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Art and architecture at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School: William Polk Carey W’53

December 21, 2021

The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School is named in recognition of the W. P. Carey Foundation’s historic donation of $125 million, the largest gift ever to a law school.

William Polk Carey W’53 was a businessman, financier, and philanthropist. His talent for entrepreneurship emerged early on.

When Carey arrived at college as a freshman, he realized that he had something his classmates lacked and coveted — a mini fridge for his dorm room. Carey saw an opportunity. He purchased as many mini fridges as he could afford and leased them to classmates for a fee. By the end of the year, he had made over $10,000. Carey went on to build a real estate investment empire that is worth billions of dollars today.

In 1990, he established the W. P. Carey Foundation, the primary mission of which is to support educational institutions, with the larger goal of “improving America’s competitiveness in the world.” Carey’s brother, Francis J. Carey C’45, L’49, was a critical member of the Foundation team. In 2019, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School was named in recognition of the W. P. Carey Foundation’s historic donation of $125 million, the largest gift ever to a law school, made in honor of Frank’s 70th anniversary of his law school graduation.

Moreover, the Francis J. & William Polk Carey JD/MBA Program in partnership with the Wharton School immerses students in an accelerated course of study, allowing them to earn both degrees in three years and preparing them for careers in law, business, and more.

Generations of Careys have attended the University of Pennsylvania, and the family has been a leader in higher education since M. Carey Thomas became the second president, and first woman president, of nearby Bryn Mawr College in 1894.

Since the establishment of the Foundation, a dozen schools, academic programs, hospital wings, and stadiums have been branded with the Carey name, a testament to the family’s extraordinary generosity.

Carey’s portrait by Winifred Gordon is in the main corridor of Golkin Hall.

Explore more of the Law School’s remarkable art and architecture.