Los Angeles, CA – Southwestern Law School has received four transformative leadership gifts totaling more than $6 million from prominent leaders in law, business and philanthropy to establish new endowments and programs at the law school. These visionary donors include legal education pioneer Beverly Rubens Gordon '54, leading trial attorney Brian Panish '84, business leader Michael Downer '81 and Dr. Jessica Downer, and the Montgomery Foundation.
“We are tremendously grateful for the outstanding investment our generous donors have made in the law school's future,” Interim Dean Austen Parrish said in his announcement to the Southwestern community. “These endowments cap off a series of extraordinary donations that Dean Emeritus Bryant Garth secured for Southwestern during his tenure for our New Era Campaign. These gifts will help ensure that Southwestern continues to provide a top-quality legal education, allowing the school to better support its students and to hire the finest faculty.” The New Era Campaign is focused on generating major support for endowed scholarship funds and faculty chairs, strengthening academic programs and clinics, and enhancing campus facilities.
Legal Education Trailblazer BEVERLY GORDON '54 Plans Faculty Chairs
Beverly Rubens Gordon '54, a major force in legal education for over 40 years, has designated an unprecedented planned gift for the establishment of new faculty chairs at Southwestern. The Beverly Rubens Gordon Endowment Fund will provide a principal amount of approximately $3 million to support three Beverly Rubens Gordon Endowed Chairs. The bequest represents the largest gift from an individual ever received by the law school and will help ensure that Southwestern continues to have one of the finest faculty rosters in the country.
Professor Gordon earned her J.D. degree at Southwestern, where she later served on the faculty, and went on to become involved in the establishment of two other southern California law schools. After graduating first in her law class, she taught at Southwestern for ten years and founded one of the leading bar review courses. In 1964, she was appointed as the first Dean of Orange University School of Law in Santa Ana, which would eventually become Pepperdine University School of Law. Two years later, she was instrumental in the formation of the Beverly Law School on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, where she served as Dean of Administration and a member of the faculty. The school became affiliated with Whittier College in 1975 and is now Whittier Law School.
Professor Gordon received numerous awards for teaching excellence from Southwestern, the Beverly Law School and Whittier Law School. She was honored as Southwestern’s Alumna of the Year in 1980 and was presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2007.
Top trial attorney BRIAN PANISH '84 establishes Civil Justice Chair and Program
Brian J. Panish '84 has provided a leadership gift exceeding $1 million to establish the Panish Chair in Civil Justice and the Panish Program in Civil Justice. The first endowment of its kind at Southwestern will help further the law school’s standing as a national leader in the research, scholarship and promotion of civil justice. The new Chair and Program will enable Southwestern to attract top scholars in civil law, support related research, bring leading trial attorneys and judges to speak at the law school, and engage students in meaningful discussions about the civil justice system.
One of the country's leading trial attorneys, Mr. Panish is a partner with Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, and has obtained some of the most significant jury verdicts in U.S. history on behalf of plaintiffs. His courtroom victories include a $4.9 billion verdict in the landmark products liability case Anderson v. General Motors, and more than 30 verdicts and settlements in excess of $10 million in personal injury, wrongful death and business litigation cases. Mr. Panish has been named Trial Attorney of the Year by both the California Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates and the Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles. He is a member of the prestigious Inner Circle of Advocates (the top 100 plaintiffs' lawyers in the country), and has been listed among the 100 Most Influential Attorneys in America by the National Law Journal and in California by the Daily Journal.
A loyal and active Southwestern alumnus, Mr. Panish has continued his close association with the law school as a guest speaker, by hiring Southwestern graduates, and by serving as chair of the Judges Tribute Dinner Committee. He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Southwestern in 2011. His wife Rosemarie Panish '89, and father Howard Panish '59, are also Southwestern graduates.
Business Leader MICHAEL DOWNER '81 Establishes Chair in Corporate Law
Alumnus and trustee Michael J. Downer '81, and his wife, Dr. Jessica B. Downer, have created a $1 million endowment to establish the Downer Chair in Corporate Law at Southwestern. The new endowment will help the law school attract top scholars in corporate law who will further strengthen the corporate law curriculum, provide leadership in teaching and research, and establish innovative partnerships with prominent firms, organizations and institutions.
A highly respected leader in the investment management industry, Mr. Downer is Senior Vice President, Secretary and Chief Legal Officer at Capital Research and Management Company, which is an investment adviser to the mutual fund giant American Funds. In the greater business community, he is Chair of the Board of ICI Mutual Insurance Company and the California '40 Acts Group, and a past Chair of the Compliance Committee and SEC Rules Committee of the Investment Company Institute. He was named Outstanding Corporate Counsel by the Los Angeles County Bar Association in 2006.
Mr. Downer has maintained a close association with Southwestern, serving since 1999 on the law school's Board of Trustees, where he is Vice Chair. He also chairs the Finance and Audit Committee and established the law school's first unrestricted endowment. He was honored by the Southwestern Alumni Association in 2007 as Alumnus of the Year, and in 2010 he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Mr. Downer is also serving as Chair of the New Era Campaign.
MONTGOMERY FOUNDATION Creates Fund for Faculty Support
The Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Foundation has donated $1 million to create the Faculty Research and Retention Fund at Southwestern. This generous leadership gift provides essential support for faculty research, innovation, recruitment and retention.
Dean Emeritus Bryant Garth, who is also President of the Montgomery Foundation, was instrumental in establishing the new fund that will help the law school attract highly gifted teachers and scholars to Southwestern and provide faculty with crucial additional resources for travel and collaborative exchanges with other top legal scholars. Harle Montgomery, who passed away in 2010, was an enthusiastic supporter of Southwestern for many years, and provided a seed grant of $100,000 to the law school's Immigration Law Clinic in 2006.
The Montgomery Foundation has a long history of philanthropy and educational endowments and has established facilities, programs and academic chairs such as the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professorship in Public Interest Law at Stanford Law School, the Thomas F. Geraghty Fund for Juvenile Justice at Northwestern Law School, and the Montgomery House at Dartmouth for visiting scholars.