A New York-based philanthropy whose founders have deep ties to the University of Pennsylvania has given its law school $125 million, the largest single gift ever for a law school.
After the gift from the W.P. Carey Foundation, the school will become the University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law. It’s the first time in the law school’s history that it will carry a family name.
Generations of Carey family members have attended Penn, including the first president of the foundation, Francis J. Carey, who graduated from the law school 70 years ago, and his brother, William Polk Carey, founder of the foundation and W.P. Carey Inc., a real estate investment company.
Penn announced the gift and the name following a meeting of the board of trustees Friday.
“The Carey family and the foundation have deep roots at Penn as dedicated alumni and generous supporters of the university’s educational mission and its students,” Penn president Amy Gutmann said. “Through this partnership, their philanthropy will benefit generations of law students, the profession, and the rule of law.”
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The largest prior gifts to law schools include James E. Rogers’ $115 million gift to the University of Arizona School of Law and a $100 million gift from venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker to Northwestern University’s law school. Among other Philadelphia-area law schools, lawyer Thomas R. Kline gave $50 million to Drexel in 2014 and Charles Widger, founder and executive chairman of Brinker Capital, a Berwyn investment management firm, donated $25 million to Villanova in 2016.
Penn’s law school, which enrolls nearly 1,000 students, traces its roots to 1790, when James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, gave Penn’s first lectures in law to President George Washington and members of his Cabinet. Penn in 1850 established a law department, and that department was converted into the law school in 1909.
The school’s graduates include former Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts; John Heisman, namesake of the Heisman Trophy; Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in the United States in economics; and three current U.S. House members from Pennsylvania — Matt Cartwright, Conor Lamb, and Mary Gay Scanlon.
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Penn said it plans to use the Carey gift to further initiatives, including funding more pro bono work by its law students and providing lifelong education for alumni. To respond to changes in the profession, the law school will offer alumni continuing education programs and mid-career counseling.
Also getting some of the resources will be a new law school project, called “Future of the Profession,” looking at how to prepare lawyers going forward and improve the profession.
“As lawyers, we find ourselves at an important inflection point in the history of our profession,” Penn Law dean Ted Ruger said in launching the project last month. “Change in the legal field is accelerating as technology evolves, new entrants join the industry, the practice of law becomes more globalized, regulatory frameworks governing lawyers shift, and attorneys approach their careers differently.”
The gift also will allow the law school to increase financial aid to students, including those from traditionally underrepresented minority groups, Penn said. And it will help the school to attract more top-notch faculty, the university said.
Additionally, the gift will help the law school continue its interdisciplinary focus, which was of particular interest to the Carey family.
“The W.P. Carey Foundation shares Penn’s fundamental conviction that the study of law must be connected with the insights of other disciplines,” William P. Carey II, a 2019 Wharton School graduate and current chairman of the foundation, said in a statement. “This gift will bolster cross-disciplinary opportunities for law students at Penn’s 11 other top-ranked graduate and professional schools, preparing the next generation of leaders in the law, business, government, and in the public interest.”