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Matthew J. Ryan Center at Villanova University Commemorates Constitution Day



The Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good will host a Constitution Day Symposium Sept. 16

 Villanova, Pa.—In recognition of Constitution Day, the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good at Villanova University will hold a Constitution Day Symposium Friday, Sept. 16, at the Villanova School of Law (3 p.m., Room 102). The event is free and open to the public.

In 2004 Congress passed legislation requiring that every institution of higher education receiving federal funds hold educational programming on or near Sept.17, in observance of Constitution Day. However, observance of this special day across the country has been minimal.

Earlier this year, the Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History (JMC) launched a new initiative in partnership with leading universities and colleges across the United States to heighten the awareness of the need for education in the American Constitutional tradition. Professors were invited to submit proposals to fund Constitution Day events (lectures and panel discussions for students, as well as the public) on their campuses. Villanova University was selected along with 25 other universities and colleges.

“Especially this week – the tenth year anniversary of 9/11 – it is important that we think about the meaning of our Constitution and the freedoms and responsibilities that form the core of what it means to be an American,” said Colleen Sheehan, Director of the Matthew J. Ryan Center at Villanova University.

The Matthew J. Ryan Center of Villanova University will host Professor Philip Hamburger, a leading scholar in Constitutional Law and History and the Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law from Columbia Law School.  Professor Hamburger will lecture on the topic of “Censorship and Death”.  Professor Amy Wax, Robert Mundheim Professor of Law from University of Pennsylvania Law School, will be the respondent.  Following the lecture, the floor will be open for discussion with and among audience members.   

The JMC’s Constitution Day Initiative is funded, in part, by the Andrea Waitt Carlton Family Foundation in Nashville, Tenn., with additional funding provided by the JMC and from the universities and colleges participating in the program.

“With a network of nearly 500 JMC Fellows, many of whom specialize specifically in the study and teaching of the American constitutional tradition, and with partner programs on 44 college and university campuses, the Jack Miller Center is ideally suited to take up the cause of building awareness of Constitution Day and having a major national impact on how it is observed on college and university campuses as well as in many communities across the country,” said Bill McClay, professor of history, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Professor McClay, a member of JMC’s board of directors, is a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He was appointed in 2002 to the National Council on the Humanities.

“This project will be an on-going, national effort to deepen Americans’ knowledge and appreciation of the Constitution,” said Mike Ratliff, president of the JMC. “The distinguished scholars who have taken up this task should give all of us hope for our nation’s future.”

The Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good at Villanova University promotes inquiry into the principles and processes of free government and seeks to advance understanding of the responsibilities of statesmen and citizens of constitutional democratic societies. The Center honors the distinguished graduate of Villanova University and Villanova Law School, Matthew J. Ryan, who served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for over 40 years. During his tenure in the House, he held the position of Majority and Minority Whip, Majority and Minority Leader, and from 1995 until 2003 he served as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. For more information, contact the Center's director, Colleen Sheehan, at or 610-519-3851.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others.  There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.