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Penn Law receives $2.5 million gift to advance public interest programs

September 17, 2015

The University of Pennsylvania Law School has received a $2.5 million gift from Robert Toll L’66 and Jane Toll GSE’66, which will further support the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC) and public interest programming at the Law School.

Toll, the Executive Chairman of the Board of Toll Brothers, Inc., the leading builder of luxury homes, and his wife, Jane, have been longtime benefactors of the Law School and its public interest programming.

“For many years now, the Tolls have been major advocates for TPIC and public interest lawyering here at the Law School,” said Ted Ruger, Dean of Penn Law. “This generous gift will further expand the work that Penn Law does in the public interest and ensure that students who want to pursue public interest careers have the support they need.”

“Our aim is to provide the means for Penn Law’s talented graduates to become leaders in the field of public interest law,” said Robert Toll. “We want to help students make their careers at public interest organizations or in government service.”

Penn Law’s public interest program was founded in 1989 and was renamed the Toll Public Interest Center in 2006, in recognition of a $10 million gift from the Tolls, which significantly expanded TPIC’s activities. Today, TPIC serves as a cross-disciplinary hub that gives students the resources to provide pro bono legal service to under-represented communities. It also serves as the cultural center of public service at the Law School.

A national leader in promoting public interest and pro bono legal service, Penn Law was the first top-ranked law school to establish a mandatory pro bono requirement and the first law school to win the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award.

TPIC’s programs include 31 pro bono projects in which students represent clients in a variety of fields and cases, including civil rights, environmental justice, family law, governmental practice, health law, immigration, international human rights, labor law, women’s rights, and youth law.

Last year, TPIC celebrated its 25th anniversary with a yearlong slate of events, including lectures by distinguished lawyers, a forum on justice in the digital age as part of the 34th annual Edward V. Sparer Symposium, speakers and panels during Public Interest Week, and an annual recognition event.

TPIC also provides financial support to students pursuing public interest law. Through the Toll Loan Repayment Assistance Program (TolLRAP), students who take public interest or government jobs can receive up to $140,000 in tuition reimbursement. And for students who wish to take public interest internships during the summer in the United States or abroad, summer funding is guaranteed.

In addition, each year TPIC awards competitive post-graduate fellowships and catalyst grants to support Penn Law graduating students and recent alumni in their pursuit of public interest careers. Fellows and grant recipients design their own public interest projects and work with partnering non-profit and government organizations locally, nationally, or internationally — ranging from Community Legal Services and the Bronx Defenders to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

“Through the Tolls’ support our student initiatives have continued to grow, and we have been able to expand the funding and resources we offer for students pursuing careers in public service,” said Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, Associate Dean for Public Interest Programs and Executive Director of TPIC. “Because of the Tolls’ generosity, all of Penn Law’s students are able to get hands-on lawyering experience through an array of meaningful pro bono projects that work with underserved communities.”

Robert Toll has been a member of the Law School’s Board of Overseers since 1992 and has served repeatedly as guest auctioneer for the Penn Law’s Equal Justice Foundation Auction. He is a former member of the Penn Board of Trustees and currently serves on the board of directors of Cornell Real Estate School; Seeds of Peace, which he and his wife Jane cofounded; Beth Shalom Synagogue; and the Metropolitan Opera.