A decorating tradition enlivens a corner of campus

In October 2010, Coastal Law students and faculty were treated to an unusual sight. Athree-sided study carrel outside the Legal Clinics on the school’s second floor had been transformed into a Halloween scene, complete with a giant spider dangling from an equally giant web, tombstones, skeletal hands,and a selection of particularly frightening law textbooks. On the table sat a largedish of Halloween candy.

The perpetrators of this particular trick-and-treat were first-year law students Jonathan Gless and Hunter Whaley, and it soon became apparent that they were not about to stop with a single act of holiday decoration. For the next three years, Gless and Whaleyregularly festooned the space that became known as “The Office” with a succession of holiday and seasonal designs.

“The table was where Hunter and I spent all of our timeevery day,” says Gless. “Since we were living there, we thought that we might as well enjoy it.”

According to Whaley, “Jon had appropriated the space from about his first or second week at school. I started to study there, too, and we became friends. The idea of decorating for Halloween was kind of a lark.We didn’t know how people would react, and a few seemed a little put off at first that we’d bring the outside world into the law school, but most people seemed to like it.”

Once Halloween was over, the decorations quickly changed. A fall/Thanksgiving theme was followed by Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July and so onaround the calendar. But one tradition continued, regardless of the season: the candydish.

“The first time we put out candy, it was gone in seconds,” says Gless. “But we tried to always keep it refilled, especially around finals time. Some students and faculty were under the impression the candy was provided by the school, but it wasn’t. We had a rule: If you take candy, always say, ‘Thank you,’ and if you take some frequently, please provide some. So when other students would bring bags of candy, we would add it to the dish.”

Whaley and Gless both graduated from Coastal Law in May and passed the bar exam administered in July.

“For our last decoration, we used a tropical theme and called it the ‘Bar-muda Triangle,’ ” says Gless.

Gless is currently working in the legal department of Wounded Warrior Project in Jacksonville and is hoping to become a litigator in public service, either as a State Attorney or Public Defender. Whaley is now in Tallahassee, working toward aMasters degree in Library Science at Florida State University with the goal of becoming a law librarian.

Both Coastal Law alums hope the tradition of decorating “The Office” for the changing seasons will continue, and that it will continue to be an informal stop on the campus tour.

“We’ve passed the torch to Amy De Guzman, a third-year law student,” says Gless. “Now it’s up to her to build on what we’ve started. I’m sure she will. After all it’s nearly Halloween.”