Since its founding in 1887, Cornell Law School has cultivated a culture of public service. Today, that commitment was reaffirmed with the launch of the Robert B. Kent Public Interest Fund, established through a $1 million gift made possible by Robert D. Ziff, Class of ’92.
The fund is named in honor of legendary teacher and mentor Robert B. Kent, a professor at Cornell Law School from 1981 until his retirement in 1992. The fund will support a distinguished post-graduate public interest fellowship to be known as the Robert B. Kent Public Interest Fellowship. The Fellowship will be competitively awarded to a new or recent Cornell Law School graduate who demonstrates exceptional commitment to the field of public interest law. It will provide an opportunity for new attorneys to gain substantive experience in work that will improve the quality and delivery of legal services to the poor, the elderly, the homeless, and those deprived of their civil rights. The new fund will also support other public interest priorities, such as summer Public Interest Fellowships and the Law School’s loan forgiveness program, both of which enable Cornell Law School students to consider employment opportunities with nonprofit and government employers.
“Professor Kent was perhaps the best teacher I have ever had, in any subject, at any school,” said Robert Ziff. “More relevantly here, he was an attorney who devoted himself to public service in his spare time, including during his time teaching at Boston University, working for the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union, as well as serving as the reporter for the first Rhode Island Rules of Civil Procedure. Long after I graduated, Professor Kent remained a good friend. It is only fitting that this fund be named after him in the hope that future recipients will follow his example.”
"Public service is at the heart of our identity," says Eduardo M. Peñalver, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law. "The legal profession has as its core a commitment to the rule of law, and at the center of the rule of law is access to justice. This generous gift made possible by Robert Ziff ensures that the Law School continues to have a robust, world-class public interest program.”
Robert Ziff graduated first in his class from Cornell Law School in 1992. He was editor of the Cornell Law Review and an officer of the Moot Court. After law school, he clerked for Chief Judge Monroe G. McKay of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a Managing Partner of Ziff Brothers Investments.
Professor Robert Kent, who died in 2015 at the age of 93, dedicated more than half a century to educating aspiring lawyers. An expert in alternative dispute resolution, civil procedure, and international law, Kent was a favorite among students for his compelling teaching style and inspirational lectures.