Webster Society Origins

Washington University School of Law awarded the first Webster Society scholarship in the Fall of 2000. Then Dean, Joel Seligman, had come to Washington University in the Fall of 1999. He began his tenure committed to attracting the best and the brightest students to the law school. He worked closely with Professor Susan Appleton, who was serving as Associate Dean of Faculty, to generate ideas about attracting exemplary students. Professor Appleton was inspired in part by Washington University’s Olin Fellowship for Women, which has a service component, as well as the Root-Tilden-Snow Program at New York University School of Law. She sat on the Olin Fellowship selection committee and thought it would be wonderful to have that type of scholarship specifically for law school students. The concept quickly evolved into a scholarship that would be awarded to students who demonstrate a commitment to public service and have strong academic credentials. She envisioned not only a scholarship, but a society of students who would, as attorneys, use the law as a tool to improve society and promote justice through service. In considering the best way to communicate the values that the scholarship and society would recognize, Professor Appleton and Dean Seligman agreed that Judge Webster exemplified their vision, based on his long and distinguished commitment to public service both in his government positions and also as an attorney in private practice. Not only would Judge Webster inspire students by example from afar, but they would actually have the opportunity to interact with him and to learn from him directly. Professor Appleton and Dean Seligman invited Judge Webster to permit them to name the scholarship in his honor.

At that time, Janet Laybold was serving as Dean of Admissions. She worked collaboratively with Dean Seligman and Professor Appleton to provide a framework for the program and identify qualified candidates. Dean Laybold sought out well rounded students who would contribute as professionals to the larger good. Today Katherine Scannell, Associate Dean, Data and Enrollment Management, and Mary Ann Clifford, Assistant Dean for Admissions, continue to seek out candidates whose attributes include community involvement, academic achievement, extracurricular activity participation, and leadership potential, to attend Washington University School of Law to prepare for a profession in which an individual can make a significant difference. Today the scholarship has a host of alumni and six current scholars who are committed to the idea that they can be more than excellent attorneys.

 “Being a lawyer is not enough. Working to preserve the ideals of our profession, the opportunity for growth of freedom, the use of truth to inform and enlighten us in all ways, and the right of people to speak the truth are the most important contributions we can make as lawyers."
~ Judge William Webster