Leadership Through Giving

The art of appreciation – and giving back


“The Law School gave me the tools to build an interesting and successful career, and I’m grateful for it.” - Carol M. Matorin '76

Carol M. Matorin always had an artistic eye. As a UB undergraduate she considered becoming an art major. Even in law school – as a member of the now-legendary Class of 1976, the first class in the newly built O’Brian Hall – “I followed my interests, studying types of law that were related to art,” she says. She followed that interest into a successful career in corporate law, negotiating contracts and tending to business for Calvin Klein Cosmetics Co., Limited Brands and, most recently, Marc Jacobs International, where she was senior vice president and general counsel. Now, recently retired, she has a little more time to hit the famed museums of New York City and indulge her passion for the creative.

Although it may sound like a cliché, passion is important, Matorin says, no matter what you’re doing. “When I talk to aspiring lawyers, I advise them to spend some time with people who are practicing in various fields of law,” she says. “I want to make sure that they find out what their days will look and feel like. It must resonate with them, because they’ll be working very long hours and very hard for many years, and in order to enjoy their work under those circumstances, it must be aligned with their passion.”

Now Matorin has made a major commitment of $250,000 to SUNY Buffalo Law School, to help ensure that the next generation of attorneys can have access to high-quality legal education and have the chance to build their future.

“The Law School gave me the tools to build an interesting and successful career, and I’m grateful for it,” says Matorin, who serves on both the Dean’s Advisory Council and the steering committee of the Campaign for SUNY Buffalo Law School. “I would like other people to have the same opportunity.”

Matorin, a New York City native who now lives in Brooklyn, earned her undergraduate degree in UB as well. “They were seven very meaningful and happy years in Buffalo. I even like the cold! I made lifelong friendships there, and still have very close friends who are up there.

“I believe in public education – that’s a major theme for me. SUNY Buffalo Law School must continue to provide a quality educational experience, and it’s crucial that an affordable option exists for people.”

That concern for quality public education extends to her involvement on the board of a nonprofit group called Cool Culture, which builds literacy through culture by, among other things, providing free access to 90 of New York City’s museums for underserved pre-K children and their families. “Part of the mission is encouraging the parents to become the child’s first educator through these cultural engagements,” Matorin says. “We also work with museum educators and pre-K education providers on how to attract a diverse audience and make families feel safe and comfortable. A lot of families are intimidated by museums – they are outside the neighborhood, there’s a guard at the front door, it’s for them not for us – a lot of barriers we help work through so families can feel empowered, engage and provide that benefit and enrichment for their children. If parents learn to step out of their comfort zone for the child’s sake, who knows where that can lead as the child grows?”

Looking back on her career, Matorin is proud that she made some major transitions. From her first job after law school in the New York City Corporation Counsel’s office, Family Court Division, she moved to the private sector with a boutique FCC firm, then to a larger firm doing advertising and marketing law. One of her clients was Calvin Klein Cosmetics Co., and that was what occasioned another major move from law firm to corporate law. “I have always been interested in intellectual property law, and I was going to have it as part of my practice one way or another,” she recalls.

“A lot of people get typecast by their first job. It’s not that easy to go from public to private, or from litigation to contract law. You have to have a special kind of drive and desire and strategic planning in order to make those transitions. People can get pigeonholed and remain there unhappily.”

Now, amid her transition to retirement, Matorin says she finally found the time to think seriously about philanthropy and about the Law School’s vital role in providing affordable legal education. “It’s crucial to provide a quality option for people of modest or very little means,” she says. “I understand that giving is a very personal decision. Everyone’s in their own position and has their own priorities, but I felt I needed to give back so that quality public legal education is available for future generations, and I would encourage other people to give back if they can. The state cannot be relied on to provide the resources needed, and it’s up to us to step up if we are able.”