Costa Rican president stops by DU for degree

Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor. Law school dean Ken Gormley (left) shakes the hand of Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís (right) after giving him an honorary degree Sept. 27.

Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor. Law school dean Ken Gormley (left) shakes the hand of Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís (right) after giving him an honorary degree Sept. 27.

By Max Blechman | For The Duquesne Duke

The Duquesne School of Law bestowed an honorary degree of law upon Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís on Sept. 27.

Solís was honored both for his accomplishments as president and political scientist, as well as to draw attention to the relationship between the law school, the Supreme Court and Judicial School of Costa Rica.

This relationship, which began over a decade ago with the help of Duquesne law professor Robert S. Barker, takes the form of exchange and communication on international law. This includes guest lectures and visits from scholars, professors, studying jurists and students of law in both schools.

At a ceremony Sept. 27, law school dean Ken Gormley, who also spoke at the University of Costa Rica over the summer at the invitation of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica, spoke to dozens of people and reporters who gathered in Hanley Hall for the ceremony.

Included among the audience was the delegation from Costa Rica, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief urban affairs officer Valerie McDonald-Roberts.

“Of all Latin American countries, Costa Rica is the best possible place for [Duquesne University] to develop a cooperative program,” Gormley said in his speech. “It is a stable and advanced democracy … It has a long tradition of Catholic faith and it has placed a high priority on the rule of law, modernizing the court system and fostering legal training for aspiring lawyers and judges.”

Solís is the 47th president of Costa Rica and previously served as a professor of history and political science at the University of Costa Rica. An accomplished political scientist as well as politician, Solís is the author or co-author of 10 books and over 50 scholarly publications on Central American political science.

The visit from Solís was made possible due to the efforts of Marvin Carvajal, director of the Judicial School in Costa Rica, who has been given the opportunity to work with the new president. Carvajal was one of the major figures in establishing the relationship between Duquesne and Costa Rica.

Solís, who had already planned to visit New York in September to speak before the United Nations, relayed through an aid that he would be honored to receive an honorary degree from Duquesne.

After the conferring of the honorary degree by University President Charles Dougherty and Provost Timothy Austin, Solís was given the opportunity to speak on the importance of the relationship between Duquesne and Costa Rica. In a rousing speech, he discussed how the relationship with Duquesne was another way that Costa Rica was developing relationships through international law and diplomacy.

He discussed the history of Costa Rica’s progressive politics and the importance it placed on justice and the judicial system. In 1871, Costa Rica abolished the death penalty, became one of South America’s earliest democracies in 1889 and has made public education the cornerstone of economic progress since the mid-1800s.

“Most significantly… [Costa Rica] took the unprecedented step of abolishing its armed forces since 1949, in the midst of the early Cold War madness, relying exclusively on international law as the means to preserve its government and national identity before foreign foes,” Solís said.

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