Opperman Law Library
Submitted by Leah Walters, Fall 2011

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Dwight D. Opperman Hall and Law Library photo courtesy of Drake University
History: In 1990 Drake University announced plans to construct a new law library as a part of a major campus construction project. The law library was originally housed in Cole Hall when the school originally moved to the Drake Campus and between 1938 and 1975 it shared Carnegie Hall with the Law classrooms. After the construction of Cartwright Hall in 1975, Cartwright became the primary home of the Law classes and Carnegie was remodeled to better serve as the Law Library. However, the space quickly proved incapable of accommodating the needs of the rapidly growing Drake Law School and its Library collection[1]. The new library, to be named for alumnus Dwight D. Opperman, increased the library’s space from 16,000 square feet to approximately 55,000 square feet and would have the capacity to hold 250,000 volumes, double that of the former space[2]. Crews broke ground on the Dwight D. Opperman Hall and Law Library on April 6, 1991[3]. More than two years later on April 16, 1993 the building was dedicated in front of university president Dr. Michael R. Ferrari, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, and Dwight D. Opperman himself[4].

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A photo of the the new law library under construction. Printed in the Des Moines Register November 22, 1992



Design: The building was designed by architectural firm Leonard Parker Associates, Architects, Inc. in Minneapolis with the intention of both fitting in with the campus and making an impression with modern styling. The building’s distinguished design made the cover of several architectural magazines and won an award from American School and University magazine[5]. The building boasts a “handsome reading room”, about 20 small study rooms, 200 individual study carrels, a rare books room, and conference rooms. John Edwards, law library director at the time said, “Aesthetically, the new library will be an attractive environment in which to study….It is a very impressive building.” The collection is housed in the basement and on all three levels and a third level mezzanine looks over the second level[6]. Additionally, the building was designed with the future in mind: it was wired for laptops and computers so that students could connect to the Law School network, featured three computer labs and a computer classroom, an audiovisual room, and a photocopy center[7].

Location: The Dwight D. Opperman Hall and Law Library is located adjacent to Cartwright Hall on Carpenter Ave. and 27th Street. The main body of the building faces east and the main entrance faces FAC[8].


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Dwight D. Opperman (left) with Justice Blackmun in 1988, courtesy of Drake University
Dwight D. Opperman: Dwight D. Opperman received a J.D. degree from the Drake University Law School in 1951. Upon graduating he started as an editor at West Publishing and over the years worked his way through a string of promotions ultimately ending up at the top of the company. He maintained a deep interest in the prominence of the Law School and continued to give back to it through donations and service as well as by sitting on the University’s Board of Governors. In 1974 he received the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor given to alumni and in 1988 he received the Law School’s Outstanding Alumni Award in recognition of his service to the school. Some of his gifts include funding in 1985 to establish the Opperman Computer Law Center in Cartwright Hall and a $100,000 gift to endow the Opperman Lecture in Constitutional Law that has since brought 10 Supreme Court Justices among other scholars to Drake University. In 1990 he made a $2 million gift to help fund the construction of the new library so to recognize his long-standing support of the Law School the library was named in his honor[9]. In 1997 Mr. Opperman continued his support of Drake University with a transformative $50 million gift, by far the largest Drake had ever received. His generosity and service ensures that he will forever be considered a truly outstanding alumnus of Drake University[10].


References
1. Drake University. (April 16, 1993). A new chapter: The dedication of the Dwight D. Opperman hall and
law library [Brochure]. Des Moines, IA: Drake University.

2. Fedie, L. (1991, March 12). Buildings will alter character of campus. The Times-Delphic, p. 6.

3. Fedie, L. (1991, March 12). Buildings will alter character of campus. The Times-Delphic, p. 6.

4. Drake University. (April 16, 1993). A new chapter: The dedication of the Dwight D. Opperman hall and
law library [Brochure]. Des Moines, IA: Drake University.

5. Legal center expands law school's resources and opportunities. (1992, November 22). Des Moines
Register (Advertising supplement), p. 8.

6. Fedie, L. (1991, March 12). Buildings will alter character of campus. The Times-Delphic, p. 6.

7. Legal center expands law school's resources and opportunities. (1992, November 22). Des Moines
Register (Advertising supplement), p. 8.

8. Fedie, L. (1991, March 12). Buildings will alter character of campus. The Times-Delphic, p. 6.


9. Drake University. (April 16, 1993). A new chapter: The dedication of the Dwight D. Opperman hall and

law library [Brochure]. Des Moines, IA: Drake University.


10. Roos, J. (1997, November 2). A $50 million boost for Drake. Des Moines Sunday Register, pp. 1A, 5A.