Roy M. Bell ’74 will never forget the summer of 1973.
That’s the year California Western School of Law moved from its campus in Point Loma to the current campus at 350 Cedar Street in downtown San Diego.
The move was anything but smooth. In fact, it was an adventure.
Bell is now a highly successful attorney and senior counsel with Troutman Sanders LLP, as well as chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees at California Western. That summer he was working as a special assistant to then-Dean Robert K. Castetter. Bell’s leadership experience after graduating from the Naval Academy and being the executive officer on a destroyer was exactly what was needed at the time.
Bell and a group of fellow students not only accomplished the move, they actually did a lot of the construction work to transform the historic classroom building from a performing arts center to our current law school.
“We had to do everything ourselves—it was all student power,” says Bell. “They were my classmates, and my study mates. I can still see them in all their work clothes, painting.” Today they are lawyers, judges, and community leaders.
There was one important thing missing from the new law school, though.
“There was no budget for us to have any new furniture,” Bell says, recalling what Dean Castetter told him at the time. They also believed that the Point Loma furniture belonged to the law school and had been left behind. So he and some other students (whom he won’t name) took SBA money, rented a big Ryder truck, rolled up to the gate at Point Loma and told the security guards, they were there to move the things that belong to the law school.
“We took everything,” says Bell. “We took podiums. We unscrewed the blackboards from the walls. We took chairs and we took desks. We cleaned out the law school and trucked it all back to the 350 building. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have furniture for opening day, just weeks away. That’s how we furnished the law school.”
What Bell and the others didn’t know at the time, nor could they, was that the contents of the law school building, Rohr Hall, had been sold by the law school’s parent university to the new owners, Point Loma Nazarene College.
“It truly was an honest misunderstanding,” Bell explained to the Dean. “It was reasonable to assume that it was our furniture and we went and retrieved it. We took what we thought was ours. I am not sure the university saw it the same way.”
The purchase price of the Point Loma campus was adjusted to cover the cost of the furniture relocated to the downtown law school.
As the law school celebrates its 90th anniversary, Bell says California Western has solidified its legacy.
“We produce lawyers and we produce mature people that contribute,” Bell says. “Our graduates have always taken pride in being problem solvers."