Introducing the new “Nelson Diaz Professorship” at Temple University Law School
The Beasley School of Law recently created a new title named after the Honorable Judge Nelson Diaz. The inaugural holder is law professor Alice Abreu.
As it celebrates its 125th year, Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law has created a new esteemed honor, the Nelson Diaz Professorship.
The title is named after the Honorable Judge Nelson A. Diaz, the first Latino to pass the Pennsylvania bar exam, the first Latino judge in the state, as well as an alumnus who earned his Doctor of Law Degree at Temple Law School.
“He is a trailblazer in many regards,” said Gregory Mandel, Dean and Peter J. Liacouras Professor of Law at Temple Law School. “Given his role in helping organize students at the Law school and then the tremendous career he went on to have, we wanted to find a way to honor his legacy.”
The title will go to faculty that exemplifies those efforts in the present day.
Temple Law Professor Alice Abreu is the first person to be appointed the newly-established Nelson A. Diaz Professor of Law.
“Being the inaugural holder of the Honorable Nelson A. Diaz Professorship in Law is the highest honor of my career,” Abreu told AL DÍA.
She started her journey as a Temple Law School faculty member in July 1985. Prior to that, she spent nearly six years working as a clerk for Judge Edward N. Cahn in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and practiced tax law as the only Latina lawyer at Dechert LLP in Philadelphia.
Abreu's appointment to the professorship title was made official after she was selected by a faculty chair committee that looks at individuals with an exemplary record of scholarship.
“Which she certainly has,” said Mandel. “She is a tax professor and one who is recognized at the University and nationally, not only for her expertise in tax law, but also for her teaching capability.”
When asked why this new title was created, The Honorable Judge Nelson Diaz spoke about a need to showcase the civil rights efforts of Latinos throughout history.
“I wanted to try to develop a civil rights chair for Latinos in which we could show that Latinos have contributed a great deal to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States,” he said.
Diaz noted the Mendez vs. Westminster case, which fought to integrate schools in California, and Hernández vs. Texas, which was the first case in which Mexican-American lawyers appeared before the Supreme Court, as some of the many examples.
Abreu met Diaz after joining Temple’s faculty, and describes him as “a role model for me,” who “has brought special pride for those of us who are Latinx,” she said.
As one of the few Latinx individuals practicing law in the city like Diaz was years prior, Abreu was eager to have someone in the field whom she could relate to, speak Spanish with and also bond.
Over the years, Diaz has been heavily involved at Temple Law School, especially working to recruit more Latino professors. Abreu became just the second Latinx professor to join the Temple Law School’s faculty, after Prof. Rafael Porrata-Doria, who had joined two years prior.
Born in Cuba, Abreu emigrated with her parents to Miami in 1960 as a result of Fidel Castro’s revolution.
“I have a lot of gratitude… having this professorship in my name [and] I would hope that they would continue to use it for Latino professors,” said Diaz.
The new honor adds to a long list of titles and awards Abreu has received throughout her 35-plus year career at Temple, including the James E. Beasley Professor of Law and the Charles Klein Professor of Law and Government. She has also had the title of Professor of Law since 1992. In 2017, Abreu was named a Temple University Great Teacher, the highest award the University bestows upon a faculty member.
“I really was very, very, very honored that she accepted the appointment of this professorship,” said Diaz.
Mendel praised how both Diaz and Abreu have both created a legacy around civil rights, diversity and empowering underrepresented communities. Diaz is one of the co-founders of the Black Law Student Association at Temple, while Abreu helped launch the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, which works to serve people in need of help in handling tax-related issues.
The Nelson Diaz Professorship of Law title is the first professorship to be named after a Latino in the state of Pennsylvania, and was endowed at $750,000.
Diaz hopes to see continued fundraising efforts to over $1 million with the purpose of further promoting the contributions of Latinos in the legal system.