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Standing On Top—and Savoring Success

Guests at the spring-themed 2010 Weinfeld Gala celebrate the Law School’s monumental $415 million capital campaign.

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The NYU School of Law’s capital campaign, “Where We Stand,” which was launched in 2002 and publicly kicked off at the 2005 Weinfeld Gala, wrapped up with an exuberant 2010 gala on March 1 at the New York Public Library’s main branch on Fifth Avenue.

More than 400 guests convened in the library’s august rooms to celebrate the Law School’s achievement in raising $415,064,515 to fund student scholarships and public interest work, increase the number of faculty and chaired professorships, and support faculty-run centers and institutes. The Law School also succeeded in doubling its annual fund between 2002 (when it raised $3.1 million) and 2009 (when it raised $6.2 million), thanks to the seven-year effort that emphasized opportunity, community, and leadership.

Attaining such ambitious fundraising goals despite a recession and a historic bear market lent the festivities a victorious air. A jazz band serenaded attendees as they passed the library’s iconic stone lions to ascend the stately staircase—carpeted in violet for the occasion. In Astor Hall for the cocktail hour, the curious could look up at vintage black-and-white photographs of the Law School’s past projected on the ceiling. Hydrangeas festooned the hallway leading to the dinner hall, where green tablecloths and orchid, lily, and rose centerpieces played up a spring theme.

Several speakers took the stage to note the importance of the occasion and to deliver a clear message of gratitude to the donors as well as the campaign staff and leadership. Dean Richard Revesz reflected on the ambitious campaign in his remarks: “Many thought, $400 million—Is that possible? Could we do it? Are we crazy? The answer to all three of those questions is a resounding ‘yes.’ I stand here before you today to announce that we did it. You did it. Our campaign raised more dollars per year than any other law school campaign ever. Thank you! Our Law School community is over 40,000 strong, spread across six continents, and if I could, I would thank each and every member of our community personally.”

Revesz gratefully acknowledged Jeannie Forrest, then-associate dean for development and alumni relations. She invited Sullivan & Cromwell partner Kenneth Raisler ’76, vice chair of the campaign steering committee, to join her at the lectern.

Raising $400 million, Forrest said, fell into a category the corporate world calls “big HAGs,” or “hairy, audacious goals.” Recalling that when she came to NYU Law she had been daunted by the task, Forrest remarked of the dean, “I’m thankful he saw through me to the possibilities. His reply personified his approach: ‘I need you to start today.’”

She also credited Revesz for his leadership throughout the campaign, describing how he “impressed the heck out of prospects with his big ideas and vast knowledge of the Law School and huge faith in the institution.”

Raisler spoke to the campaign’s broader goals: “Our intent was not simply to raise money. Our intent was to make a legitimate difference in the fabric of legal education and guide this law school’s upward trajectory.” To illustrate the campaign’s success in that area, Forrest and Raisler recounted the stories of four students whose lives were changed by NYU Law professors. They capped off their speeches by introducing a “thank-you” video featuring members of the Law School community.

The evening concluded with remarks from Board of Trustees Chairman Anthony Welters ’77, who was also chair of the campaign steering committee. Thanking the committee’s vice chairs—Raisler, Florence Davis ’79, Wayne Perry (LL.M. ’76), and Eileen Sudler ’74—Welters said, “Our sights were high, our campaign team indomitable, and this great institution’s alumni the most generous in the world.” Welters also acknowledged the leadership of Lester Pollack ’57, who was chairman of the board when the campaign began.

Welters spoke of the economic downturn as “a period when people were focused on protecting their resources, limiting their commitments, and hunkering down for the long haul.” He added: “We are fortunate to have trustees who said there is something more important than hunkering down….[NYU School of Law] is a global community…[that] has come together to accomplish some extraordinary initiatives. A community that believes it can make a difference in the daily lives of real people across the globe.”

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