A $30 million donation to the University of Maryland School of Law — the largest gift the school has ever received — will help boost the nearly 200-year-old institution into national prominence, professors, students and alumni say.
The gift from the W.P. Carey Foundation, run by a family with long mercantile and legal roots in Baltimore and Maryland, was announced Monday in the school's packed atrium, which was festooned with scores of colorful balloons and yellow "Carey Forward" campaign-style buttons. Officials said the money would go toward faculty support, strengthening major concentrations of study such as business law, and boosting the endowment.
"It says to people that their law school is being nationally recognized," 37-year law professor Larry Gibson said during the event at the campus on downtown Baltimore's west side.
To Chelsea Jones, a first-year student from Bethesda who wants to practice public interest law, the donation means "the law school will be able to do so much more" for both students and clients served by graduates. "The law school will be propelled into the national spotlight," the 25-year-old said.
The gift prompted the school's regents to rename the institution the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law after an 1880 graduate who was the grandfather of William Polk Carey, chairman of both the foundation and W.P. Carey and Co. LLC, and Francis J. Carey, foundation president and board member of the financial company.
The gift was the latest major university donation by the 23-year-old Carey Foundation, which was founded by William Polk Carey. The foundation has given $50 million to the Johns Hopkins University, home of the Carey Business School, and $50 million to Arizona State University for the W.P. Carey School of Business.
Maryland's law school, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary next year, has made a commitment to raise $15 million more on its own.
Paul Bekman, a 1971 graduate who is the chairman of the board of visitors, said the donation will allow the school to attract and retain top-quality faculty, and to expand the curriculum.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, an alumnus, pointed out that the school's legal clinics serve lower-income people who need help. "One of the reasons this is so important is that this is one of the top clinical law schools in the country today," he said.
At the gift announcement, students, faculty, alumni and public officials stood watching the ceremony in the four-story atrium, some leaning over railings to see and hear. The two elderly Carey brothers sat on either side of law school Dean Phoebe A. Haddon on the stage.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Haddon said, adding that the gift "links the past with the future."
She presented the brothers with a large framed copy of the pages of the 1880 law school yearbook. The graduating class included Francis King Carey, co-founder of a firm that was a predecessor of DLA Piper, now one of the largest law firms in the world.
William Polk Carey recalled his grandfather, saying, "As the school goes forward, he's up there watching. He'll give us all the support to be the greatest law school in the world."
William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, credited former U.S. Sen. Joseph Tydings, who was sitting in the front row at the ceremony, with first approaching William Carey about a contribution. He gave Haddon the credit for persistently following up over months to secure the huge gift.
"You inspire us to reach for the stars," Kirwan said to the Carey brothers.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, another graduate of the school, said, "They're really working to put this campus on the map." The gift, she said, "is the icing on the cake for a lot of hard work. It's going to take the entire campus to the next level."
The Carey family goes back six generations in Baltimore to James Carey, an 18th-century shipping business owner who married Martha Ellicott, a granddaughter of one of the Ellicotts who founded Ellicott City. West Baltimore's Carey Street is named for the family.
The Carey Foundation has given money to other Maryland schools, including the Gilman School, founded by William Carey's grandmother, Anne Galbraith Carey; the Baltimore School for the Arts; the Bryn Mawr School; and the Calvert School, according to the announcement.
The Carey family has a long history with the University of Maryland law school. Francis King Carey's elder brother, James, also graduated from the school in 1875, and his son, Francis J. Carey, graduated in 1912.
"This gift represents the Carey family's educational and philanthropic legacy in the great state of Maryland and helps us honor family members who dedicated their lives and careers to education, to civic duty and many to the legal profession itself," William Polk Carey said in a prepared statement.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, who attended the ceremony, praised the gift in the statement.