Vanderbilt Law School Background Image

A Message of Thanks from Dean Chris Guthrie

Dean Chris Guthrie

This Donor Report is our sincere expression of thanks for your support of Vanderbilt Law School. In this report, you'll discover a variety of ways that you, our alumni, had a positive impact on our school in the past year.

One positive measure of your impact is our ability to hold down tuition increases without compromising the quality of a Vanderbilt legal education. Our tuition increase in the coming year will be 2.7 percent, the lowest percentage increase since 1966. Long ago, we made a strategic decision to limit the size of each incoming J.D. class to fewer than 200 students to maintain our collegial community and to ensure that each student has ample opportunities to know and work with faculty. However, despite tight controls on spending, including a faculty and staff salary freeze in 2008-09, our operating costs continue to rise each year, and our relatively small class size makes the task of holding down tuition challenging. Your gifts to the annual fund, which helps cover our operating costs, are essential in enabling us to meet this challenge. If you are a faithful annual fund contributor, I want to thank you for your consistent support—and encourage you to double it! If not, I urge you to make regular support for the law school a part of your annual giving plan at the Founders Circle level—$1,000 a year or more.

In addition to limiting annual tuition increases, our ability to offer financial aid is crucial as we strive to attract students who will thrive here and make significant contributions to the legal profession and to their communities. This report highlights a few of the alumni and friends who have endowed scholarships along with a few of the students who are currently benefitting from the scholarships they endowed. I'm struck by how many of our donors tell me that a scholarship had a tremendous impact on their lives. Thanks to alumni generosity, we currently award sizable scholarships to 70 percent of our students. I want to express my gratitude to all of you who have endowed scholarships for Vanderbilt Law students, and I urge those of you who are deciding how best to offer your support to consider funding a scholarship.

The need for financial aid doesn't end with tuition. We offer three vital programs that allow our students and graduates to engage in public interest work. Two stipend funds, the Summer Public Interest Fund and the Vanderbilt Public Service Initiative, support students who engage in public interest summer projects and graduates who work as volunteer lawyers in public interest settings immediately after taking the bar exam. In addition, our loan forgiveness program helps graduates who accept public interest positions repay their student loans. These programs increase career options and expand opportunities for our students and graduates to gain valuable legal experience, which helps us recruit top students who may be considering higher-ranked or lower-cost schools. More support from you translates directly into more funding for these important programs.

In March, the law school celebrated Christopher Slobogin's appointment to the Milton Underwood Chair in Law and Michael Vandenbergh's appointment to the Tarkington Chair in Teaching Excellence. Chris Slobogin is the second law professor to hold the Milton Underwood Chair in Law, which was endowed in honor of Mr. Underwood, who graduated from Vanderbilt Law School in 1928, by his family. Chris joined our faculty in 2008 from the University of Florida as one of the nation's top scholars in the area of criminal procedure; endowed chairs greatly enhance our ability to attract scholars of his caliber. Mike Vandenbergh is the third member of our faculty to hold the Tarkington Chair of Teaching Excellence, a three-year appointment that honors faculty who are devoted and skilled teachers. Tom McCoy, a renowned teacher and First Amendment scholar described as a "Socratic buzz saw" by a former student at his retirement dinner, was the inaugural chairholder, followed by Richard Nagareda, a complex litigation expert and winner of multiple Hall-Hartman Teaching Awards. Mike garners accolades from students as a teacher of property and environmental law and as a mentor who has helped students establish a journal, the Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review. Donors who endow faculty chairs enable us to attract and retain outstanding scholars like Chris Slobogin and Mike Vandenbergh, and I hope you'll consider joining this exclusive group.

One positive measure of your impact is our ability to hold down tuition increases without compromising the quality of a Vanderbilt legal education.

In April, shortly before the university made the exciting announcement that he would become chairman of Vanderbilt's Board of Trustees in 2011, we had the foresight to recognize Mark Dalton as a Distinguished Alumnus because of his longstanding support for the law school. Mark's positive impact on the law school is most visible in our highly successful Law and Business Program, although his generous support is evident in every area of our operations. The chair Mark endowed in honor of one of his mentors at the law school, John S. Beasley Jr., is held by corporate legal scholar Randall Thomas, who directs the Law and Business Program, and Mark has also funded the Law and Business Program. Thanks to Mark's financial support and Randall's leadership, 59 of our graduates earned a Certificate in Law and Business along with their J.D. in 2010, and many more benefit from the courses, internships, research assistantships, lectures, symposia and other opportunities this excellent program affords.

In these pages, you'll also learn about alumni who donate their time to serve as firm and class representatives, and those who hosted receptions for admitted students and law alumni. These alumni enable us to extend the reach of the Vanderbilt Law School community from coast to coast.

I'm writing this message on the last day of our American Bar Association site visit. These visits, at which our accreditation status is reviewed, occur every seven years, and in our exit interview with me this morning, members of the site team expressed great admiration for the school and its faculty, staff, and student body. As so often happens with those who visit our school, each member of the team left with an even more favorable impression of Vanderbilt Law School than he or she had upon arrival, and your support of our students, our faculty, our academic programs, our building and our operations played a crucial role in that result.

In addition to recognizing you for your generosity, I hope this report will show you the many different and important ways you contribute to making Vanderbilt Law School a unique and special place to study law.

With sincere gratitude,

Chris Guthrie
Dean and John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law