JANUARY 3, 2012—Joseph Sullivan (’67), Phil Garon (’72), Jim Chosy (’89), and Julie Chosy (’90) took different paths after graduating from the Law School, pursuing a business career, working at a Minneapolis firm, laboring as in-house legal counsel, and clerking for a federal appeals court judge. But all four achieved success, credit the Law School as a critical component, and see donating to the Partners in Excellence Annual Fund as an important way to continue a tradition of superior legal education.
Sullivan studied at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration after law school, earning an M.B.A. He worked for 20 years as an investment banker at Goldman, Sachs & Co. before becoming chairman and CEO at two health care companies, American Health Properties and Protocare. Today, he serves on the board of directors of four companies, including HCP, America’s largest health care real estate investment trust, which is based in California, the state he now calls home, and Cigna, a health service company that operates in 29 countries and employs nearly 30,000 workers.
Sullivan describes his Law School education as a key building block in his success. It helped him gain admission to Harvard, and it was a big plus on the job. "A legal education adds clarity of thinking and aids in the analysis of issues, opportunities, and problems," he says.
A member of the GENERATIONS campaign cabinet, Sullivan was inspired to donate to the Law School for several reasons, including the decline in state funding that has motivated the Law School to join the small number of distinguished public law schools that are taking the path of financial self-sufficiency. Just a fraction of the Law School’s total revenue, state funding now supports only the Law Library—a state-wide and University-wide asset. "I was surprised to learn how little the state is now contributing," Sullivan says.
Sullivan also was stimulated to contribute to the annual fund at this time, he says, because of Dean Wippman’s "vision of making the Law School world-class" in such areas as international, corporate, and criminal law. Sullivan fully supports Wippman’s plans for tomorrow’s generations.
Garon began his career at a Washington, D.C., firm, but within two years of graduation he was working at Faegre & Benson (soon to be Faegre Baker Daniels). During his 37-year career at Faegre & Benson, one of the top 100 firms based in the United States, he has focused on public and private mergers and acquisitions, the prevention of hostile takeovers, and other corporate matters.
A partner at the firm, Garon has long been a member of its management committee and served as firm chair for three years in the early 2000s. Many of his clients are FORTUNE 500 companies, including Target and Travelers. Thanks to his Law School education, "I felt totally equipped," he says. "It’s just been a great career."
Now Garon is giving back by donating to the Partners in Excellence Annual Fund, which is an unrestricted fund that allows the Law School to respond to emerging needs and strategic opportunities. "The reason I give unrestricted money is because I figure somebody else knows better than I do where it’s most needed and when," he says.
Garon is also motivated to donate because he wants today’s students to have access to the same high-quality education he received. "I want to get them the best faculty and scholarships possible," he says. "I see young graduates come to work for us and they’ve got this huge debt. We can help with that by providing scholarships."
Jim Chosy, managing director and general counsel at Minneapolis-based Piper Jaffray Companies, agrees. "The statistic that just breaks my heart every time I hear it is that the average Law School student graduates with $90,000 worth of debt," he says. He joined Piper Jaffray in 1995, after working as an attorney at U.S. Bancorp and at Minneapolis-based Dorsey & Whitney.
Julie Chosy, like her husband, wasn’t burdened with debt when she graduated. She began her career clerking for John T. Noonan Jr., a Ninth Circuit federal appeals court judge. She later clerked for David S. Doty (’61), a U.S. District Court judge. In between those stints, she worked as an associate at Faegre & Benson, where she later became a partner. "It’s a really different reality now," she says. "If the financial threshold was as high then as it is now, I wouldn’t have become a lawyer."
The couple is committed to supporting the school that launched their careers. "We feel it’s really important to give back," Jim says. "We’re very grateful for the excellent, high-quality education we received. We both feel extremely fortunate to have attended the Law School and to have the strength of that school and its reputation behind us."
Jim, who chairs the Law School’s Development Committee and serves on the Board of Advisers, continues to be impressed by today's students. "I can’t help but be inspired," he says. "It’s satisfying to know that our financial contribution is helping."
The Law School hopes to raise $5 million through contributions to its Partners in Excellence Annual Fund.