Origins of the Partnership

Faculty and students from Allegheny College visited the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, N.Y.

The connection between Allegheny College and the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson goes back quite some time…to March 25, 1910, to be exact.

On that date, the young Jackson participated in the big high school debate between Lockport and Jamestown at Institute Hall in Jamestown, N.Y. Jackson competed before three judges, one of them Dr. O.P. Akers of Allegheny College.

Debate organizers, of course, looked to Akers, a mathematics professor at the small college in nearby northwestern Pennsylvania. At the time, Allegheny was one of the few established institutions of higher learning in the region, located less than 90 minutes from western New York.

So it’s little wonder that when the founders of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown began in 2001 to acquire memorabilia and other important documents from Jackson’s life, they stumbled across that debate flyer from 1910. Ironically, the founding chairman of the Jackson Center was Greg Peterson, an attorney and Allegheny grad from the class of 1973.

“The presence of an Allegheny professor at that high school debate undoubtedly impressed the young Jackson,” Peterson said.

Jackson, who grew up in Frewsburg, N.Y., became a leading lawyer of the New Deal Era, having served as solicitor general, attorney general, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal.

After the Jackson Center was founded in 2001, Peterson and his wife, Cindy ’76, forged a loose, informal connection between the Jackson Center and their alma mater. Working with Professor Emeritus Robert Seddig of Allegheny’s Political Science Department, they arranged to have students conduct research at the Jackson Center, which remains the world’s preeminent resource for primary source materials on the life, work and legacy of Robert H. Jackson.

Finally, in the summer of 2012, Allegheny College and the Robert H. Jackson Center formalized this relationship by signing an affiliation agreement to create the Robert H. Jackson Endowed Fellowship and Symposium Program.

The goal of the partnership is to broaden and improve the already existing informal relationship between Allegheny and the Jackson Center. The Jackson Center offers a bounty of historical archives, and Allegheny provides the creative energy of its students.

“One of the benefits is having a collaboration whereby Jackson’s legacy can be utilized by a wonderful academic institution,” Peterson said.

Peterson worked all last spring and summer with Professor Brian Harward, director of the Center for Political Participation, in crafting the official partnership.

“Now that we’re formalizing this relationship, there is much more we can do,” Harward said. “We have students doing research for comps, and a junior seminar class in political science conducting research there.”

At the end of August, Allegheny faculty attended the Jackson Center’s International Humanitarian Law Dialogues. And next spring, the CPP will co-host with the Jackson Center two conferences: one on the Alien Tort Statute before the Supreme Court (organized with Allegheny’s Philosophy Department), and another on photographic images of war (organized with Allegheny’s Journalism in the Public Interest program).

This past summer, two Allegheny students interned at the Jackson Center. John Nelson and Sarah DeLong, both from the Class of 2014, did mostly archival work, researching for new exhibits, and undertaking the arduous task of organizing a database.

DeLong, who is from Jackson’s native Frewsburg, said she never knew much about Jackson until she started working at the Jackson Center. Regarding the formal affiliation, DeLong said, “I think it will be very beneficial to students, especially for comp research.”

According to Harward, the Jackson Center is connecting in multiple ways with the college. Here are some of the opportunities for collaboration between Allegheny and the Jackson Center:

  • An annual Robert H. Jackson lecture and dinner at the Allegheny campus
  • The Robert H. Jackson Senior Project Program
  • Allegheny student internship experiences and resources for faculty teaching and research
  • Collaboration between Allegheny’s Pelletier Library/Art Gallery and the Jackson Center
  • Robert H. Jackson Scholars Program (prospective Allegheny students)
  • Robert H. Jackson Scholar-in-Residence program at Allegheny/Jackson Center (pre- and post-docs.

Administered by the CPP, the partnership will be overseen by the president of the college and the appropriate Jackson Center staff and/or board members. An advisory board, or leadership panel, will shape and govern the direction of the partnership. Until that board is established, the initial programmatic development will fall to the CPP in collaboration with the Jackson Center under the direction of the Jackson Center’s Vice President for Academic Affairs Doug Neckers.

Neckers, a retired chemistry professor from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, believes the affiliation will offer great rewards to Allegheny students. Although the Jackson Center has always opened its doors to students and others interested in researching Jackson’s work, especially in the Nuremberg trials, the Allegheny partnership is the first official agreement with a college or university.

“My interest is to make it possible for young people to interface with Jackson Center materials and archives, as well as the relatively large client base of people at very high places in the legal and historical communities that Jackson touched,” Necker said. “It’s just a great opportunity.”