Among his many qualities, Lawton brought to his post a thoughtful demeanor and the critical eye of a classicist. When giving speeches, he was fond of referring to great thinkers of the past and present; he would take out their books and directly quote from the writings of philosophers, educators or saints.
Lawton became Loyola Marymount University’s 14th president in May 1999, and in 11 years, he has shaped every part of university life.
But the capstone of Lawton’s accomplishments at LMU is the William H. Hannon Library, a $63 million facility that opened in August 2009. At the library’s dedication, Lawton referenced 19th century art critic John Ruskin, who said that we ask of buildings that they shelter us and that they speak to us. He continued: “What this library says to us is have high ambition, have high aspirations and aim for great academic achievement. … But the building also speaks about another LMU quality: that great achievement is not simply for oneself but for the good of others.”
That the William H. Hannon Library will be a symbol of Lawton’s presidency is fitting. It was built in part through the generosity of William H. Hannon, who received a scholarship that enabled him to get a college degree. After establishing a successful career for himself, Hannon returned the gift as an important donor to the university. Hannon’s life was an example of accomplishment and service, and Robert B. Lawton, S.J., never failed to urge the LMU community to aspire to both throughout his term of service at LMU.