Records are meant to be broken, and that’s exactly what William & Mary Law School’s Class of 2014 did this year as 90 percent of the class made a pledge to the class gift. In so doing, the Class of 2014 broke the class gift participation record of 88 percent held by the Class of 2001.
Davison M. Douglas, dean of the law school, congratulated the 3L class: “What an extraordinary result! This is particularly impressive given that since the onset of the recession, our 3L Class Gift participation rates have tended to be between 50 and 60 percent. This 90 percent participation rate is truly remarkable.”
Early in the class gift effort, Dean Douglas issued a challenge to the 3L class: if they hit a 75 percent participation rate, he would shave his mustache of more than two decades. The Class of 2014 easily hit the 75 percent mark, and on April 17, Dean Douglas’s wife, Kathy Urbonya, shaved his mustache before a spirited crowd of law students in the Law School lobby.
Kevin Elliker ’14 and Alex Mackler ’14 served as class gift co-chairs. Asked to head up the fundraising effort last November, the close friends knew they faced a huge challenge, and decided to look for strength in numbers.
“Before kicking off the class gift, we focused on recruiting a large number of committee co-chairs from a variety of student organizations and social circles,” Elliker said. “Our hypothesis was that if we wanted members of the Alternate Dispute Resolution Team or Law Revue or Institute of Bill of Rights Law to know about the class gift, we needed to have leaders from those organizations on our team.”
All told, 20 committee members signed on, including Yvonne Baker, Kristin Bergman, Beau Blumberg, Keith Buzby, Jenny Eaton, Joe Figueroa, Marko Hannanel, Liz Herron, Andrew King, Alex Lurie, Kayla McCann, Jeanne Noonan, Beth Petty, Adam Prestidge, Sean Radomski, Cassandra Roeder, Jackie Sandler, Eileen Setien, Paul Wolfgramm, and Peter Yagel.
“Our success was because of the committee’s dedication,” Mackler said. “There is no way Kevin and I could have achieved nearly this much success without their input and participation.”
Elliker and Mackler weren’t convinced that many students would be enticed by a solicitation that typically started and ended with “Give to the class gift.” Instead, they emphasized that the class gift wasn’t just a pot of money going to the Law School, but rather a coordinated commitment to all the areas of life within the building.
“When students realized they could specifically designate 100 percent of their pledge to their favorite organization, they really warmed up to the idea,” Elliker said. “They liked taking ownership of their pledge and giving back to the teams, organizations, and journals to which they've dedicated their time over the last three years.”
Not surprisingly, the committee sailed past 50 percent with no problem. And then things got interesting when the dean offered his mustache to the cause.
“I was thrilled for our committee, and happy that we turned it into an event, but I do feel a bit guilty for the dean changing a fundamental feature that was with him for years,” Mackler said.
In addition to his cochairs, Elliker gives a big shout-out to the staff of the Law School’s Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, and especially to Christina Smith-Lewis, the administrative assistant.
“Christina made a huge difference for Alex and me handling the logistical issues with pledges and confirming participation rates,” Elliker said. “We pestered her for updates several times a week, and the committee couldn’t have done it without her.”
With things wrapping up in Williamsburg mid May, the two friends are getting ready for graduation and still accepting gifts on behalf of their class.
“Personally, if you told me we’d be up near 90 percent before exams started, I would not have believed you,” Elliker said.
To watch the video of the Dean’s mustache, click here.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.