Chancellor & Dean Emeritus Mary Kay Kane has donated $169,000 in honor of John K. “Jack” Smith ‘54, one of the college's most enthusiastic alumni and chair of the school’s Board of Directors while Kane was chancellor and dean.
“Jack adored our school and he adored our students,” Kane said. “What I remember was his interest in the students, and his consistent generosity.”
Smith passed away four years ago. Before his passing, several friends created the Jack Smith scholarship endowment to honor Smith’s dedication to UC Hastings. Kane’s gift to the Smith scholarship fund in Fall 2012 more than doubled the size of the fund, which is now worth more than $250,000.
“Jack would have wanted the next generations to have the same opportunities that he did,” Kane said. “Personally, right now I think that scholarships for our students are really tremendously important, and that’s why I have donated now.”
Though Kane is retired from teaching, she remains deeply committed to UC Hastings. “I have benefited from this institution. I believe strongly that every generation should work to make things better for the next generation. We should always be looking ahead. Just as you want your children to have better opportunities than you had, we should think of the students and faculty ahead of us. We have benefited from our predecessors, and now it’s time for us to step up to the plate” she said.
“Through former Dean Kane’s generosity, UC Hastings will continue in our efforts to reboot legal education,” said Chancellor and Dean Frank H. Wu. “This helps us achieve our No. 1 strategic goal, to create outstanding professionals ready to solve 21st century problems.” This academic year, the Smith Scholarship award was $12,000.
When Smith attended UC Hastings in the early 1950s, there were only two women in his class, noted his daughter, Cynthia Kerwin Birmingham ’83. He was especially excited, then, to work with Kane, the school’s first female dean. “He really believed in UC Hastings,” Birmingham said. “He was just wedded to the school.”
Smith and Kane became a noteworthy fundraising team while Kane was dean and Smith served on the Board of Directors. “The idea of working with Mary Kay, and her having been hired from within, brought him a great deal of satisfaction and joy,” Birmingham said.
Smith received the UC Hastings National Alumnus of the Year award in 1989. In 1991, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the 1066 Foundation Board of Trustees, after serving as its president. He was appointed to the UC Hastings Board of Directors in 1999, serving as board chair from 2004-2008, until shortly before his death, at age 81. Smith practiced real estate law as a partner with Haley, Purchio, Sakai & Smith in Hayward, and was heavily involved in California Democratic party politics. He served as the first elected mayor of Hayward, and was vice chair of the Alameda County Coliseum Board.
“My father didn’t like to have things named after him,” said Birmingham. “That wasn’t his style. But the idea that Mary Kay and others thought so highly of him to create a scholarship in his honor is an exception that I think he would approve of.”
Smith was concerned about rising tuition, Birmingham said, a concern he shared with Kane. When Kane became dean, in 1993, state funding accounted for some 70 percent of UC Hastings’ budget. Tuition was in the $6,000 range. “When I left in 2006, 13 years later, the state contributed only 20 percent of our budget, and tuition was in the $20,000 range. That was bad enough. Now it’s worse,” Kane said.
During her deanship, Kane became close personal friends with Smith and his family, and often shared holidays with them. Kane, who does not have children, said she views UC Hastings as her progeny.
“UC Hastings is my legacy. It’s my family, and I want to see the family get through this crisis and, more than that, to flourish,” Kane said.
While she no longer teaches at UC Hastings, Kane is far from retired. “I continue to be the primary author of 14 volumes of the Federal Practice and Procedure treatise, and I have to keep my hornbooks up,” said Kane from her office, where she was updating one of the volumes. She also serves on the council of American Law Institute, and has been consulting with Qatar as it updates its legal education system. Additionally, she is active in the law school accreditation process, and is chairing a drafting committee for the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which is adding civil procedure questions for the multistate bar exam.