March 26, 2009 — Over a 42-year career in public service, "you pick up an awful lot of stuff," former Virginia Sen. John W. Warner said. Plaques. Framed photos. Figurines. Commemorative medallions.
"They were put in my office where people could see them – hundreds of thousands of people over the years," he said. "It was a privilege to serve as a senator, and I'm very grateful for all those items."
When Warner retired from the Senate after 30 years, though, the stuff had to go. He kept a few things, and his staff took some mementos. As for the rest? Rather than, in his words, "put it in a Dumpster," the collection went on the auction block.
And the University of Virginia Law School will be the beneficiary.
Warner, who graduated from U.Va. with a law degree 1953, said he has great affection for the Law School. He started in 1949, after serving in the Navy in World War II, but his studies were interrupted for two years when he was recalled to active duty during the Korean War.
"When I went back, the Law School just welcomed me with open arms," he said. "Within months I was able to get caught up.
"That really stuck with me. You never forget the people who stepped up and helped you."
After more than four decades in public service – secretary of the Navy, director of the U.S. bicentennial in 1976, five terms as a U.S. senator – Warner chose U.Va. in 2007 to announce his retirement from the Senate. In 2008, he received the second Thomas Jefferson Medal in Citizen Leadership, the highest external honor bestowed by the University. He's been a long-time generous benefactor of the Law School and of the University.
Paul Mahoney, dean of the Law School, welcomed news of Warner's intention to fund a scholarship.
"Senator Warner has embodied throughout his career the ideals of service and character that the Law School seeks to instill in its students," Mahoney said. "I am very grateful for his generosity, which is directed at an area of particular need."
The auction, held March 21 in Northern Virginia, was a "smashing success," Warner said. "It was standing room only." He estimates that the net proceeds will be around $10,000.
All of the items, he added, "found nice homes," and he was amused to learn that a roll-top desk that once occupied a corner of his Senate office was bought by a U.Va. law student.