Law School plans fund-raising campaign

by Tom Lopez

Rather than wait for the Legislature to consider the University’s budget request, the Law School is embarking on its own fund-raising campaign.
The Law School is currently planning a “capital campaign” designed to raise money from alumni, businesses and community members. While no specific timeline has been established, the school plans to mount the campaign over the next few years.
“A capital campaign is a concentrated effort to identify the needs of our institution and to raise money to support endowments for those needs,” said E. Thomas Sullivan, dean of the Law School.
A capital campaign is different from typical fund raising, Sullivan said, because it is a more long-term effort and is an attempt to raise money for specific areas in the school such as scholarships, the Law Library, new programs, computers and other technical equipment.
Sullivan said the last such campaign the school mounted began 10 years ago, an enterprise that earned the school $10 million dollars in contributions and another $10 million in matching funds from the Legislature.
Because the campaign is still in its formative stages this year, the school has not yet approached lawmakers about again matching any funds generated.
The school received a healthy boost to the campaign in the form of a $1 million gift from an alumnus. Vance Opperman is a 1969 graduate of the school and president and chief executive of Key Investment Inc. Opperman is also the president of the Law School’s Board of Directors and a member of its Board of Visitors. He made the contribution at the beginning of this year.
“Much of the success I’ve had in life was the result of the training I got at the Law School,” said Opperman, who was named one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America by the National Law Journal in 1991. “I was very happy to start repaying some of that debt.”
The gift is a discretionary donation, which means that the dean can allocate the money where it is needed, Opperman said. This is in contrast to a dedicated donation, which is given to a specific area of the school with a set goal. Opperman said dedicated donations are a vital part of Law school’s fund raising, but that discretionary money is also important, and sometimes difficult to get.
With such funding, he said, the dean has more flexibility to consider new initiatives such as scholarships.
Opperman said such flexibility, and the high regard in which he holds the dean, is the reason he made the donation discretionary. “Deans, particularly deans of the quality and vision of Dean Sullivan, often have a variety of ideas to help the Law School if the money were available.”
Discretionary contributions, Sullivan said, help the school look confidently toward the future. “Discretionary funding is very important,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to seize opportunities when they come along that otherwise we may have had to pass up.”
Sullivan added that all types of funding are valuable, especially at the University, since it receives relatively little state money. Currently, state money accounts for about 20 percent of the Law School’s budget, an amount Sullivan considers “relatively on the light side.”
For that reason, he said, attaining outside financial support is increasingly necessary. “Private dollars are very important for the Law School to maintain its commitment toward excellence,” he said. “We just couldn’t be the institution that we are without private support.”