Local philanthropists Elaine Galinson and Herb Solomon want to see more equity and diversity throughout the legal profession — and are contributing a considerable amount of cash to that vision.
The husband-and-wife team have committed $3 million toward California Western School of Law’s vision of diversifying the legal profession.
The school, founded in 1924, is creating an intellectual hub where critical conversations about justice occur, bringing to the spotlight experiences of those who have traditionally been marginalized, Cal Western officials say.
Collectively, Cal Western officials say that the initiatives behind the gift will allow the school to create an environment that interrogates the ways in which the legal system can be, and has been, used as a tool both to advance and impede the democratic values of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“What’s most important to us is that we recognize the historical discrimination that has plagued our country,” Galinson said. “It speaks to our hearts and our ideals, knowing that these students, if they get a quality education, not only with their families benefit, but our entire country will benefit. This is us responding to what we have long felt in our hearts.”
Sean Megan Scott, president of Cal Western, said the transformative gift will support four key initiatives:
• $2.25 million for an endowed faculty chair in law, diversity, equity and inclusion;
• $300,000 for an annual speaker series in law, diversity, equity and inclusion;
• $300,000 for a scholar-in-residence program in law, diversity, equity and inclusion;
• $150,000 for student scholarship support.
Solomon said the couple wants to disrupt the centuries of inequality and discrimination “in our part of the world, on our continent.”
Solomon, who has been married to Galinson since 2014, said the most egregious form of discrimination they see is toward the Black population.
“It when basically isn’t consistent with the promise that is contained in our country’s founding documents,” Solomon said. “Elaine and I want to improve society and contribute to reducing, overcoming and ideally eliminating the widespread inequality and continued discrimination we see, particularly against the Black population in our society.”
Galinson’s first husband, Murray Galinson, who passed away in 2013 at age 75, was a professor at Cal Western for more than 10 years starting in the 1970s and was the president of San Diego National Bank for 25 years.
“Both Murray and Herb have longstanding ties to Cal Western,” Elaine Galinson said.
Both men were attorneys, with Solomon recently retired from the profession. Solomon was also on the dean’s advisory council and was an adjunct professor at Cal Western until his retirement at the end of last year.
“This is just one of the connections between Herb and myself, and we have the same value system and share a lot of the same thoughts about things,” Galinson said. “Cal Western was certainly top of our consciousness as we were thinking about what we can do to improve society.”
Helping the Underserved and Marginalized
Galinson said that she and Solomon have long been making gifts to Cal Western and other organizations that they feel are “strongly doing something for the underserved and marginalized.”
The school also has a Murray L. Galinson Scholarship Endowment.
Galinson said there is a matching donation platform the school has set up and is hopeful for donors to contribute to their gift. Scott, the school’s dean since late 2020, has already pitched in $5,000 toward the matching donations.
She said the school is looking to add another $1 million to the $3 million.
As an institution, the law school strives to train ethical, competent and compassionate lawyers, representative of a diverse society who can use the law effectively and creatively, Scott said.
“I think that we are at a time in our country where core democratic values are under attack and as an educational institution, I think it’s vitally important that we engage in this moment,” Scott said. “It is important that my students really understand from a critical, deep process about the law and its role in advancing justice, and the role that it can play in impeding justice.”
Scott said the school would be inviting speakers to talk about how they have been marginalized so that students could start hearing those voices and engaging in critical inquiry from those who have been impacted negatively.
“We’ll be looking at how do we do justice, how do we pursue justice?” Scott said. “This gift will also us to better be a place to have those conversations, to train better lawyers to be more critical thinkers and analysts, and to attract more people from marginalized communities.”
California Western School of Law
PRESIDENT: Sean Megan Scott
HEADQUARTERS: Downtown San Diego
BUDGET: $32 Million
CONTACT: (619) 239-0391
SOCIAL IMPACT: During the 2021-22 academic year, the graduating class of students performed 8,000 hours of pro bono and public service work, and the school’s Community Law Project was named a 2022 California Nonprofit of the Year.
NOTABLE: From 2009 to the end of the program in 2014, Cal Western was the only law school named to President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, in recognition of the school’s strong history of community engagement