Scheduled to open this spring at the Student Center, the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Social Justice Center will be a place for law students and young alumni to work together with faculty and practicing lawyers and receive training in legal research, advocacy and policy development.
The Shellers made a $1.5 million gift in order to establish the center, which will partner with nonprofit groups and city agencies to identify and address urgent social justice needs in the city.
“This justice center will not just provide people with legal assistance in the sense of major class actions but will help to find a way to give people a voice,” Stephen Sheller said. “There’s just so many problems, and we want to be able to have a real focus on finding ways to deal with those problems successfully.”
In more than four decades as a leading national litigator, Stephen Sheller’s causes have varied across myriad issues including civil rights, voter protection, employment discrimination and consumer fraud and protection.
The idea of a justice center stemmed from discussions with Joanne Epps, dean of Temple’s Beasley School of Law.
“Dean Epps suggested it to me, and we talked about it, and I thought it was a great idea.,” Stephen Sheller said. “They see it as a necessity to get this kind of program going.”
In 2006, the Shellers founded the Sheller Family Foundation to expand their commitment to improving lives. The foundation has become a way to support institutions and programs that champion the causes of the underprivileged and undeserved.
“The center will bring a real statement that the university’s interest in improving the community in which we exist and that we care,” Epps said. “I think they believed our vision for the center would help fulfill a vision that we had, that justice is ensured for everyone. It’s a great outlet for their goal.”
The center will be an extension of Temple Law’s commitment to public service. Students and faculty will work together in leading the center, Stephen Sheller said. The center will add to the university a substantial effort to focus education on providing social justice for all.
“In other words, it won’t be about just getting students jobs when they graduate,” Sheller said. “It will be about getting students to participate in [the] community for advancing the better.”
Sheller said he donated the money in order to create the ability for the community to have input and to say what they need and to find ways of accomplishing it.
Though the concept of the justice center did not originate from the Shellers, they will be able to make their suggestions about what the center will take on and find those who would like to be involved.
“We want the law students, the law faculty, the community and the rest of the Temple faculty to be involved,” Sheller said. “It’s not just a hope, it’s a plan to give the community a voice through Temple’s law school and an ability for the students and graduates of the law school to have the full participation in doing the most good for the community, and there is so much to do.
Dominique Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.