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Generous gift affords facelift for Akron Law

Recently The University of Akron School of Law received a $2 million gift from the estate of Mrs. Beatrice Knapp McDowell. The donation is the final piece of the financial puzzle educators needed to move forward with plans to give the C. Blake McDowell Law Center a $21 million debt-free facelift.  (Photo courtesy of The University of Akron).

SHERRY KARABIN
Legal News Reporter

Published: October 26, 2015

In today’s competitive legal education market, law schools are pulling out all the stops as they vie for the best and brightest.

While post-graduation employment statistics, class offerings and experiential learning opportunities are key in attracting students, administrators say keeping the school’s infrastructure updated is also important.

Recently The University of Akron School of Law received a $2 million gift from the estate of Mrs. Beatrice Knapp McDowell.

The donation is the final piece of the financial puzzle educators needed to move forward with plans to give the C. Blake McDowell Law Center a $21 million debt-free facelift.

“Other law schools have recently renovated or reconstructed their buildings,” said The University of Akron School of Law Dean Matthew Wilson. “Doing the same without borrowing any funds for construction will allow us to compete with these other schools on yet another level.”

“Student success remains the university’s highest priority and Mrs. McDowell’s generosity helps us to continue to improve the resources and facilities that we are able to offer to our law students,” The University of Akron President Scott Scarborough said in a press release.

“This project was being discussed as early as 2003,” said Kimberly Cole, assistant vice president of alumni and college centered programs at The University of Akron School of Law. “The goal was to garner support from alumni and friends of the school of law, and the plan varied over the years, with the final plans to renovate our existing building. The law school community has rallied around this much-needed initiative.

“The project has remained a priority over the years during transition in leadership,” she said. “All saw the value of improving the learning environment for law students.”

Cole said the building is about 40 years old and in serious need of an upgrade.            

“About a third of the funding has come from alumni and friends,” said Cole. “The state saw value in the renovation project and allocated monies to support it, and leaders of the school including our current Dean Matt Wilson, have made the renovation a significant focus of future planning for the school.

“The largest single gift came from the estate of Mrs. Beatrice Knapp McDowell.”

“The McDowell family has a very distinguished history at The University of Akron School of Law,” said Wilson. “The building is named after the late C. Blake McDowell, Sr.”

McDowell’s son C. Blake Jr., also deceased, was married to Beatrice Knapp McDowell, who passed away in 2011.

“Her family has remained an ardent supporter of the school,” said Wilson.

In fact, the family has gifted over $5.1 million to the university over the course of almost 40 years, with donations supporting five distinguished professorships and numerous academic scholarships for students.

“Our family is pleased with my mother’s gift to the UA School of Law,” Peggy Lloyd, Beatrice McDowell’s daughter, said in a press release. “My mother cared deeply about her community and the university. She would have loved nothing more than to see it continue to grow, flourish and nurture Akron’s future leaders.”

Peggy’s husband, Philip Lloyd, is a graduate of The University of Akron School of Law.

“When I graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, I was planning on getting my MBA,” said Philip Lloyd. “My father-in-law suggested I consider law school and when I asked for a recommendation he suggested Akron.

“My years at Akron laid the groundwork for my entire career as a corporate attorney,” said Philip, who worked at Brouse McDowell and Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease prior to his retirement in 2011. “I remained very involved with the school long after I graduated through my participation in alumni events and social activities.”

Wilson said the project would entail taking down the West Hall of the C. Blake McDowell Law Center, the oldest wing in the complex. He said it would be partially rebuilt, with amenities added to make the law school “an innovative environment for experiential learning for students.”

The additions will include a state-of-the-art moot courtroom, a jury deliberation room, two large interactive lecture halls and enhanced student collaboration and study areas.

“Local judges will be able to use the cutting-edge space to hold court trials,” said Wilson.

Construction is set to begin in December, with the goal of completing the work in 18 months.

“Most classes will be held in neighboring buildings during the 2016 spring and summer semesters, until several renovated classrooms come back online in time for the 2016 fall semester,” said Wilson.

He said the staff and administrators would be housed in the law center’s library for most of 2016 until they move into the renovated space. Faculty offices will be located in nearby Central-Hower High School during the 2016-2017 academic year. 

“If we had not been able to raise all the money we would have had to do a partial renovation,” said Wilson. “By accomplishing everything in one fell swoop, we are shaving off a year or two in completion time.”

“I think The University of Akron law school is one of the best law schools in the state of Ohio,” said Philip Lloyd.

“Upgrading the facilities on campus is essential to the school’s progress. There is a lot of competition among law schools today and it is essential the buildings be kept in excellent condition to attract the best students.”


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