Because of you, UF Law is special

Each day I have the privilege to spend at our law school as your college’s dean, at least once during the day the phrase “because of you” springs into my mind. The “you” refers to our alumni and friends, i.e., those of you who are reading this message. The “because” references so much of what occurs at the college every day. In other words, it is because of the support the college receives from its alumni and friends – in other words, it is because of you – that our students are able to experience the many things that make our college special. For example as of September, five U.S. Supreme Court justices have made six visits to the college in six years; all of these visits are made possible by private support. The Allen L. Poucher Legal Education Lecture Fund made the most recent of these visits possible, that being the return visit of retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on Sept. 12. Later in September, the Ellen Bellet Gelberg Tax Policy Lecture Fund made possible a spectacular panel discussion before a packed Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom audience (our largest classroom, also funded by private support). Moot court and trial teams have already had significant success this fall; their budgets are created by private funds. Many of the students on these teams – and in the rest of the student body – receive financial assistance through privately endowed scholarship funds. The events I mentioned take place in beautiful, modern facilities, also made possible by alumni and friends’ support. The list goes on and on.

It seems particularly appropriate to touch gratefully on the generosity of our many donors listed in this annual report issue of UF LAW magazine. By the time our next issue hits your mailbox, the most ambitious fundraising effort ever undertaken by the University of Florida — the $1.5 billion Florida Tomorrow campaign, which includes the College’s $47 million goal — will be within a few weeks of its conclusion. This will not be my last time to thank you for your support during the campaign, but it will be the last time in UF LAW when I can request those of you who have not yet participated in the campaign to consider making a gift or pledge – or a planned gift or bequest – as a part of Florida Tomorrow.

Alumni engagement and support throughout Florida Tomorrow have done more than make enhancements in your college possible. They have been absolutely vital in enabling us to survive state cutbacks and budget reductions that could otherwise have proved crippling.

Thus, it is remarkable in this extremely difficult economic environment that the UF Law Annual Fund set a new all-time record this past year. Details are in the Annual Report, which follows, but alumni participation is up along with increased giving levels. The faculty and the administrative team are working hard to create an outstanding educational experience for our students, but our true “margin of excellence” is your support of the Florida Tomorrow campaign, including the UF Law Annual Fund. In other words, our success is “because of you.”

There is another reason I frequently think about the words “because of you.” The placement market is difficult, but it is “because of you” that UF Law graduates are finding opportunities at rates higher than the national averages for law graduates generally. Our alumni have really stepped up – it’s the “power of the Gator network” – to help our graduates with externships and other similar positions while they wait for permanent positions to open up. (Much more detail on our placement results are available on the Web at www.law.ufl.edu/career/employers/2010gradinfo.shtml.)

Pascale Bishop, our new assistant dean for career development, joined us on Aug. 1, 2011, and she has hit the ground running, but it is “because of you” that her team is able to implement successfully the new strategies to help our students. And it is “because of you” that I have been able to fund – with private support – a number of post-graduate fellowships to help graduates transition from law school to permanent employment.

In other words, alumni and friends are making many good things happen for your college. On behalf of current and future students who benefit from this support, I thank you. On behalf of these same students, I will respectfully request that if you are not already a contributor to your college, that you consider a gift that shows your interest in participating and supporting our efforts to prepare the next generation of legal professionals and to build upon and improve the value of your degree.

Thank you for all that you do, and for all things that have been made possible “because of you.”

— Dean Robert Jerry, Levin, Mabie and Levin Professor