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Penn Law receives over $12 million for student scholarships, public interest and legal practice skills programming

September 15, 2015

The University of Pennsylvania Law School has received three major gifts totaling $12.1 million that will fund new scholarships and other forms of financial aid, public interest programming, and the teaching of legal practice skills.

Penn Law received an $8.6 million bequest from the estate of Elizabeth Hamilton, which will be used to provide financial aid, scholarships, and grants to Penn Law students in honor of her father, Owen J. Roberts — a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Penn Law graduate, and dean of the Law School.

In addition, Robert Toll and Jane Toll, 1966 graduates of Penn Law and Penn’s Graduate School of Education, respectively, have given $2.5 million to further support public interest programs at Penn Law, through the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC). Toll, the Executive Chairman of the Board of Toll Brothers, Inc., the nation’s leading building of luxury homes, and his wife, Jane, have been longtime supporters of the Law School and its public interest programming.

And Michael J. Rotko, a 1963 Penn Law graduate, has given $1 million in memory of his late wife, Denise A. Rotko, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Penn’s School of Nursing, and was also a faculty member. The funds will endow the Denise A. Rotko Associate Deanship of Legal Writing and Communications, to be held by Eleanor Barrett, the head of Penn Law’s Legal Practice Skills program

“These gifts provide crucial support for students and programs across the Law School,” said Ted Ruger, Dean of Penn Law. “This funding will help us continue to attract the best students, while supporting them financially, academically, and professionally.”

The funds provided in Justice Roberts’ name will increase the already robust scholarship and financial aid support currently provided by the Law School. Penn Law offers a variety of merit-based and need-based scholarships to incoming students to ensure access to an elite legal education for students of all economic backgrounds. 

Born in Philadelphia in 1875, Roberts attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. After earning his bachelor’s degree at Penn, he graduated from the top of his class at Penn Law in 1898. He was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1930, and — following his judicial retirement in 1945 — served as dean of Penn Law from 1948 to 1951. As dean, one of Roberts’ key achievements was to provide students greater scholarship funding.

Penn Law’s public interest program was renamed the Toll Public Interest Center in 2006, in recognition of a $10 million gift from the Tolls, which greatly expanded TPIC’s activities and scope. The Toll Public Interest Center, which supports 31 student-led pro bono projects, also provides financial support to students seeking to enter public and government service. The Toll Loan Repayment Assistance Program (TolLRAP) allows students who pursue public interest or government careers to receive up to $140,000 in tuition reimbursement.

As the Denise A. Rotko Dean of Legal Writing and Communications, Eleanor Barrett will administer and teach the first-year Legal Practice Skills course; design and implement new skills, writing, and communications courses and programs across the Law School; and oversee the moot court program.

“My wife was devoted to teaching at Penn — as a student, an alumna, and a faculty member,” said Rotko. “This gift honors her commitment to ensuring that students get the skills they need to be successful in their careers.”

 Penn Law traces its history to 1790 when James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, framer of the Constitution, and member of the first U.S. Supreme Court, delivered the University of Pennsylvania’s first lectures in law to President George Washington and members of his Cabinet. Today the hallmarks of the Penn Law experience are a cross-disciplinary, globally-focused legal education, and vibrant and collegial community. Penn Law prepares graduates to navigate an increasingly complex world as leaders and influential decision-makers in the law and related fields.