Thomas R. Kline, one of the nation’s most influential and highly regarded trial lawyers, has committed $50 million to provide transformational support to Duquesne’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.
In a dramatic celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 7, students, faculty, distinguished alumni and a host of dignitaries gathered for the unveiling of a sign bearing the school’s new name, and a celebration of this historic announcement.
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.”
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