The WVU College of Law will build new classrooms, add clinical space and renovate its existing facility thanks to a $7.5 million gift from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust, the largest capital gift in the law school’s history.
WVU officials announced the gift Tuesday at Stewart Hall. The donation will help fund renovation projects already underway and pay for 20,000 square feet of new classrooms. The Center for Energy and Sustainable Development will also receive funding from the donation.
Steve Farmer, a trustee with the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust, said the gift honors the legacy of McQuain, who died in 2002.
“The law school has needed help. To be a first class institution, physical facilities matter,” Farmer said. “We had an opportunity to do this, and we knew Hazel would want us to do it.”
Joyce McConnell, the dean of the College of Law, said the historic gift moved WVU a step forward in offering a top legal education.
“This gift is truly transformative for the College of Law,” McConnell said. “It allows us to leap into the 21st Century and actually teach our students how to practice law.”
The law clinics act as law firms focused on myriad issues. McConnell says students focus on small businesses, veterans, child advocacy, education, immigration, as well as the innocence project.
“They contribute 22,000 hours of free legal service to the people of West Virginia,” McConnell said of the clinics.
State and private will evenly split the funding for the projects, according to WVU.
Educating lawyers plays a key role in a prosperous and thriving community, Farmer said.
“It’s very important, we believe, that WVU offer a top and first-class law school experience,” Farmer said, “so that he people we send out of this law school return to their communities or go to new ones and make them better.”
McConnell also pointed to the large number of WVU Law School graduates who make up the judiciary and state Legislature. WVU having a premier law school is vital to the state, she said.
“We are on the move and we want to be the best law school we can be,” McConnell said. “We have a deep commitment to WVU and the state to really make citizens of West Virginia proud. This gift helps us take many more steps forward quickly.”
Construction at the law school is already underway. The new wing should be finished within the next 18 months with the entire project completed over the next few years, McConnell said.
The gift is part of the WVU Foundation’s “State of Minds” campaign, which is hoping to raise $750 million by the end of 2015. WVU Foundation President Wayne King said Tuesday that the donation puts the WVUF at more than 80 percent of its fundraising goal.
“It is difficult to put into words what the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust means to WVU and our local community,” King said.
Along with matching state dollars, the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust has donated a value worth $45 million to WVU.