It felt like a family reunion — with 600 relatives.
That many friends, former students, colleagues, and well-wishers gathered Oct. 2 in a joyful celebration of the life and career of Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, advocate for Civil Rights, author of books on race and justice, and mentor to former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
Last year, Ogletree ’78, the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law and founding and executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, revealed he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Accompanied by his family, Ogletree attended the symposium in his honor hosted by the Law School (HLS), where he has taught since 1984. He walked in to a standing ovation that lasted several minutes. Affectionately known as “Tree,” Ogletree smiled, shook hands, and high-fived and hugged friends and colleagues, many of whom had traveled across the country for the ceremony.
And when John Manning, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law at HLS, announced that a group of Ogletree’s friends had established an endowed professorship in his honor, the Charles J. Ogletree Jr. Chair in Race and Criminal Justice, the news brought down the house.
Addressing Ogletree in the audience, Manning told him, “There will never be another you, but we will search high and low to find an Ogletree Professor who shares your excellence and commitment and who will bring honor to that distinguished chair.” The chair was made possible through the generosity of a group of Ogletree’s close friends, said David Wilkins, Lester Kissel Professor of Law.