Civic education endowment started in McKinney’s honor

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To support its civic education programs, the Indiana Bar Foundation is starting an endowment and will name it after one of the civic education’s biggest cheerleaders – the late Larry McKinney, senior judge with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

The Honorable Larry J. McKinney Endowed Fund for Civic Education was unveiled during the Indiana Bar Foundation’s 2017 Awards Dinner held Sunday night in Indianapolis. Funds given in memory of the McKinney after his unexpected death in September are being used to start the endowment which is hoped will reach at least $20,000.  

“I think it’s a fitting tribute,” said Charles Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation. “He’s really still with us. His inspiration and his legacy is one that I know, personally, I certainly strive to live up to.”

The dinner, held in the Grand Hall of the Historic Union Station, honored 14 attorneys and judges from across Indiana for their contributions to pro bono legal services, civic education and service the community as well as the legal profession.

McKinney was honored posthumously with the William Baker Award. Named after the late William Baker, an attorney from New Castle who helped found the national We the People program, this award is the highest honor the bar foundation gives to an attorney for work and contributions to civic education.

Indiana Justice Steven David presented the award to McKinney’s family. McKinney’s wife, Carole, accepted the honor to a standing ovation from the crowd.

McKinney was honored for his devotion to the We the People and Indiana Mock Trial programs which has taught thousands of Hoosier students about the Constitution, the federal government and the rule of law. Judging the civic education contests at the state level, McKinney served as a judge for the National We the People competition in 2017 and was slated to judge the National Mock Trial contest in Reno, Nevada in 2018. Also, he was tapped to be co-chair of the committee that is coordinating the National Mock Trial competition in Evansville in 2020. 

David called McKinney an icon and said the judge was most deserving of the Baker Award.

“He will continue to serve as an inspiration to all of us. We can’t help but smile more often when thinking of Larry McKinney, David said. “If we can all hope to be half the person, half the lawyer, half the human being as he was, we’ll be doing pretty well.”

For the endowment, the bar foundation is matching donations up to $10,000 and already has matched the $5,000 in memorial gifts. The fund is now half-way to its goal but Dunlap is hopeful donations will exceed the $20,000.

The McKinney Endowment will be able to broadly cover civic education activities, Dunlap said. In addition to directly supporting the We the People and Mock Trial programs, the fund could also, possibility, be used to bolster new initiatives or enhance the current programs by providing money to help the winning Indiana teams go to national competitions.

Dunlap believes McKinney was a strong supporter of civic education because he was a teacher at heart. As a judge for the programs, he used his sense of humor and open personality to engage the students, gently pushing them to think deeper about the material.

“He was a firm believer in the rule of law and the appreciation for the rule of law, and the judiciary and the judicial system,” Dunlap said of McKinney. “The kids that participated by learning about it and studying it, they had such a different level of appreciation and respect for it, to be quite honest. I think that really resonated with him.”

In his keynote speech, David recognized the work of the other honorees and applauded their efforts. He said they each embodied John Quincy Adams’ definition of a leader as someone whose actions inspire others to dream more, to learn more, to do more and to become more.

“It’s almost 2018, it’s time to make all those New Year’s resolutions…,” David said. “I’m hoping you’ll join me for a 2018 resolution that is to be more like our honorees tonight. Maybe even, if you really want to reach for the stars, in the words of Chuck Dunlap, maybe we’ll live like Larry McKinney.”

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