Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Law school receives $1 million gift for aid

The GW Law School is redoubling efforts to support student financial aid through fundraising instead of tuition dollars by courting alumni and donors, starting with a $1-million gift from a Board of Trustees member.

James Humphreys, who graduated from the law school in 1979 and joined GW’s Board of Trustees in 2006, has asked that his donation be put toward providing scholarship money for law students. More than 50 percent of law students receive direct financial aid, the vast majority of which stems from the school’s operating budget.

“My father was a garbage collector, and he could not have imagined the financial security that his son and grandchildren would have, and its directly attributable to the education I received in this school,” Humphreys said. “You’ve got to give something back and you can’t keep taking out.”

Humphreys said the law school has not yet determined how many students will be eligible for the scholarship or whether it will be financial, merit or race-based aid.

The trustee will also sit on a newly formed law school committee of donors to strategize for the school’s fundraising future.

“Education has become something out of reach for middle-class, working-class and poor Americans,” Humphreys said. “No one should be denied an education because of their race, gender or financial circumstances.”

In 2006, the West Virginia-based lawyer gave $3 million to fund the James F. Humphreys Litigation Center and endowed faculty positions. Humphreys has donated about $5 million in total to the law school.

The law school’s new fundraising campaign, which Dean Paul Schiff Berman said has no timetable or goal yet, will mirror an upcoming University-wide effort that Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Mike Morsberger said in October would emphasize alumni giving and large-gift procurement.

Rich Collins, the law school’s associate vice president for development and alumni relations, said the school has seen success recently from individual gifts and class-giving programs, raising $11 million for scholarships in the last six years.

Law school officials hope the donation spurs more giving from alumni to pad the school’s about $120 million endowment, a stockpile of funds separate from the University’s endowment that supports the law school’s academics, scholarships and research.

Collins said the law school’s fundraising rank among GW’s 10 schools varies from year to year but it typically falls in the top three. The money that each school fundraises is added to the University’s total count, but schools keep the money they have raised.

With a larger endowment, the law school is looking to become less dependent on tuition dollars so that it can support more programs and scholarships – a shift law school dean Paul Schiff Berman called “a game changer.”

“If I could get more of that money to be coming out of the endowment and a set of investments that other individuals have made, then that’s really a qualitatively different [law school] program and would allow me to do a lot more,” Berman said.

Collins said his office wants 50 percent of the law school’s endowment to go to financial aid – an increase from the current 20 percent, or $23 million.

“The strength of a big endowment sets apart the top schools from the challengers,” Collins said. “The schools that have the largest endowments are able to provide year in and year out resources, so they’re not as affected by the economy or job market.”

In his first year as dean, Berman has put a spotlight on student life and career services – focuses that require money in the operating budget to make changes.

Law school administrators stressed last year that hiring a dean with fundraising chops was a priority. Berman earned the job in part because of the aggressive fundraising abilities he showcased as dean at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

When the College of Law was cut off from state funds in light of budget cuts last spring, the law school’s tuition increased by $2,700 but a burst of fundraising quelled the damage, Berman said last May. He added that during his tenure, he “radically increased the funding of the law school.”

Lauren French contributed to this report.

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