Former classmates of Hillary Rodham Clinton LAW ’73 are working with the Law School’s development office to create a fund in Clinton’s honor, a year and a half after the former secretary of state’s historic defeat in the 2016 presidential election.
Rosalind Fink LAW ’72 — a former classmate of Clinton who is helping spearhead the new Hillary Rodham Clinton Fund for the Public Interest — said she expects two recent Yale graduates doing “public interest work” to receive year-long fellowships from the fund next fall, once the Law School formally announces its creation.
Although the development of the fund remains at an early stage, Fink said the project’s ultimate goal is to raise money for the Law School to create more legal clinics, which give law students hands-on experience working with clients on complex issues like immigration.
Before two presidential campaigns and stints as secretary of state and as a U.S. senator representing New York, Clinton had a career in public interest work. While at the Law School, she worked at the Yale Child Study Center and later served as attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund. And at the University of Arkansas School of Law — as one of only two female faculty members — Clinton served as the first director of a legal aid clinic.
“[The] idea was to connect her legacy to the Law School’s increasing model of public service due to clinics,” Fink said. “So we’re hoping that friends of the Law School and friends of the Clintons will contribute to the fund.”
Fink said that the idea to create a fund in Clinton’s honor has been in the works for a while, but that the project was put on hold amid staff turnover in the Law School development office.
But the idea came to fruition when Clinton and some of her former classmates visited Yale in February. According to Fink, former Law School Dean Harold Koh, who was Clinton’s legal advisor while she was secretary of state, told the group about students who applied for fellowships and noted that there was room to provide more funding. Fink, Clinton and Robert Raymar LAW ’72 — who is also involved with the new fund but referred comment to Law School Dean Heather Gerken — also met with students and faculty members working on children’s issues at the Law School.
Koh declined to comment for this story. Gerken did not respond to request for comment, and a spokeswoman for the Law School also declined to comment. Clinton’s representatives could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Fink said Clinton has agreed to donate to the fund, but she declined to reveal the size of the donation. Clinton has also “offered to be helpful” by making calls to solicit donations, according to Fink.
Clinton’s career has also seen its fair share of controversy. In 2012, she was criticized for her handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead. And throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, she was dogged by an FBI investigation into her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
But despite the political nature of Clinton’s career and her leadership in the Democratic Party, all six law students interviewed by the News said they were either positive or neutral about the prospect of a fund named after the former secretary of state.
Paul Joo LAW ’18 said that by nature of the institution, the figures honored by the Law School tend to be political.
“It makes sense to separate out someone’s political stance from their prominence in the community,” Joo said. “If we used any level of politicization as cause to not have funds like that in their name, we would be left with a pretty short list.”
Veronica Guerrero LAW ’20 noted that Clinton is one of the school’s most famous alumni. And while she is a political figure, Guerrero said, the Law School should honor Clinton as someone who has used her law degree to help the country. She added that having a fund named for Clinton is exciting given that “law tends to honor a lot more men.”
Clinton is slated to give this year’s Class Day speech in May.
Hailey Fuchs | firstname.lastname@example.org