Capital University Law School will induct three alumni who have had a significant impact on the school and the legal profession into its Hall of Honor Thursday, October 18, at an event at the Law School.
This year’s honorees will be former a former dean, the Hon. John W. McCormac; Professor Emerita Jean A. Mortland; and the Law School’s first female graduate, Esther L. Brocker.
The Hall of Honor is the highest level of recognition awarded by the Law School. It is housed in a prominent location on the second floor of the building. This year’s induction ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 to 7 pm at the Law School, 303 E. Broad Street, Columbus.
“The Hall of Honor is for those individuals who rose to the top — who have had a truly profound influence on the development and legal success of the Law School,” said Law School Dean Rich Simpson.
Those selected for the Capital University Law School Hall of Honor are individuals who have profoundly influenced the Law School and reached and remained at the pinnacle of their fields for a period of time that demonstrates perseverance and maturation.
Esther L. Brocker, L’26
Trail blazer, leader
The path Esther H. Brocker, L’26, created while working to become the Law School’s first female graduate started in Lancaster, Ohio, in the 1920s and was built commuting back and forth to Columbus, three nights a week, over a four-year period. It was followed by a lengthy legal career that extended well into her 80s.
Brocker was born April 21, 1883, in Lancaster, Ohio. By age 17, she was making money as a dressmaker. She married in 1902, and her first child, Mary, was born and died in 1909. Her only living child, John W. Brocker, was born in 1911. By 1916,Brocker was a single mother, working as secretary of the Hermann Manufacturing Company in Lancaster and assistant treasurer of the Hermann Tire Building and Machine Co. She then worked as secretary in the Deffenbaugh Law Offices in Lancaster. She also worked for the Department of Defense in Cleveland during World War I. In the early 1920s, Brocker made a bold choice for a woman and single mother of that time: She decided to go to law school.
So, from 1922 to 1926, she made a 30-mile drive and took the interurban trolley to attend classes at Columbus School of Law, a predecessor of Capital University Law School. After 664 trips and nearly 40,000 miles. She became the Law School’s first female graduate on June 9, 1926, at age 42.
After graduating, Brocker opened a successful private law practice in Lancaster, handling criminal cases and probate work. Her first office was above a bank in Lancaster; later, she would move her law offices to one-half of the house in which she had lived with her parents. She served two terms as Lancaster’s city solicitor, and was elected vice president of the Fairfield County Bar Association in 1960.
The Hon. John W. McCormac
Law School Dean, 1966-71
John W. McCormac came from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential people in the history of Capital University Law School and a highly regarded member of the legal community.
He was born and raised in rural Muskingum County. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946 as a Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class on the amphibious transport craft US Thurston, participating in the invasions of Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Philippines. He graduated from Muskingum College in 1951, majoring in math and physics, then worked as a fire protection engineer from 1951 to 1960.
McCormac graduated from Franklin University Law School (a precursor of Capital University Law School) in 1961, attaining the highest grade point average in the school’s history. He then spent five years working as an attorney with the law firm of Schwenker, Teaford, Brothers & Bernard, specializing in trials and appeals.
After five years of private practice and some part-time teaching at Franklin, he joined the full-time faculty in the fall of 1965 with the understanding that he would assume the dean’s role after the retirement of Dean Ralph H. Klapp. The dean’s position was split for one year in 1965-66 between McCormac as administrative dean and Professor Emeritus John E. Sullivan as academic dean. In 1966, Sullivan returned to the classroom and McCormac became the sole dean for the Law School.
McCormac was dean for five years, during which tremendous developments occurred, not the least of which was Capital University’s acquisition of the Law School from Franklin University in 1966. McCormac had his hands full working to bring the school into compliance with American Bar Association accreditation guidelines. One of his first priorities was securing Capital University’s permission to grant its law school graduates juris doctor degrees rather than bachelor of laws degrees, which had been the previous practice. Converting to the JD degree brought the Law School in line with other Ohio schools – and made Capital’s graduates more competitive in the job market.
Jean A. Mortland
Professor Emerita, Capital University Law School
Professor Emerita Jean A. Mortland is remembered as much for her reputation within the national and regional legal community as she is for her work in the classroom. She paved the way for women in the legal profession and served as a role model to future female students, attorneys and faculty members.
She received her bachelor’s degree in 1952 from Ohio State University and returned to Law School at Franklin University to earn her JD in 1964. She also received her LL.M. from New York University Law School in 1969.
She was admitted to the bar in 1964, passing the exam with the highest score that year. As one of the first female attorneys working for Nationwide Insurance, she practiced in the area of group contracts before returning to the Law School to begin her teaching career. She joined the Franklin Law School faculty in 1965 at a time there were few women in the legal profession or in law school. She taught Property, Insurance Law, Indian Law and Conflicts of Laws. At the time, she also served as the Law School’s first librarian. In 1988, she assumed the status of Professor Emeritus.
Professor Mortland’s greatest legacy may be her scholarly work. She published extensively in the areas ofreal property, insurance, land transactions, and conflicts of laws. From 1982-87 she was editor of the ABA Real Property, Probate and Trust Journal, a nationally recognized publication.
Read more about the Law School Hall of Honor and each of this year's inductees.