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Heritage Honored: UH Law Center's new installations celebrate legal legacies

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Honorees for the Royce and Carol West African American Law Heritage Wall of Honor and the Ezequiel Reyna Jr. and Livia Reyna Hispanic Law Heritage Wall of Honor along UH College of Education Professor Emerita Dr. Augustina Reyes gather at the University of Houston Law Center for the unveiling ceremony.

Portrait

Artist Luis Alvarez Roure stands with his portrait of Michael A. Olivas and Augustina H. Reyes, displayed on the 5th Floor of the John M. O’Quinn Law Building in the Olivas-Reyes Reading Room.

Sept. 27, 2023 — The University of Houston Law Center debuted three new installations celebrating the significant achievements of its African American and Hispanic law graduates and faculty. The Michael A. Olivas and Augustina H. Reyes portrait, the Royce and Carol West African American Law Heritage Wall of Honor, and the Ezequiel Reyna Jr. and Livia Reyna Hispanic Law Heritage Wall of Honor were unveiled during a September 22nd ceremony with the honorees and their friends and family at the John M. O’Quinn Law Building.

“It is with great pleasure and pride that we gather here this evening to celebrate a significant milestone in our institution’s history,” said UH Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes. “Today, we honor the vision, brilliance, and tenacity of those who have blazed trails and shattered barriers. Their contributions have not only enriched the tapestry of our legal community but have also paved the way for a more inclusive and just legal system.”

Michael A. Olivas and Augustina H. Reyes Portrait

The late UH Law Center William B. Bates Chair Emeritus and Professor of Law Michael A. Olivas committed his life to advancing civil rights and immigrant justice. The portrait of Olivas and his wife Dr. Augustina H. Reyes, professor emerita at the UH College of Education, is dedicated in honor of the couple who gave their time and talents to the university community as well as the local, regional and national community of scholars, academics, and lawyers. The portrait by the award-winning artist Luis Alvarez Roure will be displayed on the 5th Floor of the Law Building in the Olivas-Reyes Reading Room.

University of Houston Law Center Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson spoke about her late colleague and the dedication of the portrait.

“We are honored to have the artist with us tonight. This was a labor of love to make this happen. Thank you to the Hispanic Bar Association, Mexican American Bar Association, and many others for making this a possibility,” said Thompson.

Reyes thanked the university and spoke on her husband’s prolific scholarly publications including his latest book Perchance to DREAM: A Legal and Political History of the DREAM Act and DACA. The publication, “the first comprehensive history of the DREAM Act” will be available in paperback in June 2024.

Royce and Carol West African American Law Heritage Wall of Honor

State Sen. Royce West (J.D. ‘79) and his wife Carol West dedicated the heritage wall to recognize the achievements and contributions of UH Law Center African American alumni and faculty.

“To whom much is given much is required. What we do we do because it is the right thing to do,” Carol West said. “To help others accomplish their dreams. We want everyone to know that yes it is possible. Keep believing; keep dreaming.”

“When you look around this room, you look at Texas. You look at UH,” Royce West said to the audience of honorees. “It is so important that we who have been given so much give back. The reality is we owe this law school. But for what this law school has afforded us, we would not have the quality of life that we have.”

The Royce and Carol West African American Law Heritage Wall of Honor is located on the 2nd floor of the Law Building.

Ezequiel Reyna Jr. and Livia Reyna Hispanic Law Heritage Wall of Honor

Ezequiel Reyna Jr. (J.D. ’80) and Livia Reyna (M.Ed. ’79) designated their heritage wall to recognize the outstanding achievements and contributions of Hispanic alumni and faculty at the University of Houston Law Center.

"It is an honor to be here,” said Ezequiel Reyna Jr. “For you to understand how monumental it is for someone like myself, you need to know who I am and where I came from.”

Reyna Jr., who is one of eight children, recounted his educational journey which started by being placed in a special needs classes due to his limited knowledge of English. Despite facing language barriers in his early years, Reyna Jr. not only completed college but also earned his J.D. from UH Law Center in 1980.

Expressing his gratitude to Dean Baynes, Reyna Jr. said, “You kept the vision and the courage to be inclusive. I commend you, sir.”

The Ezequiel Reyna Jr. and Livia Reyna Hispanic Law Heritage Wall of Honor is located on the 2nd floor of the Law Building.

Baynes concluded the ceremony by reminding guests about the importance of unity.

“As we remember the Olivas-Reyes Reading Room and heritage walls that we have seen tonight, let us reflect on the strides we have made and the journey that still lies ahead. Together, we commit ourselves to fostering an environment where every aspiring legal mind, regardless of background, can find their rightful place,” said Baynes.

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