By Brandon Breslow
Joined by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former Gov. Bob Graham and UF Law Dean Robert Jerry, alumnus Stephen N. Zack (JD 71) was honored Sept. 12 during the naming ceremony of UF Law's Stephen N. Zack Hall.
"There is nothing that I have achieved in my professional life that would have been possible without this university and without this law school," said Zack, immediate past president of the American Bar Association (ABA), at the noon ceremony.
The naming follows an $800,000 gift from Zack and his law firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, which will be matched by the Legislature to establish the $1.3 million Stephen N. Zack Law Endowment.
"He helped the legal profession in so many ways," Justice O'Connor said, "and he's doing it again with his generous gift to this law school."
The income from the dean's discretionary fund will be used to enhance academic programs — especially those involved with the education of law students in matters of legal ethics and professionalism — and to increase the diversity of the student body. The latter is a priority Zack championed during his term as ABA president and is part of the legal profession's overall goal of increasing diversity.
"He worked tirelessly to help gain equal access to justice for all segments of our society, adequately fund the judiciary, ensure a proper civic education for young students and establish a commission on Hispanic legal rights and responsibilities," Jerry said.
Zack Hall is an existing part of the UF Law campus, now bearing new lettering unveiled during the ceremony. Also in attendance were University of Florida President Bernie Machen, past ABA president (2000-2001) Martha Barnett (JD 73), Judge Rosemary Barkett (JD 70) of the 11th Circuit United States Court of Appeals and Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince.
"Without diverse students, we're not going to have diverse lawyers," Zack said. "Without diverse lawyers, we're not going to have diverse judges. And without diverse judges, the rule of law is in jeopardy."
Zack, who moved to Cuba from Detroit with his parents at two months old, came back to the United States at the age of 14 and went to high school in Miami Beach. After earning his J.D. from UF Law in 1971, he immediately began working in Washington as Senator Claude Pepper's Legislative Aide. He returned to Miami and has been active in civic and philanthropic organizations. He was the youngest person elected to be president of The Florida Bar (1989-1990).
"His Cuban roots, the University of Florida and this law school all gave him the opportunities to do what he has now so grandly achieved," said Gov. Graham, who is also a former U.S. senator from Florida.
Among Zack's other accomplishments are working in 2000 as a trial attorney for Vice President Al Gore in Bush v. Gore, serving as general counsel on Graham's gubernatorial staff, serving as chair to the Florida State Ethics Commission, and serving on the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. He is administrative partner with the firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP, in Miami.
Zack has been recognized by many organizations. He was named 2010 Latino Lawyer of the Year by the Hispanic National Bar Association; he was honored by the American Jewish Committee with the 2010 Justice Learned Hand Award; he was recognized as a Legal Legend by History Miami and the 11th Judicial Circuit Historical Society; and the University of Florida awarded him with the 2010 Distinguished Alumnus Award. He is also an emeritus member of the UF Law Center Association Board of Trustees.
"Today is a great day for diversity," Zack said. "I appreciate the opportunity to be a small part of that effort."