Attending Columbia Law School for Jonathan Walcoff ’86 was financially within reach for his middle class family, but he knows he was fortunate. He says that in the 30 years since he earned his degree, the economic realities of accessing a top-notch law school education have become increasingly daunting.
The Law School is known for creating broad opportunities for its students, he says, and graduating with choice-limiting debt is antithetical to that ideal. “I wonder how the arc of my career would have been different if I had been saddled with enormous debt,” Walcoff says.
So, when Walcoff, a member of the Law School’s Board of Visitors, learned at a meeting last spring that the Jerome L. Greene Foundation made a $15 million pledge to the Law School to increase public service opportunities and ensure that future generations of deserving students would have the resources to obtain a Columbia Law School education, he was intrigued.
The gift establishes three initiatives: The Greene Public Service Scholars program will provide full-tuition scholarships to help outstanding students prepare for careers in government, nonprofit organizations, academia, social entrepreneurship, or community development. The Greene Clinical Professorship will expand Columbia Law School’s already significant opportunities for students to learn and practice essential legal skills as part of their clinical education. And the Greene Scholarship Challenge, a first-of-its-kind matching scholarship fund, will encourage donors to endow named scholarships by providing matching funds to establish scholarships. The objectives of the Greene Foundation’s gift resonated with Walcoff.
Walcoff says that his time at the Law School was transformative and he had already been considering ways to cement his deep connection. He was drawn to the idea of a named scholarship and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to have the value of his gift amplified by the Greene Foundation Scholarship Challenge
As a result, and with the Greene Foundation match, Jonathan established the Jonathan L. Walcoff Scholarship, which will be awarded for the first time during the 2018-2019 academic year. “I could not have asked for a better education than the one I received at the Law School. My professors were leaders in their fields,” Walcoff recalls. “They were also excellent teachers, helping us to learn to think like lawyers. I am happy to be able to return a small part of that very large gift, which, I hope, will enable future students to immerse themselves fully in the study of the law.”