As I write, two campaigns have just ended. The first, of course, is the historic and successful bid for the presidency by a graduate of Harvard Law School. As Barack Obama ’91 prepares to take office, the law school community is proud of his accomplishments and wishes him the best in these difficult times. Preparing young people of awesome potential to take up positions of leadership in the world is what HLS is all about, and yet, as the President-elect and our nation’s new First Lady, Michelle Obama ’88, move to the White House, we feel a special sense of excitement and awe.

Meanwhile, on campus, we have just completed our own (even longer!) campaign—this one, to raise the resources necessary to support the school as it writes the next great chapter of its history. When we launched our campaign five years ago, we set an ambitious goal of $400 million. The number was high, but it matched the importance of our purpose: to give our students and faculty everything they need to confront the problems and meet the challenges of the 21st century.

I’m grateful to report that we exceeded our target by more than $76 million. And what’s more, we achieved this result with an unprecedented level of participation by our alumni. In fact, the number of which I’m proudest is not $476 million: It’s 23,225. That’s the tally of alumni and friends who looked closely at everything we’re doing here—from curriculum reform to construction of a major building to the enhancement of our faculty to the strengthening of our commitment to public service—and joined us in the effort not just to maintain our traditional standards of excellence but to surpass them in exciting new ways.

I’m delighted that so many of you responded to our appeal. Although a common perception of Harvard—and, by extension, the law school—is that our endowment can pay for all of our aspirations, I can tell you from putting together a budget each year that this just isn’t so. For the law school to improve, to innovate, to realize its fullest potential—and so to make the greatest possible difference in the lives of our students and the greatest possible contribution to the world—we rely on our alumni to provide us with additional support. That is especially true in these days of financial turmoil; the contributions of our alumni have never been more important. Of course, like all the law school’s major achievements, this campaign was a team effort. It could never have succeeded without the superb leadership of Finn Caspersen ’66, the campaign’s chairman, and Jack Cogan ’52, Gus Hauser ’53, Rita Hauser ’58 and Bill Walsh ’55, the campaign’s co-chairs. All of us at HLS—and especially our current and future students—are in their debt.

And I want to express my profound gratitude to my predecessor, Dean Robert Clark ’72. Along with all Bob’s other achievements, he will be remembered for planning and ensuring the success of this historic campaign.

In these pages, you will get a preview of what your generosity is making possible, including our new Northwest Corner project, which will transform the student experience at HLS. The Wasserstein family’s historic gift—the most recent of that family’s many contributions to HLS—literally enabled us to begin construction. And Finn Caspersen’s gift—the largest ever made to the school—also will go toward the project.

You will read here, too, about the many other ways that your contributions are having a great and tangible impact—providing financial assistance to, and improving the education and experience of, our students; supporting the research and teaching of an ever deeper and broader faculty; and most important, enabling our students and faculty alike to contribute to the advancement of justice and human well-being around the world. My deepest thanks to you all.

Dean Elena Kagan ’86