The Wilf Impact Scholars Program—Made Possible by a $5-Million Gift From Wilf Family Foundations—Will Educate and Train a New Generation of Social Justice Leaders
New York, NY (September 14, 2021) – New York Law School (NYLS) Dean Anthony W. Crowell and NYLS Trustee and distinguished alumnus Zygi Wilf ’74, Principal Owner of the Minnesota Vikings, today announced a historic $5-million gift that will profoundly expand NYLS’s public interest work.
The gift, made by the Wilf Family Foundations, establishes the New York Law School Wilf Impact Center for Public Interest Law and establishes the Wilf Impact Scholars Program. The Wilf Impact Center will house the School’s vast array of nationally-recognized programs to expand access to justice, eliminate barriers to equal opportunity, and enhance the quality of public services and legal representation. These include the long-respected Racial Justice Project, Diane Abbey Law Institute for Children and Families, Law School Pipeline Project, and Housing Justice Leadership Institute, as well as new initiatives such as the 21st Century Policing Project, the Criminal Justice Institute, and the Education Law and Policy Institute.
The most important initiative brought about by the Wilf Impact Center investment is the creation of a world-class scholarship program—the Wilf Impact Scholars Program—allowing NYLS to recruit and retain an annual cohort of students who will bring diversity, talent, and dedication to public interest careers. The gift provides vital access to legal education to students through substantial renewable scholarships, summer fellowships, and post-graduate fellowships. These prestigious designations will be awarded through a competitive process with a commitment to attracting those from historically underrepresented groups in the profession.
Ten students per year will be designated Wilf Scholars, with the first group selected this month.
“This transformative gift will open doors and change lives,” said Anthony W. Crowell, NYLS Dean and President. “I am profoundly grateful to Zygi Wilf and his family for their exceptional vision, their commitment a more inclusive legal profession, and their belief in the power of change through the law. Aspiring lawyers: If you are driven, focused, and committed to advancing a more just world through the law, New York Law School is the training ground for you.”
“On behalf of the Wilf Family Foundations, we are incredibly proud to help establish this new program, which will deepen New York Law School’s long-standing commitment to public interest work,” said Zygi Wilf ’74 . “As an alumnus of NYLS, I know the students are committed to creating a fairer, more just world, and we look forward to seeing what these scholars accomplish as part of this program. It is also essential that we continue to diversify the legal field, and we hope this program will attract a diverse range of students who can bring new perspectives and insights to the legal profession.”
Wilf Scholars will work closely with faculty leaders on the front lines of today’s most important civil rights challenges, including civil rights, immigration rights, racial justice, educational equity, housing rights, and access to justice for children and families. Scholars will also have the opportunity to collaborate with external social justice organizations that operate on NYLS’s campus.
“Zygi Wilf and the Wilf Family Foundations have shown once again their commitment to expanding justice,” said Arthur Abbey ’59, Chair of the NYLS Board of Trustees, “This historic gift will diversify our profession and provide NYLS students with extraordinary opportunities to use their education to help others who need it most. I am deeply proud to have Zygi as a member of our law school community, and this is a powerful demonstration of the importance of legal education in creating lasting social justice and change.”
“This extraordinary gift makes a significant and lasting impact on NYLS’s efforts to train lawyers who will make a difference,” said William P. LaPiana, NYLS Academic Dean. “The Wilf Impact Scholars will be representative of the clients they serve, and will have unique learning opportunities to make an impact on urgent matters of justice. They will take this invaluable experience forward into their careers expanding and protecting our democracy for years to come.”
Richard Marsico, a faculty member at NYLS who will direct the Wilf Center, said, “I echo our deep gratitude to the Wilf family for making this forward-looking gift that will help train the next generation of social change agents. As part of the Center, Wilf Scholars will have the opportunity to participate in a comprehensive program for public interest law students, including a colloquium on law and social change, concentrations in more than ten areas of public interest law, and a capstone project. In addition, Wilf Scholars can work with faculty members involved in real-world cutting-edge social justice issues and participate in and design a wide array of programming designed that cover the social justice implication of current events.”
Wilf Scholars will benefit from NYLS’s specialized public interest advising through the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono Initiatives, headed by Assistant Dean Swati Parikh—a recognized leader in the public interest law community—who will direct the Wilf Scholars Program. The office is housed in NYLS’s Social Justice Hub, which is also home to national social justice nonprofits, allowing for collaborative and innovative projects. According to Dean Parikh, “The Wilf Fellowship program will be a transformative opportunity for the law school to recruit an impressive and diverse group of law students with a dedicated commitment to social justice and public interest practice. The Wilf Scholars will be immersed in the world of public interest practice from the time they enter law school, gaining connections to public interest practitioners and alumni, working closely with faculty and staff, and developing the skills needed to excel in their careers.”
The gift supports an array of goals outlined in NYLS’s 2020 Strategic Plan: Ever Upward. They include engaging the NYLS community in meaningful social justice advocacy, advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, providing high-quality public interest career advising, and expanding students’ academic and experiential learning opportunities.
About Wilf Family Foundations
The Wilf Family Foundations, a collection of philanthropic efforts spearheaded by the Wilf family, was established in 1964 to support communities throughout the United States, Israel, and around the world. More than 60 years later, the foundation continues the legacies of their founders, Harry and Joseph Wilf z”l, and their wives, Judith z”l and Elizabeth, who moved to the United States after surviving the Holocaust. Through continued grantmaking, the Foundations support hundreds of thousands of people by providing education, housing, food, health care and other essential and life-saving services.