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Law school honors donor

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Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis is now named Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

The name change was announced at a press conference at the school Dec. 1. IU President Michael McRobbie told an expectant crowd that Robert H. McKinney had given the school a $24 million donation, drawing thunderous applause and shouts of enthusiasm.

McKinney is a law school alumnus and a retired lawyer and banker.

“His generosity will allow the school to strengthen its programs and at the same time it will make an IU education even more affordable,” McRobbie said. “As a result of this gift, the school will add five endowed chairs to recruit and retain nationally recognized scholar teachers to the school’s faculty. This includes a new endowed chair in environmental law, an issue which is of particular interest to Bob and about which he cares very deeply.”
 

iulaw-15col.jpg Gary Roberts, dean of the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, introduces and thanks Robert H. McKinney (left) at a Dec. 1 press conference announcing the law school’s name change. (IL Photo/ Eric Learned)

The total value of the gift will be $31.5 million, thanks to matching funds committed through Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis’ IMAPCT fundraising campaign. And $17.5 million will be allotted to the McKinney Family Scholarship fund for outstanding students.

Dean Gary Roberts approached the podium and asked, “Is this a great day or what?” Roberts went on to say that McKinney has been an extremely generous supporter of the school and widely respected member of the community for decades.

“It is a great honor to have Bob’s name on our law school, and I personally cannot express enough the enormous pride I feel to be the dean of the Robert H. McKinney School of Law,” Roberts said.

“Like the dean, I believe this is a great day,” said Charles Bantz, IU executive vice president and chancellor of IUPUI. “Now, I say that from a different position than some people – I’m a lawyer’s son who disappointed his father by not going to law school, so maybe he’s up there,” Bantz said while looking skyward, “saying, well see, lawyers make a difference.”

New goals

At the press conference, McKinney wryly said the gift came “with strings attached,” explaining that he would like to see the IU McKinney School of Law become one of the top 30 law schools in the country.

Roberts told Indiana Lawyer that he thinks the school can definitely improve its ranking, but only with the continued support of alumni. His immediate goal is for the school to be among the top 50.

“Top 30 is very ambitious, and Bob and I have had this discussion. I think that is a great aspiration. But the one thing I want to make sure we do is stay true to our mission, and that mission is stay true to the state of Indiana and the people of the community,” Roberts said. One of the greatest benefits the law school offers Indiana residents is the ability to earn a law degree in the evening, Roberts said, but that’s also one reason why cracking the top 30 could be difficult. Among the top 30 law schools, only Georgetown University offers evening classes, and he said that some academics who have influence in rankings think less of schools that offer evening classes.

“We’re just going to use Bob’s gift and the momentum that gift has created to implement our strategic plan, and if we do that effectively and tell the world about it, we can be a top-50 school,” Roberts said. “It’s going to require that all of our alumni and friends step up. Historically we have not had a large amount of philanthropic support … people have had the vision that this is a school that lives off state dollars and doesn’t need private philanthropy, and that’s not true. If we’re going to make the top 50 or top 30, we need friends’ and alumni support in a variety of ways.”

McKinney and IU

McKinney is one of the many notable graduates who was able to earn a degree thanks to evening classes. At the press conference, he reflected on his law school days.

“In early September 1949, on a Friday, I returned from the Navy and signed up at this law school and started school on the next Monday morning. So I had two whole days to get ready to go to school,” he said. “We had the GI Bill, which was wonderful. I had an 8-to-5 job, so I had to go to law school at night, and that was a great thing that this school was available for me.”

McKinney had class from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Afterward, he would dash to a nearby drugstore for dinner, then head back to campus for class from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“We did that five days a week. And on Friday night, we went out and got bombed on the town, and that killed Saturday,” he said, eliciting laughter from the crowd. “And I guess looking back at it, that wasn’t very healthy, and it’s hard to believe I considered that fun, but it was.”

This isn’t the first gift McKinney has given IU. Previous gifts include the Robert H. McKinney Law Professorship, the Bose McKinney & Evans ShermaLawSchoolList.gifn Minton Moot Court Competition, and contributions to the V. Sue Shields Scholarship, all at the IU Maurer School of Law.

In 1963, McKinney was added as a name partner to the firm that is now known as Bose McKinney & Evans. He retired in 1992 and also served as chairman and CEO of First Indiana Corp., now known as M&I Bank, until retiring in 2005.

He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to chair multiple banking, insurance, mortgage and loan agencies. McKinney established model nondiscrimination regulations and pushed for community investment.

Nearly three years ago, IU’s Bloomington law school was renamed after attorney Michael “Mickey” Maurer and his wife, Janie, donated $35 million to what was then called Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington. Maurer is a shareholder of IBJ Media, the parent company of Indiana Lawyer. Both McKinney’s and Maurer’s gifts were the largest ever received by either IU law school.

McKinney told the crowd that philanthropy is a trait he learned from his parents.

“I was raised to give back to society by my mother and father; they didn’t have much initially, but they were always giving back to society,” he said.

He closed the presss conference by reading a quote from Robert Kennedy: “‘There are those who look at things the way they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not.’”•
 

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