A Historic Donation—And a Name Change—For Penn Law

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Penn’s law school received a $125 million donation in November from the W. P. Carey Foundation, marking the largest gift ever given to a law school.

In recognition of the gift, “and in honor of the Carey family and its long-term involvement with Penn,” the Penn Board of Trustees approved a resolution designating that the school will be named the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.

But following some backlash to the name change, with more than 3,000 students and alumni signing an online petition to protest it, Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger announced the school will continue to use Penn Law as its short-form name until the start of the 2022–23 academic year, “after which we will use Penn Carey Law, thereby embracing both tradition and transformation,” Ruger wrote.

“Most importantly,” Ruger added, “this historic gift positively impacts past, present, and future students of the Law School. … Among other areas, it will allow us to increase student financial support for historically underrepresented students, expand our already outstanding pro bono and public service programming, continue to recruit preeminent professors … and provide for the expansion and furtherance of our programs to ensure that Penn will be the foremost leader in legal education.” He also noted the gift will amplify Penn’s newly launched Future of the Profession Initiative, which examines the changing legal landscape.

A leading philanthropic supporter of education, the New York-based W. P. Carey Foundation had previously made large gifts to the University of Maryland’s law school and the business schools at Johns Hopkins and Arizona State. It was founded in 1990 by William Polk Carey W’53, who also founded the leading real estate firm W. P. Carey Incorporated, and its first president was Francis J. Carey C’45 L’49. Both brothers have since passed away.

William P. Carey II WG’19, the current chair of the foundation, said in a statement that the “W. P. Carey Foundation shares Penn’s fundamental conviction that the study of law must be connected with the insights of other disciplines. 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.”

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