AUSTIN, Texas - Close to five hundred people gathered at the Westin Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio on Friday night, Sept. 26, for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund's 35th anniversary gala that featured William Powers, dean of The University of Texas School of Law, as the keynote speaker.
Powers spoke on the importance of diversity in higher education at the dinner that kicked off a yearlong celebration of the 35th anniversary of MALDEF, which was founded in San Antonio in 1968. Now headquartered in Los Angeles, MALDEF is the leading nonprofit Latino litigation, advocacy and educational outreach institution in the United States.
Powers is credited for his efforts to promote access for minority students seeking a law degree and raise more scholarships for students pursuing public interest work. He currently holds the John Jeffers Research Chair in Law and the Hines H. Baker and Thelma Kelley Baker Chair in Law at UT Austin, where he teaches torts, products liability, jurisprudence, legal process, civil procedure, and contracts. He is a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers and holds the title of University Distinguished Teaching Professor. Powers was named as the Law School's 12th Dean on May 22, 2000.
Earlier this month, Powers was the keynote speaker at the annual Mexican-American Bar Association dinner where close to 300 people gathered at the InterContinental Houston on Sept. 13 for the event.
At Friday night's gala, MALDEF also honored Vinson & Elkins with a Legal Services Award for it's pro bono work as well as tackling the difficult issues like defending affirmative action for UT, said Nina Perales, regional counsel of MALDEF in San Antonio. Vinson & Elkins represented UT in the Hopwood litigation.
Among the various leaders and officials attending the gala were Antonia Hernández, president and general counsel of MALDEF, and Norma Cantu, a professor in law and education at UT who also serves on the MALDEF Board of Directors and served on the 35th Anniversary Gala Committee.
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