Celebrating Shape the Future's Successes

Chris Guthrie

At the law school, the impact of Vanderbilt's transformative Shape the Future campaign is clear to anyone who enters the building. Thanks to an ambitious renovation and expansion program that nearly doubled the law school's square footage, Vanderbilt has one of the most attractive, spacious and well-designed law school buildings in the nation. In addition to adding a major auditorium, a state-of-the-art courtroom and an array of technologically advanced classrooms, the renovation created atriums that fill the building with natural light, inviting study nooks throughout the building, a wireless network and a café. Scott Tift, Class of 2008, recalls thinking, "I'm going to spend three years in this building, and having one that's comfortable, attractive and well-equipped is a big advantage."

The law school's building renovations are one outgrowth of a successful fundraising campaign that started more than a decade ago, when Board of Trust Chair Martha Ingram announced the approval of a new fundraising campaign to "turn our aspirations into realities." In 2011, that campaign celebrated its successful conclusion and the achievement of its stated goal: Shape the Future.

The historic Shape the Future campaign launched publicly in April 2003 with Monroe Carell Jr. (BE'59) at the helm. A clear choice to lead the major campaign, Carell, the retired head of Central Parking Inc., had successfully spearheaded fundraising for the freestanding, state-of-the-art children's hospital that now bears his name. He quickly enlisted others to work with him, met frequently with staff and other volunteers, and added the cause of scholarships as a focus for his own philanthropy. Sadly, Carell would not live to see the full fruit of his leadership. Cancer claimed his life in June 2008. Trustee Emeritus H. Rodes Hart (BA'54) was named Shape the Future's new chair in October 2008, and Orrin Ingram (BA'82) was named co-chair. Hart and Ingram embraced the task of finishing Shape the Future, and their hard work paid off handsomely. The campaign ultimately exceeded its $1.75 billion goal, raising $1.94 billion in gifts and pledges as well as securing $172.8 million of newly documented bequests.

These impressive numbers tell only part of the story. The real story lies in the campaign's impact on the university's students, faculty and staff. The Ingram Commons, which opened in 2008, is a model for residential education, providing a living and learning community for first-year undergraduate students and faculty in residence, fostering friendships and enabling students to benefit from the special qualities of Vanderbilt's civil and collegial culture. Opportunity Vanderbilt, with gifts totaling over $100 million in the last two years of the campaign, is supporting the university's elimination of student loans for undergraduate students, making a Vanderbilt education accessible to greater numbers of talented students.

At the law school, where the Shape the Future campaign raised $53 million, the impact of the major expansion and renovation program extends beyond the extensive building improvements to the launch of several well-regarded academic programs, including an LL.M. program for foreign attorneys that now attracts approximately 40 attorneys from around the globe each year, a Law and Business Certificate Program, the endowed Cecil D. Branstetter Litigation and Dispute Resolution Program, the Vanderbilt in Venice summer study program, and other programs that allow students to focus on areas in which they plan to practice, including International Legal Studies, Intellectual Property, Environmental Law, Criminal Justice, Social Justice, and Government. Vanderbilt has also successfully recruited renowned experts in property, environmental and land use law; regulatory and administrative law; international law; criminal law; constitutional law; and law and biology to teach on its faculty.

While extremely successful, the Shape the Future campaign did not hit every target. At the law school, the campaign met or exceeded goals for facility improvements and academic programs, according to Dean Chris Guthrie. "But we still have important work to do on student support, including scholarships and loan repayment assistance for our graduates, and we need more faculty chairs," Guthrie said. "As one of the nation's top law schools, we've made significant strides in the last decade. But we can't rest on our laurels. Now more than ever, we need to increase the financial support we provide our students during law school through scholarships and stipends and after law school through loan repayment assistance. Building our faculty is also an ongoing effort as we seek to hire the next generation of outstanding teachers and mentors."

Soon after he was named chancellor, Nick Zeppos—who sits on Vanderbilt's law faculty—emphasized that the work of and need for philanthropy is never over and that members of the Vanderbilt community are eager to support the university's missions of excellence in education, research and healing. "People who have been blessed with resources want to make a difference in somebody else's life and in society," Zeppos said. "I believe very deeply that it really matters for Vanderbilt to be here, to thrive and to have the resources to teach and heal and discover."

With this thought in mind, Dean Guthrie looks forward to working with alumni, faculty and staff to maintain Vanderbilt's position as one of the nation's top law schools and to increase the academic opportunities and financial support the law school offers its students. "My goal is for the law school to be on our alumni's lists as an institution they want to support not only because they received a great legal education and had a wonderful experience here, but also because they want to make that possible for the next generation of Vanderbilt lawyers," he said.

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