On June 21, 2023, the Cornell Law School community gathered in the foyer of Myron Taylor Hall to celebrate its dedication as the Peñalver Foyer, after former Allan R. Tessler Dean Eduardo Peñalver. The naming was first announced in June 2021, and a portrait of George Washington Fields, Cornell Law School’s first Black graduate, was installed in the foyer in August 2022.
The sixteenth dean of Cornell Law, Peñalver served from 2014 to 2021 before departing to become the president of Seattle University. He was back in Ithaca in June for a visit.
In brief remarks at the event, Jens Ohlin, Peñalver’s successor, observed that the recently refurbished foyer had encouraged students to gather, working, relaxing, and warming themselves in front of its zero-emissions fireplace.
“Seeing the students collaborate with each other, socialize, and sort of bask in the warmth of this space I think is a fitting tribute to someone who really made the student experience the center of his deanship and really made great progress in that area,” said Ohlin.
Peñalver then observed that the celebration was a full-circle moment for him. As an undergraduate at Cornell University in the 1990s, he had been among some 150 Black and Latino students who had occupied Cornell’s Day Hall for three days to protest a lack of representation and services—resulting in the expansion of the Latino studies program and the creation of the Latino Living Center.
“When I think about this portrait [of Fields] and the naming of this room, I think about my twenty-year-old self and just that feeling [I would’ve had] walking into a room like this and seeing a name that I would’ve recognized or that the other 150 students would’ve recognized,” he said. “So that is very, very meaningful for me . . . I want to thank the Advisory Council for their generosity in giving this gift.”
The foyer also happens to be where Peñalver met his wife, Sital Kalantry, a fellow undergraduate at Cornell University who went on to serve as a clinical professor of law at Cornell. Peñalver said he spent the next thirty years trying to convince Kalantry to move with him to Seattle, the city he had always thought of as home. She finally did in 2021, becoming associate dean of graduate and international programs and an associate professor of law at Seattle University School of Law.
Once they moved, however, Peñalver realized that Ithaca and the Law School had come to feel like home as well. “So, thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for this celebration,” he said. “I now have two homes.”