With Kagan at Helm, Law School Celebrates

Dean tears up amid “I (Heart) EK” shirts donned by law students

Unnamed photo
Eric A. Reavis

Law School Dean Elena Kagan, right, shares a laugh with students and faculty at a celebration in her honor yesterday in Harkness Commons.

Facing a sea of “I (Heart) EK” shirts and maroon and gold balloons, Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan began tearing up.

She had learned just a few days ago that she would not be selected to be the 28th president of the University, and she was now addressing a throng of Law School students and faculty who organized a party in her honor.

“Sometimes, you win by losing,” she said, her voice beginning to break off slightly. “All of you have made me feel like a real winner today. This really is a great place.”

Shortly after learning that Radcliffe Institute Dean Drew Gilpin Faust—not Kagan—had been named over the weekend to lead the University, a group of Law School students decided to organize a celebration to show their enthusiasm for Kagan’s continued deanship, according to Andrew M. Woods, a second-year law student.

Sporting maroon shirts emblazoned with “Keeping the Kag; They’ll Never Know What They’re Missing” and sipping glasses of red wine, several hundred students showed up to the second floor of Harkness Commons to demonstrate their support and appreciation for Kagan.

“We’re just absolutely impressed with everything she’s done, and we’re thrilled that we get to keep her,” said third-year student Kevin M. Lovecchio, who helped organize the event.

Kagan expressed her commitment to continue to improve the Law School and the quality of student life on campus.

“It has been an honor beyond belief to lead and serve this community,” she said. “We really do have our most exciting years ahead of us. I think the best is yet to come.”

While Kagan had been informed earlier of the celebration, she said she was still moved by the number of students in attendance.

“It’s overwhelming,” a grinning Kagan said in an interview after she addressed the crowd. “I love these students. This is my family.”

A pair of ice skates and a large thermos filled with hot coffee—references to the ice skating rink and free coffee initiatives implemented by Kagan since she took over in 2003—sat on top of a small table.

Law School Dean of Students Ellen M. Cosgrove said the generosity Kagan demonstrated to students was part of the reason why so many students showed up.

“I think she gets what it is like to be a student,” said Cosgrove. “She’s the person who said we have to improve the buildings that the students are in.”

Byrne Professor of Administrative Law Todd D. Rakoff ’67 said that nothing like yesterday’s celebration had happened since he became a member of the faculty in 1979.

“My guess is that this is unprecedented in the history of Harvard University,” said Rakoff. “I was an undergraduate in the 1960s, and I didn’t see anything like this either.”

—Staff writer Kevin Zhou can be reached at