The idea for a law school at Villanova first surfaced in the 1920s, but was not realized until the physical expansion that took place at the University after World War II. In 1953, under the presidency of Father Francis X. N. McGuire, Eugene Lester Garey, a prominent New York lawyer, bequeathed to the University $1.2 million to establish a new law school. Harold Gill Reuschlein was appointed the first dean and in 1957, Garey Hall, designed especially for the law school, was opened and dedicated. The Law School was the first law school under Catholic auspices to be awarded a chapter of the Order of Coif, a national honor society devoted to the encouragement of high standards of legal scholarship, with chapters in leading schools of law throughout the country.
The Law School's distinctive mission draws upon the Catholic tradition emphasizing the unique value of individual human lives and the endowment of free will. In addition, it upholds a tradition of academic freedom that draws upon the thought of Saint Augustine to emphasize the value of critical, searching inquiry and open debate; is inspired by Saint Thomas More, whose principled resistance to corruption has been an exemplar of integrity for centuries; and, motivated by Saint Ives, who taught that a lawyer’s vocation must include a sense of responsibility for the poor. The Law School is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. The Law School has created a reputation for excellence in its curriculum and the academic achievements of its faculty and students.
Since its founding, Villanova has been privileged to mediate Saint Augustine’s vision of education as a community activity of scholars searching for truth in open discussion, commitment to ethical values, and dedication to social justice and human rights. This commitment is realized in its humanities programs, which are an integral part of the curriculum of each of its professional schools, and in the three essential characteristics of our Augustinian tradition: the relationship between mind and heart, the role of community, and the unity of knowledge. This commitment and tradition also provides the key for interpreting Villanova’s mission statement which states that the University is a community that "seeks to reflect the spirit of Saint Augustine by the cultivation of knowledge, by respect for individual differences, and by adherence to the principle that mutual love and respect should animate every aspect of University life."