04 December 2013

Drexel Law is Drexel Law again

Drexel University's law school, inaugurally known as its College of Law, then re-named after commercial real estate magnate Earle Mack, has now been re-re-named the Drexel University College of Law again. Tongues are being wagged; tweets are being tweeted; and a few alumni colleagues of mine have questions.

Didn't the alumni association just start an "@earlemackalumni.org" e-mail service?

The announcement said it was a financial decision considered mutually between Mack and the law school. But couldn't Mack simply liquidate some of his portfolio, or place it in the instrument funding the naming rights? He must have actively wanted his name off the school. Did the administration piss him off personally? Does he object to the new two-year J.D. scheme?

Is it Drexel Law's little bar passage problem? The declining gender and ethnic
diversity among its student population? The dropping U.S. News ranking?

Is there another sugar daddy waiting in the wings?

Does this mean all that swag and my diploma are collector's items, now?

One particularly cynical alumnus is predicting the imminent death of the law school, once the university decides to quit subsidizing it, not seeing a reasonable ROI on the perceived prestige of having a law school attached to it. I'm not sure I'd go that far. But I do think Drexel Law is apt to become eastern Pennsylvania's Duquesne -- the also-ran school in Pittsburgh that you can never recall when you try to list all the law schools in the Commonwealth, whose grads also seem to struggle a little with the bar exam, but out of which you can probably wrangle a job in a small firm or government in western or central Pennsylvania once you do pass, especially if you're Catholic.

Kind of like Villanova Law and employment in southeastern Pennsylvania. Burn!

So, will Drexel Law still exist in 10 years? Will they find a new buyer for the naming rights? Will anyone call the school by that name, or will it be like Temple Law, which nobody but the bumper stickers refers to as the Beasley School of Law?

Full e-mail sent to alumni under the cut:

Ambassador Earle Mack Graciously Steps Aside as Naming Benefactor of Law School

To the Drexel Community:

We write to inform you that Ambassador Earle Mack has graciously stepped aside as naming benefactor of Drexel’s law school. This decision will clear the way for us to seek additional benefactors to further advance the school in what has become a very challenging legal education climate.

Ambassador Mack’s vision and guidance helped Drexel successfully establish the first law school to be founded by a major research university in over 30 years. In the six short years since his gift, the school achieved full accreditation and established itself as one of the most respected and innovative institutions in the nation. It has recruited outstanding students and internationally known faculty who publish in the top law journals, and successfully expanded Drexel’s mission of experience-based education to serve the legal community.

That period of rapid growth, however, coincided with the extended global financial crisis and the related downturn in the number of applicants to American law schools. We are confident that our school, with its unique experiential focus and its innovative faculty and leadership, will continue to thrive in this new environment. The Earle I. Mack Foundation and Drexel jointly concluded that this will require an economic foundation beyond what was established by his gift and the University’s matching funds. The termination of the naming agreement frees Drexel to build that foundation.

The law school will be known as the Drexel University School of Law for the near future. And Ambassador Mack will remain an inspirational figure for our students and the entire Drexel community. His gifts of art and sculpture on campus stand as symbols of his role in building Drexel for the 21st century, and we are grateful for his generosity and wisdom.


John A. Fry

Richard A. Greenawalt
Chairman, Board of Trustees

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