“Along with Professor Tom Reed
, who could not be here with us today, John Wherry saw the need for practical training for students wanting to become litigators. ITAP was born 26 years ago, and now on both campuses it is absolutely a fixture,” said Dean Linda L. Ammons
as she spoke before the unveiling of a portrait of the late Professor E. John Wherry Jr. held in Polishook Hall on the afternoon of Friday, May 18th.
Wherry began his legal career in Mercer County, N.J., and served on the law school’s Delaware campus adjunct faculty from 1984 to 1990, then moved into the full-time faculty before retiring in 1996. During his time at Widener he recognized a need for practical training for students seeking to become litigators. To fill that gap, he helped found the Intensive Trial Advocacy Program
, known as ITAP, which is a seven-day boot camp-style program that teaches law students the skills they need to succeed in a courtroom.
Several members of the judiciary attended the ceremony, including retired U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of New Jersey John Hughes, who spent many years serving as an ITAP instructor alongside Wherry. Hughes spearheaded efforts to raise funds for the portrait. U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson of the district of New Jersey, who was a close friend of Wherry, offered brief remarks before the portrait unveiling.
Of her friend, Thompson said, “He was a genius in the municipal court, successfully defending clients with unusual knowledge and skill. Quick on his feet, John became a legend in Mercer County in the trial bar, but I think that the life of the law he loved most was teaching here at Widener Law School.”
“I think John found his calling here, and his happiest days were spent in the Trial Advocacy Program here at the school,” she concluded.
During his time at Widener the school received the American College of Trial Lawyers’ prestigious Emil Gumpert Award for excellence in the teaching of trial advocacy. Wherry generously supported ITAP. A trial advocacy endowment fund at the school bears his name and a highlight of ITAP is its E. John Wherry Jr. Distinguished Lecture in Trial Advocacy and Professionalism.
Artist Carol Vennell Sciolla painted the portrait. She is the wife of Widener Law alumnus Greg Sciolla, a member of the 1975 graduating class – Widener Law’s first class.
“He was much beloved here,” Ammons said of Wherry, “and his legacy lives on today, especially through ITAP. In fact, often when I’m out visiting with alums they still ask me, ‘Do you have the ITAP program?’ And I assure them that we do.”