History of Stetson Law

Florida's First Law School

Stetson University College of Law humbly began on Oct. 2, 1900, with five students from Florida. Since then, the state's oldest law school has trained thousands to become legal experts and societal leaders.

In 1954, Stetson Law moved from DeLand to a beautiful new 21-acre campus in Gulfport. An enrollment boom after World War II spurred the relocation to the 17 buildings which had been part of the Hotel Rolyat built in 1925. Today, the student body exceeds 1,000 and Stetson Law has grown to become home of the nation's top-ranked advocacy program and LL.M. degree programs in advocacy, elder law and international law. The Tampa Law Center opened in 2004 as a major hub for legal activity -- housing evening law classes, the Tampa branch of the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, and legal conferences.

Stetson students study in the library in 1902


Stetson Law founded in DeLand


First graduating class

Stetson Law Class of 1916


Stetson Law becomes three-year school


Stetson Law applicants need two years of college


Hotel Rolyat opens

The Stetson University College of Law campus in Gulfport once housed a magnificent "Florida boom period" hotel known as the Rolyat. The hotel opened in January 1926 and was a re-creation of a Spanish walled settlement of the feudal ages. On opening night, the main fountain in the Plaza Mayor was filled with champagne.

Guests at the Hotel Rolyat


Stetson Law becomes ABA approved


Stetson Law joins AALS

Florida Military Academy students


Babe Ruth visits Hotel Rolyat

Babe Ruth signed his 1932 Yankees contract officially in the lounge and a second time for photographs in the Plaza Mayor at the Rolyat Hotel.


Florida Military Academy opens

In 1932, the Hotel Rolyat closed due to poor economic conditions. Instead of selling the land, the hotel's owners purchased a boys' school and moved it to Gulfport, where it was located until 1952.

Florida Military Academy students


Stetson Law closes until end of WWII


Stetson Law moves to naval base at DeLand Airport, enrollment grows to 194 due to G.I. Bill


Stetson Law relocated to Gulfport

Class of 1959 at graduation with faculty members


First Law College Board of Overseers

A male and a female student in the Law Library in the 1950s


Charles A. Dana Library opens


Stetson is first law school in Florida to establish clinical program


J.D. replaces LL.B.


H. Jackson Crummer classroom building and Eleanor Naylor Dana Administrative Hall open

Students in the courtyard in the 1970's
Stetson Law Review students gathered at a desk


Stetson Law Review is first published


Harold L. Sebring Courtroom opens

Sebring Courtroom in 1976
1994 Trial Advocacy Champions pose with award


Stetson wins all five National Trial Advocacy competitions, Carey & Florin Courtroom dedicated


Stetson Law ranked No. 1 for trial skills education


LL.M. program begins, Law Library and Legal Information Center opens

Stetson Law hosted United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the keynote speaker for the dedication of the new law library on Saturday, Sept. 5, 1998. During the event, she discussed the history and evolution of law libraries in the United States, the changes in law education over the course of history, and the rise of women in the law profession.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivers keynote speech at the dedication of the Law Library in 1998
Student center


Student Center opens, part-time J.D. program launched


Tampa Law Center opens, Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Courtroom dedicated

Students take an exam inside the Eleazer Courtroom
Students take an exam inside the Eleazer Courtroom


William Eleazer Courtroom dedicated


Florin Roebig Courtroom upgraded and rededicated

Students take an exam inside the Eleazer Courtroom


Dolly & Homer Hand Library named


Veterans Law Institute opens

Exterior of the Veterans Law Institute


Veterans Law Institute moves to new building


Professor Michèle Alexandre selected as Dean

Professor Michèle Alexandre, J.D., a leading civil rights scholar, administrator and trailblazer, is selected as the next dean of the College of Law at Stetson University. Alexandre is the College of Law's first African American dean.

Dean Alexandre