New scholarships reflect faculty and administration commitment to student support

February 7, 2013Duke Law News

Support of this magnitude from the Law School’s faculty and administration underscores both their tremendous commitment to students — a characteristic we experienced first-hand as students ourselves — as well as the potential for the Duke Forward campaign to mobilize our community in support of the Law School.”

David Ichel ’78, chair,
Duke Law Board of Visitors

Two new scholarship funds — one established by the Duke Law faculty and one by Dean David F. Levi and his wife, Nancy R. Ranney — will provide added financial support for students and reflect a school-wide commitment to supporting students in and out of the classroom.

Scholarships are a priority of the Law School’s current $85 million capital campaign launched last fall, as part of Duke University’s $3.25 billion Duke Forward fundraising campaign.  

Established in mid-December, the Faculty Financial Aid Scholarship Fund already has attracted gifts and multi-year pledges of $175,000 toward a $250,000 goal.  In addition, the David F. Levi and Nancy R. Ranney Scholarship was created by the couple’s personal gift of $100,000 and matching funds from the Star Financial Aid Matching Challenge, established in 2012 by Elizabeth and Stanley A. Star ’61.   

“Support of this magnitude from the Law School’s faculty and administration underscores both their tremendous commitment to students — a characteristic we experienced first-hand as students ourselves — as well as the potential for the Duke Forward campaign to mobilize our community in support of the Law School,” said Board of Visitors Chair David Ichel ’78 in announcing the new scholarships to alumni.  “This sort of deep commitment across the spectrum of an academic institution is unique and special.” 

The Faculty Financial Aid Scholarship

When Professor Laurence R. Helfer first discussed the idea of establishing an endowed, faculty-sponsored scholarship for students with his colleagues in December, he found enthusiastic support.

“One of the most exciting and satisfying parts of my job at Duke Law School is teaching and getting to know our wonderful students,” said Sara Sun Beale, the Charles L. B. Lowndes Professor of Law and an early supporter of Helfer’s idea. “My colleagues and I want our contributions to the capital campaign to help support our students both now and in the future.”  

Helfer, the Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor of Law, said he hopes students take away three key messages from the faculty-sponsored initiative:  “That we recognize the financial challenges students are facing; that we’re willing to help them to meet those challenges; and that we believe a Duke Law education is worth the investment.” 

“This is an uncertain time in legal education,” Helfer said. “The scholarship fund provides one modest way for the faculty to respond positively to some of the recent changes.”

Helfer, who joined the faculty in 2009, characterizes the Duke Law community as one that is “intellectually engaged, cohesive and entrepreneurial.” 

The depth of intellectual engagement is reflected in students who convene ad hoc seminars on areas of law that aren’t offered in the existing curriculum, he said, pointing to a series of seminars related to international law and human rights that have combined classroom study with field research on topics such as indigenous land rights in Brazil and violence against women in Haiti.

“The Dean’s Office and the faculty wanted to confirm the added pedagogical value of these seminars,” Helfer said. “But once that was demonstrated, our attitude was, ‘That’s a good idea.  How do we make it happen?’  This is just one example of how faculty support a range of teaching and learning opportunities for our students.” 

“The care and attention our faculty give to their students and their teaching is our defining characteristic,” said Dean Levi. “That our faculty, who work so hard to guide and teach and mentor our students, are willing to also support them financially in this way is an inspiring, tangible and personal expression of that commitment.”

He said he is gratified, too, to see the depth of support for the scholarship among members of the faculty; Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead, who co-taught “Faces of the Law” with Levi and Professor Jedediah Purdy in the last academic year, is included among the scholarship donors.

The David F. Levi and Nancy R. Ranney Scholarship

“Our faculty’s devotion to our students is one of the reasons Duke Law is so special — and one of the reasons Nancy and I wanted to create our own scholarship,” Levi said. “We believe in the work of this Law School and its capacity to train leaders for the legal profession and our society. Ensuring that students who want to be a part of this wonderful tradition can do so is important to us.  I have called upon our alumni to do more to help our current students.  We want to answer that call as well.”

The high cost of law school has long been a subject of focus for Levi, who noted the establishment of 11 new scholarships for the Law School just in the past eight months.

“Our education is expensive,” he told alumni in a recent message. “Our classes are small, our faculty includes many of the leading scholars in the world, and we cover the broad spectrum of skills and topics needed in a dynamic legal environment.

“Our tuition does not cover the cost of a Duke Law education and the supporting services that students receive,” he pointed out.  “Even the full tuition covers only about two-thirds of the cost of an education at Duke Law. The difference is made up by our community of alumni and friends who have given to the school over the years and who have stepped up now to help our students and young graduates.”

Thanks in large part to gifts from alumni and friends, Levi noted, Duke Law has doubled scholarship funding to $10 million in the last five years and is able to provide nearly 80 percent of students with scholarship support — a higher percentage than any other top law school.  

“By the power of our joint philanthropy,” Levi wrote to alumni, “we can keep our doors open for all the many deserving students who wish to come to our school.

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