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(1940-1956) Dean C. Gerald Brophy

C. Gerald BrophyThe search for a dean began and ended at home with the appointment of C. Gerald Brophy. A 1923 Duquesne Law graduate, Brophy had been teaching social science in the university’s College of Liberal arts since 1929. Brophy was reluctant to lead the Law School, and consented only on the condition that he would serve a single six-year term. Six turned to 16—he remained in the position until he died of a heart ailment in 1956.

As america plunged into World War II, enrollment at Duquesne and in law schools nationwide plummeted. Many schools were forced to suspend operations for the duration of the hostilities, but under Brophy’s steady leadership, Duquesne Law stayed open without interruption.

Brophy seized upon the reduced level of activity as an opportunity to modernize the school’s curriculum. Among other changes, he instituted an innovative cooperative work program with the Allegheny County Register of Wills Office. Students working in the department gained exposure to practical aspects of the legal profession. Brophy’s initiative expanded on a philosophy first expressed at Duquesne by Dean Swearingen and laid the groundwork for the extensive clinical legal education programs offered today. 

Brophy’s tenure was also highlighted by the launch of the school’s first alumni association. The names on the organizing committee roster read like a “Who’s Who” of distinguished graduates, including Judges Samuel A. Weiss, A’24, L’27; Henry X. O’Brien, B’25, L’28; and Hugh C. Boyle, L’28; and local attorneys Walter J. Blenko, L’24; Edward C. Boyle, L’28; Edward I. Goldberg, L’31; James P. McArdle, L’31; T. Robert Brennan, B’31, L’34; Bernard Hampsey, L’35; and Francis A. Devlin, L’51.

More than 350 alumni attended the association’s first annual dinner on June 4, 1952. 

As he was modernizing the curriculum, Brophy was also planting the seeds for new facilities. A hint of plans to replace the Fitzsimons Building with an on-campus home was dropped during the first Reunion Dinner in 1952, but Brophy would not live to see his vision realized, for it took more than five years for the university to acquire all 34 parcels of land needed for construction.

While postwar undergraduate enrollment surged, the Law School merely treaded water, though even that was considered success after a crippling depression and a global war. When Dean Brophy died, total enrollment stood at 91, just three students more than at the time of Dean Laughlin’s passing in 1939. Still, Brophy had set the stage for an era of remarkable growth.