Jerome L. Greene Foundation Honors Dean Gillian Lester With $5 Million Gift

The foundation’s latest gift to Columbia Law School expands the Greene Public Service Scholars program and kicks off a matching challenge for student financial aid with a new fund named for Gillian Lester, who will conclude her service as dean later this year. 

Exterior of Jerome L. Greene Hall featuring the sculpture Bellerophon Taming Pegasus

For Gillian Lester, Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, one of the most meaningful aspects of her tenure as Dean has been improving access to a Columbia Law education through landmark investments in student financial aid and loan repayment assistance. The Jerome L. Greene Foundation has been a critically important partner in this effort. In 2017, it pledged $15 million, with $7 million earmarked to establish the Greene Public Service Scholars program; now, they have made a $5 million gift to expand the program and create the Gillian Lester Fund for Student Financial Aid. The new gift will carry forward Dean Lester’s legacy and impact as she concludes her service leading the Law School in 2024. 

“Throughout my time as dean, I have worked to open the doors of Columbia Law to students from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. The Greene Foundation has been a tremendous partner every step of the way,” said Dean Lester. “Financial aid is truly life-changing and provides a critical pathway to Columbia Law for so many talented future leaders in the profession.”

The new gift includes $4 million to support the Greene Scholars program with an additional three-year, full-tuition scholarship for an incoming student, bringing the total number of scholarships awarded each year to three, starting with the Law School’s incoming class in 2024. The remaining $1 million gift is structured as a matching challenge to support the new Gillian Lester Fund for Student Financial Aid; the foundation will match one-to-one donations of $5,000 and above, up to $1 million total, during the challenge period from February 2024 through December 2025.

“The Jerome L. Greene Foundation is proud to honor Dean Lester’s dedication to improving student aid and making a Columbia Law School education accessible to students interested in public service,” said Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Christina McInerney. “This new gift will help Columbia Law School eliminate financial barriers that can sometimes keep some of the brightest and most dedicated students from pursuing public service.”

About the Jerome L. Greene Foundation

The Jerome L. Greene Foundation, established in 1978, is dedicated to investing in opportunities that enrich and advance people’s lives, with a focus on organizations and projects devoted to the arts, education, medicine, and social justice. In addition to his distinguished career as a lawyer, real estate investor, philanthropist, and humanitarian, Brooklyn-born Jerome “Jerry” L. Greene CC 1926, LAW 1928 was a loyal and enthusiastic Columbia Law School alumnus until his death in 1999 at age 93. In 1990, the Law School honored Jerry by naming its flagship building after him; in 2009, it posthumously awarded Jerry the Medal for Excellence—the school’s highest honor. Born and raised in New York City, Dawn Greene earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees in sociology and social work from Fordham University and was a clinical counselor at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health early in her career. She led the Greene Foundation from 1999 until her death in 2010, having been awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Columbia University in 2008. Prior to succeeding her mother as the foundation’s president and chief executive officer, McInerney was the founder and president of McInerney International Ltd., a firm representing foreign publishers in the United States. A native New Yorker, she completed her master’s degree in German language and literature at the University of Colorado and pursued Ph.D. studies at Boston College. The foundation’s latest pledge to the Law School is part of a broader legacy of the Greene Foundation’s generous support to the Columbia community. In 2006, the foundation pledged a record $250 million for the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, a highly acclaimed state-of-the-art facility designed by Renzo Piano located on the university’s Manhattanville campus.