One of the challenging, yet rewarding, aspects of development work is understanding the motivations of donors, especially those capable of significant gifts. Here I offer four examples of major donors, “hidden in plain view,” addressing an identical problem with slightly different motivations.
For each of these examples, the need being addressed is the disruption of employment prospects and the inability of law students and graduates to sit for the bar examination due to COVID-19. Note how their own experiences shaped their desire to give.
Dean Danielle Conway, Penn State Dickinson Law, gave $125,000 to a fund to help students navigate financial difficulties. Having graduated Howard University Law School with emergency loans to pay bills until her financial aid materialized, Dean Conway noted: “Those emergency loans were the difference between showing up for class ready to work and being anxious about not being able to pay my bills.”
Paul Caron, a Cornell Law graduate, nationally known tax scholar and dean of Pepperdine’s Caruso School of Law, gave $125,000 to Pepperdine. Part of his motivation was inspired by the Gospel of Matthew: “We are enormously grateful for the opportunity to serve in these roles at Pepperdine and believe it is only right for us to try to live out the University’s commitment to Matthew 10:8, ‘Freely ye have received, freely give.’” Dean Caron had previously endowed a scholarship at the law school and has also been a prodigious fundraiser, including securing the $50 million naming gift of the law school.
Antony Page, dean of the Florida International University College of Law made a “$200,000 planned gift” for the establishment of scholarships supporting law students who are first-generation college graduates. Page noted a scholarship during his days at Stanford Law permitted him the flexibility to pursue a career in academe.
Finally, a Harvard Law graduate, Laura Rosenbury, currently dean of the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida, committed $25,000 for an endowment providing scholarships to graduates of historically black colleges and universities and $75,000 supporting students with unexpected expenses incurred by COVID.
Interestingly, none of the deans who made gifts were alumni of the schools they supported. Perhaps their unstated motivation was to lead by example.
By Professor Chris Woehrle, Chair & Professor of Tax & Estate Planning Department, College for Financial Planning, Centennial, Colorado
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