Gifts of Time and Resources
By Jess Clarke
Ann Cox’s commitment to philanthropy was inspired by her parents, who supported various causes while she was growing up in Raleigh. And her motivation to give generously to both Carolina Law and UNC-Chapel Hill has been to honor her mother.
“My parents always gave their time and resources. They were great role models,” says Cox, who earned her Carolina Law degree in 1985 and her Chapel Hill bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1980.
“It was very important to my mom that I go to UNC. It was such a dream for her. Law school was the icing on the cake. She grew up in an era when women didn’t have the opportunity to go to law school,” Cox says. Her mother died in 2020.
Cox, president of the UNC Law Foundation, a fundraising entity, is well aware of Carolina Law’s philanthropic needs, more pressing now because of North Carolina’s reduced state funding for public higher education.
“I hope I’m helping Carolina Law at a time they need it the most,” she says. “Alumni being able to step up is very important.”
Through her role with the law foundation, Cox has learned about new programs and other opportunities Carolina Law provides students as the school remains committed to delivering a highly relevant education. She cites Carolina Law’s new entrepreneurial Institute for Innovation as an example of how the school has broadened its focus.
“They’re definitely keeping up with the times and leaning into the future. Any student who attends UNC School of Law now is getting a phenomenal education,” Cox says. “I can see Carolina Law’s interest in making the student experience very rewarding…If you want people to give back after they graduate, you need to be sure they have a great education and experience while they’re there. Carolina Law is focused on that.”
Cox sees other impacts of philanthropy on Carolina Law: scholarships that enable students to attend the school, new experiential learning opportunities, more career development resources that can draw top students and faculty.
Philanthropy can influence the law school’s national rankings, which have increased in recent years with the school now ranked No. 27. “I would like to think that alumni giving has an impact on that and that my dollars have helped,” says Cox, who works in private banking and wealth management and is a member of the Carolina Law Atlanta Campaign Working Group.
Cox’s level of giving has moved her into Carolina Law’s Cornerstone Club, whose members are leaders in transformational financial support. She enjoys networking through the club. “It’s a great way to reconnect with your friends and former classmates and share a common bond,” she says. “And you learn more about what the law school is doing. It’s a terrific way to see how your money is making an impact at Carolina Law. That’s important to me.”
Her experience at both Carolina Law and Chapel Hill was important to Cox, too. “It was a first-class education all around. You appreciate it more and more the further away you are from it,” she says. “It was an honor to go to UNC. Philanthropy is one way to give back.”
Inspiring Alumni Participation
By Jess Clarke
When Angela Liu ’09 made a challenge on GiveUNC day this year, she wanted to motivate Carolina Law alumni of all ages to donate to the law school.
It worked. Her challenge pledge of $5,000 if 100 people donated in a particular hour was met, as were the other Carolina Law challenges made during the 24-hour fundraiser June 16.
“As a younger alum, you think philanthropy is not always something that’s in your purview. I wanted to make sure that on a day when there were different challenges, we could inspire young people to understand that alumni their age should donate,” says Liu, a partner at Dechert LLP in Chicago. “It’s time for us to step up.”
The university-wide GiveUNC event brought in the most money ever raised on a single day for the law school, which ranked sixth in its fundraising total among all the university’s units that participated. From about 230 donors, Carolina Law raised over $284,000, notes Iris Holt, the law school’s director of development.
Donor challenges help boost participation — and often, gift amounts.
“A lot of people give when they see us getting close to a challenge because they want to help push us to the goal,” Holt says. “What inspires everybody to give on the same day? It’s being able to say, ‘Look at these other people giving and how my gift will multiply if it’s part of this challenge.’”
David Frey ’67, who made a $100,000 GiveUNC challenge pledge this year, believes in the multiplier effect. When people are inspired to donate, they proportionally increase the total given to Carolina Law by meeting and surpassing the challenge pledge, knowing their gift will have a bigger impact.
“I am pleased that my challenge pledge to the law school was successful in generating additional pledges and gifts,” says Frey, trustee emeritus of the philanthropic Frey Foundation in Michigan. “Philanthropy has an essential role in sustaining excellence at UNC and most especially at the law school. Carolina Law has much to celebrate as it continues to attract outstanding applicants from throughout the state and country and a deserved escalating national stature.”
GiveUNC donors can make gifts to any Carolina Law fund, so the philanthropy has a broad reach. Many gifts were for diversity scholarships, and the law school has allocated 10 percent of new unrestricted gifts to students’ coronavirus-related needs.
The pandemic forced postponement of GiveUNC, originally scheduled for March. Because of that, “There was a lot of uncertainty going into the day,” Holt says. “Luckily, all of our challenge donors agreed to keep their challenges…and it was really nice to see people step up and give.”
Liu is one Carolina Law donor who plans to keep stepping up. “There are so many organizations out there to donate to. It’s important to me to focus on education and giving back to the community that has given so much to me,” she says. “I’m hopeful that others can find something about the law school that excites them about giving, whether it’s helping to diversify the legal profession, civil rights work or innovating the profession. There is something for everybody in giving back to the Carolina Law community.”
To Move Others Forward
By Jess Clarke
Raleigh Shoemaker ’70 recalls his first-year class on civil procedure with the late Dickson Phillips ’48, then Carolina Law dean and professor, during the intimidating process of being a new law student.
“Dean Phillips had a way of looking at students and asking very penetrating questions. He inspired in everybody a desire to be prepared for class,” Shoemaker says. “We wanted to be ready for the scrutiny that our responses would receive. We learned that preparation is important for law students and lawyers.”
Shoemaker made it a point to be prepared for the class with Phillips, who was on the committee that awarded him a scholarship that enabled him to attend Carolina Law. Phillips, who later became a judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, died in 2017.
“He was a tremendous person and a wonderful professor,” Shoemaker says. “The scholarship was very meaningful, and he taught me many things I needed to know to become a successful lawyer.”
That’s why Shoemaker and his wife, Katy, wanted to “pay forward” the scholarship he received and the legal education he experienced at Carolina Law by contributing to The J. Dickson Phillips, Jr. Scholarship Fund. The Class of ’73 established the fund in Phillips’ honor during their 35th law school reunion in 2008.
The Shoemakers’ support for Carolina Law extends even further.
They have donated to the annual fund since Shoemaker graduated from law school. And they have increased their giving to the fund over time to meet heightened need for scholarship support because of reduced state spending on public higher education in North Carolina.
“The UNC Law Alumni Association has done a good job of making alumni aware of the critical need to step up support,” Shoemaker says. “The current generation of students is not getting the kind of support from the state, in terms of funding for public higher education, that our generation received. It’s only right that we step up our giving to help today’s students avoid a high level of debt.”
The Shoemakers also provide annual leadership support of the Dean’s Discretionary Funds, which address Carolina Law’s greatest needs.
That giving “helps make our law school competitive for top talent that might otherwise go to another law school,” Shoemaker says. “We feel a lot of visceral support for the young people of this generation who want to give back and make sure that justice is brought to everyone equally…We need to help those students get the resources they need to become lawyers.”
The couple’s generosity has inspired not only students but the creation of a Carolina Law scholarship in their honor established anonymously.
One reward of the Shoemakers’ giving was meeting law students and other donors at a (pre-pandemic) donor appreciation event on campus this year. “The students’ maturity made a big impression on us. We felt like what we’re doing is helping accomplish a lot of good in a small way,” says Shoemaker, who will soon retire as an attorney with K&L Gates in Charlotte.
“I’m living proof that if someone will give a student a chance with a scholarship,” he says, “hopefully the recipient will go out in the world and succeed and be able to give back to assist future law students in paying for their legal education.”
Supporting N.C. Students
By Michele Lynn
Guided by a love of the outdoors birthed on the Catawba River, J. Anderson Tran ’21 is committed to protecting North Carolina’s environment. In 2017, he earned a bachelor of science in environmental science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with the intention of doing fisheries work. But after realizing that legal expertise would enable him to have a greater impact on environmental policy, Tran enrolled at UNC School of Law.
In summer 2020, Tran combined his passion for science and the law as an intern at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) where he worked on policy issues involving water resources and coastal management. “Day in and day out, I produced drafts of letters, policy memos, and declarations,” says Tran. “Working really closely with my supervisor to find my voice and learn the best tone for legal writing—all in the context of environmental advocacy—was a fantastic opportunity.”
“SELC is the pinnacle of environmental legal protection in the Southeast and embodies the advocate that I want to be once I start my career,” says Tran. “Having the opportunity to intern there was an invaluable experience for me as I start my career in environmental law. I got to work with the best of the best.”
Like Tran, Sally Higgins and Ray Owens—married law partners in Charlotte’s Higgins & Owens, PLLC—share a love of the outdoors, a commitment to conservation and environmental issues, and high regard for SELC attorneys. That’s why last year, they created the Higgins & Owens Justice Fund, which supported Tran during his summer internship. Each year, the fund will support a UNC School of Law student selected for a summer public interest internship, an opportunity which dovetails with the law school’s focus on experiential learning.
“With this fund, we wanted to do something meaningful for a cause that is important to the state, and at the same time support a law student in both a practical experience and the chance to work with excellent lawyers doing really important public interest work,” says Higgins ’95.
“A fund like this helps actualize the goal of the public university which is serving our state,” says Owens, who earned his B.A. from Carolina in 1975 before receiving his UNC J.D. in 1978. “To do things like this for others is a key responsibility for us—both urgent and doable.”
The new fund supplements the long-term law school annual fund support by the couple who count 14 family members—including a daughter, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins—as fellow UNC alumni.
“It doesn’t require a significant amount of money to do very good things for the law school, the students, and the state,” he says. “You don’t have to be a Rockefeller or Kenan to take these positive steps. We hope that other lawyers will support the school and its students in a similar way.”
Higgins agrees. “I got a terrific legal education at Carolina and I have been so lucky in the quality of lawyers I have worked with in my career. Both in and outside of their law practices, they are committed to making our communities better in all kinds of ways,” she says. “To help provide students the opportunity to have that kind of experience during law school and hopefully inspire them to continue their commitment to service throughout their careers is a way of saying thank you for having had that experience myself.”
Tran returns that thanks. “Mr. Owens' and Ms. Higgins' grant helped to relieve some financial stress for me,” says Tran. “I have quietly had some health struggles during law school, and I am gearing up to have my sixth surgery since starting. Needless to say, being healthy hasn't been cheap, and receiving such a generous grant was greatly appreciated. I hope to someday be in a position where I can pay this forward.”
Wisdom & Love
Honoring a Grandmother
By Michele Lynn
“Lift as I climb.” That’s the mantra which guides Wilson L. White ’06, both as senior director, government affairs and public policy at Google, Inc. and as a husband and father of three young children.
In his work, White navigates and helps solve a variety of challenges alongside a diverse team. “Our company has people from all over the world who are really focused on innovating and bringing products to the market that benefit consumers,” says White. “I enjoy the diversity of thought among my colleagues.”
Growing up in the small town of Andrews, South Carolina, White didn’t expect to wind up in the heart of Silicon Valley. But his path from South Carolina’s Governor’s School of Science and Mathematics to North Carolina State—where he majored in computer science—to Carolina Law prepared him well for his current leadership role. “I’m grateful that I have been able to marry my computer engineering background to the law in my career,” he says.
White’s upbringing by his grandmother, Essie Mae Wilson—with whom he lived from the age of eight—inculcated in him the passion for using his academic and professional background to make the world better. “My grandmother practically raised me,” says White. “I see her as a second mother.”
Wilson had to leave school after sixth grade to help her mom with raising her family. “My grandmother doesn’t have a lot of formal education but she is one of the wisest people I know,” says White. To honor his grandmother and support students who share his passion for science technology, engineering and mathematics, White and his wife, Malika, created The Essie Mae Wilson Endowed Scholarship in 2014. “My wife loves the fact that we are honoring my grandmother in this way,” says White. “My wife knows that I’m a grandmama’s boy!”
The Whites have contributed $123,000 in the last six years to both establish and grow the scholarship and plan to continue to contribute to it. “I want to invest in other students who, like me, are bringing a STEM background to the law and want to make the world better,” says White.
At the same time, he wants to honor his grandmother. “I stand on the shoulders of people who came before me. I was able to go to college and to law school because of sacrifices that people like my grandmother made,” he says. “It is incumbent on me to recognize that and pay it forward.”
“If my grandmother had her way, she wouldn’t have her name on this,” laughs White. “But she deserves much more. I love knowing that long after she is gone, law students will get this scholarship with her name attached. And they may not know anything about her but her name but she will be part of the help that those students receive along the way.”
“The ability to live the life I enjoy now and provide for my family is due to the skills, education, training I received at Carolina Law,” says White. “The giving back ethos and dedication to improving the world around us is one of the things I got from the law school.”
“As alums who have benefitted from Carolina Law’s training and culture and who want to maintain that, we have to give back,” he says “I feel very strongly that Carolina Law is unique in terms of high-quality, high-caliber legal training with a very clear focus on being a public school. We should treasure and protect and maintain that ethos. It’s up to us to keep that Carolina Law spirit alive.”
Honor Roll of Donors
We gratefully acknowledge the outstanding commitment of alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends, companies and foundations who contributed to UNC School of Law between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. We sincerely appreciate the support of our donors and the exceptional educational opportunities their generosity provides. Note that degree information is included only for UNC School of Law alumni. If you have questions about the Honor Roll of Donors, or for assistance making your gift in fiscal year 2021, please contact the Office of Advancement at 919.445.0168.