The Georgetown University Law Center received two historic graduate gifts that total $34 million, including the largest single donation the Law Center has ever received.
A record-breaking $24 million gift came from the estate of Agnes Williams (LAW ’54), who graduated in the first Georgetown Law class that included women. The donation supports the Agnes Williams Sesquicentennial Professorships, named in honor of their donor and the 150th anniversary of the Law Center. A $10 million gift from Timothy O’Neill (LAW ’77) and Linda O’Neill (NHS ’77) will establish the Center for Transformational Health Law at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, aiming to address the evolving policy conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The O’Neills are the largest non-estate donors in the history of the Law Center.
All the donors have existing philanthropic ties to Georgetown Law. Williams was the lead donor in funding a new law library in 1989, named in memory of her husband Edward Bennet Williams (LAW ’44, H ’68). Prior to the establishment of the Williams Sesquicentennial Professorships. She also contributed to the endowment of a number of tenured professorships in 2016 to support research of recently appointed faculty.
The Law Center distributed Williams’ endowment with her passions in consideration, according to Wiliam Treanor, dean and executive vice president of the Law Center.
“Her core commitment was faculty. She said that faculty are really the key to the law school’s vitality,” Treanor said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “Given her commitment to faculty, we thought that creating endowed professorships that bore the Williams name would really be the most powerful way to honor her legacy.”
Williams made history while at the Law Center, graduating at the top of the first class that included women at a time when the school did not even have a women’s restroom, according to Treanor. While studying, she won the first-year law student moot court competition and became the first woman to staff the Georgetown Law Journal.
The first two professors to receive Williams Sesquicentennial Professorships are Julie Rose O’Sullivan, who teaches courses on white-collar crime, and Hillary Sale, who teaches courses on corporate law and governance.
“The fact that through the arc of her career that now the first two Williams professors are women who are on the faculty meant a tremendous amount to the Williams family,” Treanor said.
With the gift from the O’Neill family, Georgetown Law’s Center for Transformational Health Law plans to take action on COVID-19 response, according to Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute, a program established in 2007 to address national and international health concerns in the context of the law.
At its outset, the Center for Transformational Health Law will aim to help facilitate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by working with the Biden administration, the World Health Organization and the World Bank, among other organizations, Gostin wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The O’Neills’ gift will benefit communities far outside of the Law Center, according to Gostin.
“The O’Neill family’s gift will be transformational for the Institute. But their gift will, more importantly, have a major impact in the United States and the world,” Gostin wrote. “I am very proud of the mission of the O’Neill Institute, which is to use world-class scholarship to make a difference in the world. Our aim is not just academic, but to advance the right to health in America and globally.”
In a post-COVID-19 world, the center will focus its work on establishing better structures to combat future pandemics and to tackle other global health hazards like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, according to Gostin.
The launch of the Center for Transformational Health Law is an opportunity for new collaborations across university programs, according to Gostin.
“We hope to seed many innovative ideas throughout the Georgetown University community, partnering with the Global Health Initiative,” Gostin wrote. “We also will use part of the gift as an endowment to enable us to support national and global health for generations to come.”