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W&M Law School celebrates groundbreaking for major new building

  • Breaking Ground
    Breaking Ground  Law School Dean Davidson Douglas, James Hixon, President Taylor Reveley and Rector Todd Stottlemyer '85 (l to r) "break ground" for the Law School's new Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership at a ceremony Nov. 20.  
  • The Hixon Center
    The Hixon Center  The Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership as seen from South Henry Street.  Courtesy of VMDO Architects
  • Training Citizen Lawyers
    Training Citizen Lawyers  The Hixon Center is tentatively scheduled to open by fall 2016 and will anchor the north side of the current Law School campus.  Courtesy of VMDO Architects
  • Study & Conversation
    Study & Conversation  A glass-paneled common area will connect the Hixon Center to the Law School entrance hall and provide casual seating for study and conversation.  Courtesy of VMDO Architects
  • New Courtroom
    New Courtroom  The new building will be a hub for the school's nine clinics, its Legal Practice Program, and leadership activities. A small courtroom (l) is a special feature of the second floor.  Courtesy of VMDO Architects
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Largest one-time gift in school's history announced at ceremony

James A. Hixon, a 1979 graduate of William & Mary Law School and an executive vice president at Norfolk Southern Corporation, has given the largest one-time gift in the school’s history to support construction of a major new building on the school’s campus.

The gift was announced Nov. 20 during the building’s groundbreaking ceremony. The building will be named the James A. and Robin L. Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership.

The two-story, 12,000-square-foot building is projected to cost approximately $7 million and will be funded principally through private support. It will stand on the north side of the current Law School campus on South Henry Street and is tentatively scheduled to open in time for fall 2016 classes.

“We are grateful to Jim for making this leadership gift to the Law School,” said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. “The Hixon Center is vital to our continued success in training citizen lawyers: men and women who are not only skilled advocates, but also are caring citizens and leaders in law and in our communities. The center will serve as a vital hub for our highly regarded Legal Practice Program, nine legal clinics, and our leadership activities.”

James A. HixonHixon said a law degree from William & Mary brought with it the opportunity “to earn a comfortable living, doing the work that I love.” It was important, he said, “that I do what I can to ensure that a William & Mary Law School education is available to future generations of students and that it enriches their lives as it has mine. The Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership will go beyond theory and will provide students with a resource to develop the practical skills necessary to becoming successful attorneys. I have high hopes for the center and its impact on the students who will use it.”

Hixon grew up in a military family in Northern Virginia. He studied at George Washington University, then Virginia Tech, where he earned an undergraduate degree in business finance in 1976. He studied for his law degree at William & Mary, receiving his J.D. in 1979 and master of laws in taxation in 1980. He started his career at a law firm in Northern Virginia, then, in 1985, joined Norfolk Southern Corporation. Since 2005, he has served as the company’s executive vice president, law and corporate relations, a position in which he is responsible for legal affairs, federal, state, and community activities, and corporate governance.  Hixon and his late wife Robin met as students at the Law School; both graduated in the Class of 1979.  “Robin’s Garden,” a landscaped courtyard encircled by the school’s North Wing, was made possible by a gift from the Hixon family.

William & Mary Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas said the celebration of the Hixon gift and groundbreaking for the Hixon Center capped a remarkable period of growth in the school’s skills training curriculum.  “In the last six years alone,” he said, “we have added eight legal writing professors to our faculty and established five new clinics--the Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic, the Elder Law Clinic, the PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic, the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic, and the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic. I want to thank Jim for this gift, for his support and friendship over the years, and for his investment in the education and training of future William & Mary lawyers.”

When the Hixon Center opens its doors, all nine of the school’s clinics will be located on the first floor, which will feature offices for managing attorneys to meet individually with students enrolled in the clinics, client interview rooms, and a multipurpose conference room/clinical classroom. The Legal Practice Program and the school’s leadership activities will be located on the second floor. This area of the center will include offices for faculty to provide one-on-one instruction to students, two classrooms, and a new courtroom.  The courtroom will provide additional space for trial and appellate advocacy training. A glass-paneled common area will connect the Hixon Center to the Law School entrance hall and provide casual seating for study and conversation.

VMDO Architects, headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., is the building’s designer, and is committed to a minimum goal of LEED silver for all its projects. Gilbane Inc. of Providence, R.I., will manage construction.