Feature Stories 2023: Ten years of pursing justice

UMass Officials posing
Feature Stories 2023: Ten years of pursing justice
Ten years of pursing justice

The newly renovated Arc of Justice Atrium at UMass Dartmouth's School of Law honors Chancellor Emerita Jean MacCormack, the late Margaret “MarDee” Xifaras, MBA ’78, and all those who worked to create an excellent, inclusive, and affordable public law school.

UMass Dartmouth's School of Law, known affectionately as UMass Law, marked a decade of success with the unveiling of the inspiring Arc of Justice Atrium featuring commissioned art pieces that showcase the history and potential of the commonwealth’s only public law school. Today, UMass Law celebrates its ranking as third in the nation among nearly 200 ABA-accredited law schools for enrollment growth, and second among all fifteen law schools in New England for the percentage of students entering public service.

As the central gathering place at the Law School, the Arc of Justice Atrium consists of several art pieces by UMass Dartmouth MFA graduates in addition to three pieces completed by Mattapoisett artist John Magnan, MFA ’99. Magnan created the art installations to inspire and convey a call to action by all those who visit UMass Law.

The artwork and renovation of the atrium were made possible through the generosity of Chancellor Emerita Jean MacCormack. MacCormack led UMass Dartmouth during the establishment of UMass Law and was a champion for the school as the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education voted to approve the merger with Southern New England School of Law in 2010.

“John Magnan’s Arc of Justice Installation captures so well the vision so many of us had in working to establish an excellent, inclusive, affordable public law school at UMass Dartmouth. I am so proud of all that UMass Law has accomplished and honored that this remarkable space is dedicated to my good friend MarDee Xifaras and myself and all our partners,” said MacCormack. “I hope it inspires all the students, faculty, and staff at UMass Law, and everyone who enters the space to be leaders in pursuing justice.”

The event celebrated the late MarDee Xifaras, a New Bedford lawyer and community activist, who served on the UMass Board of Trustees and was a fierce advocate for the establishment of UMass Law. Xifaras's 2019 obituary listed the “establishment of the UMass Law School in Dartmouth as her greatest public accomplishment.”

“Our family is honored that the atrium at UMass Law is being dedicated to my mother and Jean MacCormack for their and other’s commitment to an accessible, affordable, public law school,” said Dena Xifaras, daughter of MarDee Xifaras.

“Without MarDee Xifaras's passionate and tireless efforts, there would not have been a Southern New England School of Law to become UMass Law. And without Jean MacCormack's powerful and compelling vision, we would not have become the first public law school in the over 240-year history of the Commonwealth,” said UMass Law Dean Eric Mitnick. “UMass

Law, always, will continue to be inspired by their partnership and strive to fulfill the commitment they shared to improving people’s lives and expanding access to justice."