Release Date: June 4, 2009
BUFFALO, N. Y. -- The University at Buffalo Law School has received an unrestricted gift of $1 million from two well-known alumni, Ross M. Cellino Jr. and Stephen E. Barnes, shareholders in the Buffalo-based personal injury law firm Cellino & Barnes, P. C. It is one of the largest cash gifts UB Law has received in its 122-year history. The Law School will name its main conference center, located on the fifth floor of O'Brian Hall, in their honor. Cellino and Barnes, whose firm has been listed in Best Lawyers of America and has represented clients in 37 different states, are among the most successful alumni of UB Law School.
According to UB Law Dean and SUNY Distinguished Professor Makau Mutua, "the gift is an extraordinary act of philanthropy and comes at a time of renaissance and renewed optimism in the fortunes and the future of UB Law." Since his appointment as its 18th dean in May 2008, Mutua has charted an ambitious plan to place UB Law among the top 50 law schools in the country within the next four years. That plan aims at academic excellence and depends on hiring faculty with star potential, recruiting students with high academic credentials and investing the resources of the Law School wisely and with prudence, Mutua said
"Support for the university is always especially meaningful when it comes from our graduates, who know first-hand the value and impact of a UB education," said UB President John B. Simpson. "We're honored that these two renowned alumni have chosen to give back to their alma mater with a generous gift that will significantly advance the mission of our Law School, and the university as a whole. This gift is a testament to the excellence, relevance and promise of the Law School, and will go a long way toward creating new opportunities and enriching the UB experience for generations of students to come."
The gift comes at the close of a very successful year for the Law School, Mutua noted. "This amazing act of philanthropy by Ross and Steve reflects a belief by two accomplished alumni that the Law School is heading in the right direction," he said. "It is a wonderful down payment on our vision of academic excellence and our bold aspirations for the future."
The UB Council on Monday approved naming the Law School conference center the Cellino & Barnes Conference Center. One of the most elegant, prominent and widely used facilities in the Law School, it hosts a wide variety of academic and legal conferences, seminars and continuing legal education courses.
"We are exceedingly grateful to receive this generous gift from two of UB Law School's most prominent alumni," said Provost Satish Tripathi. "This gift will enable us to recruit ambitious and promising students and to educate our students in 21st century learning environs. It is in partnership with our alumni that UB and our Law School will achieve its full promise."
Mutua said that he plans to invest the gift in students, because they are the core of the Law School. The gift will be used to support tuition scholarships for deserving students, make improvements in pedagogical technologies in the school and upgrade services to create an environment that is conducive to learning. "Receiving this gift so early in my tenure is a tremendous vote of confidence," said Mutua. "No law school -- whether public or private -- can aspire to greatness without alumni who are devoted and charitable."
"UB Law is fortunate to have so many dedicated alumni who generously support the school," he added. "Even so, for UB Law to become a truly national law school with global ambitions -- and to be counted among the finest law schools in the country -- more support from the alumni is necessary. The gift from Cellino & Barnes sets a high bar for the Law School's alumni."
The gift ends the academic year on another high note, Mutua said. Last week, UB Law was the focus of international attention when Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Kenya, who led a delegation of senior officials to UB, delivered the Law School commencement address. At the ceremony, UB President John B. Simpson conferred SUNY honorary doctorate degrees on Irene Zubaida Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, and J. Mason Davis, a UB Law grad and distinguished civil rights attorney from Alabama.
"Having these preeminent and distinguished leaders speak and be honored at commencement is evidence of a school on the move," said Mutua. "The sky is the limit for UB Law if we continue to receive this level of support from our alumni."
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.