The 2023 Harlan Fiske Stone Society Reception

Members of the alumni society gathered on May 10 to honor Cathy Kaplan ’77.

Cathy Kaplan receiving the Harlan Fiske Stone Society award 2023

Pictured: Cathy Kaplan accepting the Harlan Fiske Stone Society Award at the May event.

Calling her “a leader among alumni; a distinguished practitioner; a creative, resourceful, and generous member of our alumni community,” Gillian Lester, Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, honored Cathy Kaplan ’77 with the Harlan Fiske Stone Society Award on May 10 at the society’s annual reception. Alumni members of the Harlan Fiske Stone Society, along with family and friends, gathered at the New-York Historical Society to recognize Kaplan’s contributions to the Law School as an alumni volunteer.

“This award is bestowed upon an individual who embodies what it means to be a loyal supporter of the Law School—leadership in annual giving, volunteerism, civic engagement, and contributions to and achievements within the legal profession,” said Dean Lester in her introduction. “I can think of few others who exemplify more of these qualities than tonight’s honoree.”

Kaplan is a second-generation Columbian. She established a scholarship in honor of her mother, Ann A. Kaplan ’46, last year.

As a law student, Kaplan worked with then-Professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 on the groundbreaking Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. After graduation, she joined Brown & Wood, where she became one of the firm’s first female partners.

In 2001, Brown & Wood merged with Sidley Austin, and Kaplan became co-head of the New York global finance practice and served on the firm’s executive committee. She also represented collectors, artists, museums, and others in a wide range of arts-related transactions—and continues to do so in retirement. In 2022, she was honored by the New York Law Journal with its Lifetime Achievement Award. She serves on the board of several arts-related organizations, including the Aperture Foundation, Yale University Art Gallery, and the Bronx Council on the Arts, as well as on the Photography Committee of the Whitney Museum. 

At the Law School, Kaplan serves as chair of the Board of Visitors and member of the Dean’s Council. Additionally, co-chaired her 30th, 35th, and 45th reunion committees and is a lecturer in law. Courses she has taught include Law and Finance of the Art Market; Law and Finance in Theory and Practice with Katharina Pistor, Edwin B. Parker Professor of Comparative Law; and Colloquium in Global Business Law with David Schizer, Harvey R. Miller Professor of Law and Economics and Dean Emeritus. 

“From the very start of my deanship, I saw in Cathy a leader among alumni,” said Dean Lester, who recognized Kaplan as a “mentor to our students through her teaching, and to me personally: a wise counselor and, in time, valued friend.”

See more photos from the event.

Spotlight February 17, 2023

Black and white photo of a man seated wearing justice's robes

“The law itself is on trial in every case as well as the cause before it.”


Cast in Stone

Born on a farm in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, on October 11, Stone grows up in Amherst, Massachusetts. (Stone’s family on his father’s side originally arrived from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635.) 


Stepping Stone

Graduates from Amherst College, where he plays on the football team and becomes acquainted with fellow student and future President Calvin Coolidge, who will later nominate Stone to the Supreme Court. His classmates predict Stone will “proceed to be the most famous man in [the class of] ’94.”


A Stone’s Throw Away

Graduates from Columbia Law School, joins the New York City firm of Wilmer and Canfield (later Satterlee, Canfield, & Stone), and, in 1899, begins teaching at Columbia Law as a lecturer in law. In 1905, he resigns from the faculty to devote himself full-time to private practice.


The New Stone Age

Returns to Columbia Law School as dean and resumes teaching. An inspiring educator who champions the increasingly popular “case” method, he teaches courses in trusts, contracts, mortgages, criminal law, and property. Students regard him as a friend and honor him by calling themselves “Stone-agers.” After repeatedly clashing with Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler, Stone resigns in 1923 and joins the Wall Street firm Sullivan & Cromwell.



Pushes back against Barnard College Dean Virginia Gildersleeve, who lobbies for women to be admitted to the Law School. In a letter to Gildersleeve, he tells her the faculty believes it is “inadvisable” for any law school to be coeducational. “What I would like to see is a serious undertaking to establish an independent school for women. This, I believe, is the proper solution of the problem,” he wrote her. (The Columbia Law faculty votes to admit women on the same terms as men in 1928.)


Set in Stone

Appointed by President Calvin Coolidge as U.S. attorney general. His most enduring legacy as attorney general is selecting 29-year-old J. Edgar Hoover as acting director of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation. Hoover, who becomes its director by the end of the year, leads the agency (renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935) until his death in 1972.


Rolling Stone

Nominated to the Supreme Court, where former President William Howard Taft is chief justice, Stone is the first nominee to have a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. On the high court, he soon aligns himself with the titanic left-of-center justices Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes. 


Killing Two Birds With One Stone

Delivers an eloquent and important dissent in United States v. Butler outlining two principles for declaring statutes unconstitutional.One is that courts are concerned only with the power to enact statutes, not their wisdom,” he writes. “The other is that while unconstitutional exercise of power by the executive and legislative branches of the government is subject to judicial restraint, the only check up our own exercise of power is our own sense of self-restraint.”


Leaving No Stone Unturned

In Stone’s opinion in United States v. Carolene Products Co., his footnote No. 4 becomes what is universally recognized as “the most important footnote in constitutional law.” He writes that legislation should be “subjected to more exacting judicial scrutiny” when it is “directed at particular religious, or national, or racial minorities” who are victims of “prejudice,” which spawns the principle of judicial review known as strict scrutiny. 


Hits a Stone Wall

Stone is the lone dissenter in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, maintaining that a group of Jehovah’s Witness children have the right to not salute the flag—in defiance of a Pennsylvania flag salute statute—because they believe the action to be against their religious beliefs. (They consider the flag a graven image.) Stone maintains that the Pennsylvania statute violates the students’ rights to freedom of speech and religion, and he reads his entire dissent from the bench.


Etched in Stone

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who attended the Law School from 1905 to 1907) appoints Stone to succeed Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes Sr. 1884. The poet Archibald MacLeish writes that Stone’s elevation, on July 3, to chief justice is “so clearly and certainly and surely right, it resounded in the world like the perfect word spoken at the perfect moment.” Prior to his appointment, Stone writes the majority opinion in United States v. Darby Lumber Co., holding the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be a valid exercise of federal power under the commerce clause. The Darby opinion made Stone “the intellectual leader of the Court’s center,” according to Stone biographer Alpheus T. Mason.


Squeezing Blood From a Stone

The Supreme Court hears another flag salute case from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette. By a 6–3 vote, the justices side with Stone and overturn Gobitis. Justice Robert Jackson’s majority opinion echoes Stone’s lone dissent in Gobitis three years earlier.


Engraved in Stone

Stone passes away on April 22 at 73, a few hours after having a cerebral hemorrhage while presiding over a session of the Supreme Court. Some 2,000 people attend his funeral at the Washington Cathedral, and he is buried at Rock Creek Cemetery. One of his eulogists is Alben Barkley, a senator from Kentucky and future vice president, who says, “No associate justice or chief justice . . . held a more abiding place in the affections of the American people and in the affections of all who knew him intimately and personally.” The Columbia Law Review memorializes him in September with the article “Harlan Fiske Stone: Teacher, Scholar and Dean.” 


Long-standing Stone