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by Robert Stewart

Ed and E. Dennis When Ed Dennis studied law at Penn, the Watergate scandal dominated national news and eventually toppled Richard Nixon’s presidency.

Twenty-five years later when E. (his preferred name) Dennis, Ed’s son, was completing his J.D. at Penn, sexual activities inside The White House derailed Bill Clinton’s presidency.

While a quarter century of presidential history passed between their experiences at Penn Law, Ed Dennis and his son have strong memories of the institution’s character and their student lives. “You knew that some of the country’s greatest lawyers came from Penn,” recalls Edward S.G. Dennis Jr., L’73. “The feeling of being part of a great tradition was the most vivid recollection of my first year, along with a challenging curriculum.” His earliest recollections were the interior of Lewis Hall (now known as Silverman Hall) and the skylight illuminating the marble staircase leading up to the Biddle Law Library. “It was rather awe inspiring.”

Ed Dennis was older than many law classmates who came directly from college. He was an engineering officer in the maritime service and a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. He sailed for several years, including voyages to Vietnam, before studying law. “When I started law school, the war was winding down. There wasn’t much debate on campus about whether or not we should remain in Vietnam.”

E. Dennis remembers spirited discussions in and out of the classroom as a valuable part of the school’s atmosphere in the late 1990s. “Sometimes discussions out of class were as interesting as what went on inside. A group might continue what we discussed in class or some current issue related to it.” The Hopwood decision that struck down affirmative action admission policies at the University of Texas comes to mind. “The effects of the decision were a direct result of constitutional interpretations that we were studying at the time. It certainly was a poignant illustration of the power of law.”

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