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$50 million gift to Duquesne law school from Thomas R Kline
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$50 million gift to Duquesne law school from Thomas R Kline

Eight years ago, Philadelphia trial lawyer Thomas R. Kline gave $50 million to Drexel University’s relatively new law school, and in return, it was named after him.

Kline, one of America’s most influential and highly regarded trial lawyers, has now committed $50 million to provide transformational support to Duquesne University’s 111-year-old law school.

Duquesne University President Ken Gormley announced that the Pittsburgh University will recognize the gift by naming its law school the Thomas R. Kline School of Law of Duquesne University.

Kline’s commitment will broadly support student scholarships, faculty grants for excellence in teaching and scholarship, the law school’s noted Bar Preparation program, new clinical offerings that benefit the community and other strategic priorities. Mr. Kline has given the University wide latitude in how best to invest the resources to maximize their benefits for students and the institution.

“It is enormously meaningful for Duquesne to have our law school named for an individual whose career success is synonymous with excellence in the legal profession,” said Gormley, who formerly served as dean of the law school. “We are grateful that Tom Kline has chosen to support his alma mater with such a transformational gift, recognizing the many contributions to society and the profession that our students and alumni have made for more than a century. We’re proud that one of our most distinguished alumni, who has represented Duquesne so impressively on a national and global stage, will now help shape the next century of our renowned law school. This gift will benefit generations of students, graduates and members of society on a broad scale.”

Kline’s gift constitutes the single largest commitment to Duquesne in its 144-year history. Kline already held the distinction of being the largest donor to the law school, with a $7.5 million gift in 2017 to launch the Thomas R. Kline Center for Judicial Education, which assists the courts in providing continuing judicial education to judges across the Commonwealth.

“I have long been proud of my alma mater and have been happy to have played a role in strengthening its future,” said Kline. “President Ken Gormley and Dean April Barton have immediate plans to empower students and faculty to lead. Their work will have a magnificent impact on students, the region and the profession itself. I share their goals and ambitions for the law school.”

A champion of legal education, Kline is acknowledged to be one of America’s most respected and influential lawyers. He is a founding partner of Kline & Specter, described by The Philadelphia Inquirer as “one of the nation’s leading personal injury firms. The National Law Journal has listed Kline among “Ten of America’s Top Litigators.” His groundbreaking cases have helped shape the law and have resulted in corporate, institutional and governmental change and justice for his clients.

Kline has been selected every year as the #1-ranked attorney among 65,000 active Pennsylvania lawyers by the publication Super Lawyers since its inception in 2004. Lawdragon lists Kline as one of the top 500 lawyers among 1.3 million active lawyers in America. He is the past president of the Inner Circle of Advocates, which The Washington Post described as “a select group of 100 of the nation’s most celebrated trial lawyers.”

 Kline achieved many landmark jury verdicts dating back to the 1980s with seven- and eight-figure jury verdicts in each of five decades. Recent accomplishments include his groundbreaking jury verdicts in the Johnson & Johnson/Risperdal litigation, winning an $8 billion verdict for his clients, and his leadership as Chair of the Plaintiffs Management Committee, which achieved the historic Amtrak 188 settlement. Kline’s advocacy in the Penn State/Sandusky litigation and the Piazza fraternity hazing case have likewise gained national attention.

A graduate and recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award at Albright College, Kline earned his M.A. from Lehigh University and his J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law in 1978, where he received the Distinguished Student Award and later earned the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2008. He is also an inductee into the Century Club of distinguished alumni at Duquesne University.

After completing law school, Kline clerked for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Thomas W. Pomeroy. He later served four U.S. senators over two decades, including chairing the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission for the Federal Courts in Pennsylvania for more than a decade.

The Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University was named for him in 2014, along with the Thomas R. Kline Institute for Trial Advocacy. The Thomas R. Kline Center for Judicial Education, the first of its kind in the nation, was launched at Duquesne University during the 2017-2018 academic year.

In naming the law school at Duquesne, Kline is energizing his alma mater on new fronts: This is the first school to be named at Duquesne University in over three decades.

“Working with Tom Kline has been an inspiration and absolute joy,” said law school Dean April Barton. “He is an exemplary embodiment of our distinct mission. He understands the history and value of Duquesne’s commitment to educational access and our focus on the law as a tool to ensure the welfare of all people. This is an extraordinary moment for Duquesne, certainly, as well as for the entire legal community. Linking Tom Kline and Duquesne permanently in the name of the law school will empower future lawyers for generations to come.”

Since its founding in 1911, Duquesne’s law school has focused on providing a legal education firmly rooted in the pursuit of excellence and the highest standards of ethical conduct. Its graduates serve others through skillful representation premised upon integrity and a commitment to attaining justice and fairness for all seeking redress through the legal system.

The School educates lawyers inspired by Duquesne’s tradition and the Law School motto, Salus populi suprema lex, or “The welfare of the people is the highest law.”

Formed as an evening program to give working families in the Pittsburgh area (including recent immigrants) access to a legal education. More than a century later the School remains dedicated to that ideal and offers a full-time day program in addition to its evening program. The School is known for consistently impressive bar passage results and employment outcomes.

Duquesne’s law school welcomed women and underrepresented populations earlier than most institutions. The first woman, Mrs. M. Murphy was admitted in 1914. The first Black graduate, Theron B. Hamilton, received his degree in 1925. From 1970 to 1981, Dean Ronald Davenport served as one of the first Black deans of any law school in the U.S.

A clinical education program was officially launched in 1995. The Tribone Center for Clinical Legal Educationopened on Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh in 2013 to provide student attorneys hands-on client experiences that impact a host of needy clients and underserved communities. In 2017, Thomas R. Kline Center for Judicial Education opened, partnering with the courts to provide first-rate continuing judicial education offered to more than 1,000 jurists in Pennsylvania.

Now, with the naming of the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Duquesne University in 2022, a new era of success and excellence will be ushered in at this highly-respected institution.

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation’s top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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