In this age of the never-ending pitch, leaders are expected always to be ready to rattle off their organization’s signature strengths. As dean, I am often asked to do so.
In compiling a list of the School of Law’s strengths, it is tempting to take a mental walk through the building, looking in every corner for great achievements. There is much to see, of course – in this room, great teaching; in that one, enthusiastic and engaged learning; in here, an innovative skills training program; in there, a winning competition team diligently practicing.
These are all great strengths, yet this visual tour of the premises will not lead you to what is, in my judgment, the School of Law’s greatest strength. Indeed, you could wander the building all day and never lay eyes on it. That is because UB law’s greatest strength can’t be seen. With time, it can be sensed. Later, it can be keenly felt. Eventually it can become a tool and an asset, and finally a source of sustenance and comfort.
The strength to which I refer is community. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends are bound to each other by powerful connections. These ties extend across time to embrace the most recent arrival and the most seasoned alum. They are forged from strong and lasting bonds of friendship, mutual respect, shared goals, and above all, the belief that the wellbeing of all depends on the wellbeing of each. It is, in short, a community whose members encourage, help and lift one other.
Nothing better exemplifies the power of this community than the School of Law’s historic $30 million fund-raising campaign, which recently surpassed its goal. The campaign was conceived and planned in a partnership of the past and present for the benefit of the future. Alumni, students, administrators and faculty all played key roles in its execution. But the real credit goes to the more than 6,000 friends and alumni who were willing to place a bet that our entire community, including present members, will be strengthened by expanding the opportunities available to those just joining or yet to join us.
That bet is already beginning to pay off. Funds available for student scholarships have more than tripled. The number of named faculty professorships has more than doubled. Support for the New York City Program, the Advocacy Institute and Discover Law has boomed. Teaching technology throughout the building has been upgraded. These improvements create a better experience for our students, help retain top faculty, and in general assist us in turning out more accomplished graduates, thereby strengthening the bar, in turn improving the quality of justice in our communities. At the end of the day, everybody benefits.
I’d like to extend my profound personal thanks to our Campaign co-chairs, to the members of the Campaign Committee, to the development staff, to our many volunteers, and above all, to the generous souls who, through gifts large and small, lifted us all. We are all more connected than we know.
With all best wishes,
Interim Dean James Gardner