost a daily basis, the plaque that commemorates the founding of Columbia University there in 1754. Only yards away, I see the resting place of Alexander Hamilton. It furthers my quest to identify the answer to the age old question: what is it that binds us to Columbia Law School?

As I think about the post-Vietnam years when my classmates and I sat on metal benches outside of the classrooms at the Law School, as we ate our lunches there and discussed the pros and cons of Erie v. Tompkins and the ins and outs of constitutional law, I realize it was not the physical environment that binds us to the Law School.

As I think about our great deans who were at the law school in the early 70s through the present day, and all of the challenges to which they were entrusted. Deans Warren, Sovern, Rosenthal, Schmidt, Black, Liebman, Leebron, Schizer, and now Lester. We are indebted to your commitment to scholarship, to an evolving curriculum, and to the betterment of the Law School in every way possible.

As I think of the great educators to whom we were exposed, including Justice Ginsberg, and deceased Professors Lusky, Rosenthal, Goldschmidt, Murphy, Farnsworth, Smit, Greenberg, and others, I laud their commitment to teach us how to be lawyers, to think and act like lawyers, and to perpetuate the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

So, what is it that binds us to Columbia Law School? The ever intoxicating question that penetrates this very Harlan Fiske Stone Society? To me, the answer is fundamental and is inclusive of each and every thought I just mentioned. What binds us to Columbia Law School is OUR commitment to the perpetuation of a prominent law school education, by professors who are distinctively prominent in their specialized areas, to a commitment to be the best of the best and to work as hard as the hardest, to appreciate the slings and arrows of victory and defeat with dignity and exemplary fortitude, and most of all to attract great students and appreciate our future and fellow alumni.

What bind us to Columbia Law School is each and every one of you. Yes, you are what binds us to Columbia Law School. As I have said for many years, what makes a great athlete is competing with other great athletes. In our profession, what makes a great lawyer is working with, and against, other great lawyers – Columbia Law School graduates. For in the end, it is the competition that pushes us forward.

It is with that in mind, that I propose a toast to each of you and to Columbia Law School, a toast that it is rumored Justice Stone used on more than one occasion.

So I ask you to lift your glasses to the following toast:

The horse and mule live thirty years
And nothing know of wines and beers;
The goat and sheep at twenty die,
With never a taste of scotch or rye;
The cow drinks water by the ton,
And at eighteen is mostly done.
Without the aid of rum or gin
The dog at fifteen cashes in;
The cat in milk and water soaks,
And then at twelve years old it croaks;
The modest, sober, bone-dry hen
Lays eggs for nogs and dies at ten;
All animals are strictly dry;
They sinless live and swiftly die,
While sinful, gleeful, rum-soaked men
Survive for three score years and ten.
And some of us – a mighty few –
Stay pickled ’till we’re ninety-two.

May we all live until we are 92 and cherish our days and giving to Columbia Law School! Thank you again for this great honor. Let’s approach our reunions with eagerness to get together with our fellow classmates and to celebrate the greatest Law School in the world – Columbia Law School.


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