A major gift from one of our most successful alumni will significantly expand UB School of Law’s capacity to nurture promising students of color and respond to critical issues of justice and equity.
The law school’s new Social Justice and Racial Equity Fund aims to “promote inclusive excellence, to remove barriers to access and advancement on the basis of factors such as, but not limited to, race, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability or veteran status for students, faculty and staff at the law school and in the legal profession.”
The fund is being supported with a $500,000 gift from Margaret W. Wong ’76, who has been among the most generous alumni in the University and the School of Law’s history. Her previous giving has endowed a substantial scholarship program and a full professorship.
The fund will make possible new investments in diversity scholarships and fellowships, bar exam support for students of color, the Discover Law program for underrepresented students considering law school, and training and programming on racial justice topics.
“Margaret has dedicated her life to helping those less fortunate achieve their goals and dreams,” says UB President Satish K. Tripathi. “This generous gift to create the Social Justice and Racial Equity Fund in our School of Law is another powerful example of her profound generosity and desire to lift others. Margaret truly embodies our university’s highest ideals of excellence, service and leadership, and we are so very grateful and proud to count her among our most distinguished alumni.”
“Our mission to educate students to be future leaders – and to create a more just and equitable society – is more vital than ever,” says Dean Aviva Abramovsky. “Margaret’s investment in our Social Justice and Racial Equity Fund will provide us with the necessary resources to promote equity, inclusion and diversity within our law school – and the legal profession - now and into the future. We are incredibly grateful for her vision and support.”
To join our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, please consider making a gift to our Social Justice and Racial Equity Fund.
I love that society is questioning past practices, and striving to improve inclusion and racial equity. UB Law must be at the forefront of these efforts to maintain its leadership in legal education.
We reached out to Margaret Wong, who heads a thriving national immigration practice based in Cleveland, for her thoughts on the new fund, her gift and the thinking that led to it.
What inspired you to give to the new Social Justice and Racial Equity Fund? How do you hope your gift will impact the law school and the legal profession?
I couldn’t have done it without UB giving me a full scholarship from 1973 to 1976. I felt “home” during those three years. I have always approached the business of law as an entrepreneur and professional attorney, focusing little on the forces around me. But the very reason I created my own law firm was due in large part to the fact that predominantly white male law firms at the time were not interested in hiring an Asian woman.
I have never looked back and have achieved great things. I was also lucky that through the years, our immigrant clients have paid us, and in my heart, I swore that as soon as I was in a position to help and pay back to my circle of influence, I would. Now is the time.
At the same time, I have always focused on hiring minority attorneys and staff when possible, and helping those interested in education, especially law, achieve their dreams. This has been the basis of my gifts to UB Law over the years.
The new Social Justice and Racial Equity Fund is putting new focus on what I’ve been emphasizing for more than 50 years. I love that society is questioning past practices, and striving to improve inclusion and racial equity. UB Law must be at the forefront of these efforts to maintain its leadership in legal education.
This is a highly charged time in the United States. What role can and should lawyers play in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives?
Every lawyer should follow their conscience and instincts in pursuing their career. However, lawyers seeking to work with people who experience racial bias – which is an ever-increasing percentage of the population – need to be experienced in the history of non-white people in America, the laws that protect them, and opportunities for legislation to enhance these protections. Racial justice is nowhere near “there” yet. The need is immense right now, but may always be an issue.
Have you experienced impediments in your professional and personal life as a female attorney of color? If so, how have you overcome them?
I don’t complain about racial injustice. I combat it. I have joined many boards over the years, helped create foundations, and funded schools and individuals in their goals to learn more and effect change. It’s so important that the person of color learn both the ways of success and how to make change happen. You have to both be involved in the conversation and also learn philanthropy. Success to the socially inactive turns into luxury and waste. It’s so important to have a goal in mind and learn how to use your God-given talents to weave gold threads into the fabric of a better society.
You’ve built a highly successful practice in immigration law. What advice would you give recent law school graduates who are just beginning their legal careers?
Be open to the possibilities. When I was a young lawyer, I talked to people non-stop. My family opened a couple restaurants, and I talked to so many people from all walks of life while helping my family run the restaurants. People asked me what-if questions that mostly pertained to immigration. I figured out pretty quickly that I was very good at getting answers and turning those answers into business. Within a few years I was known regionally, and in not too many more years globally, as the immigration attorney who could make sticky situations work. As they say in negotiations, “no” is the first step to getting a “yes.” Believe in yourself, and keep your ears open and wits about you to answer questions others think are impossible.
Your generosity extends beyond the law school. You’re a civic leader and a strong supporter of the community at the local, national and global levels. What legacy do you hope to create through your philanthropy?
My sister and I came to the USA with two suitcases and $100. We attended junior college, college and grad school on full-ride scholarships – and the kindness of strangers. Our parents were writers, journalists and newspaper publishers, and so they had their fingers on the pulse of their community, and were generous to causes that improved the community.
Even before I had money to give, I was involved with community organizations in Cleveland and around the country. I learned about organizational budgets and the importance of foundations – putting additional donations to work, growing donations so the organization can plan its future. Then, when I was able to donate money, I directed it where change was likely to occur.
Education really is the best place to see change. I love the parable about teaching the disciples to be fishers of men. I help schools build their foundations so they in turn can help youth learn the tools to make the world a better place.