With an Eye Toward Asia, an Alumnus Donor Looks to Prepare Lawyers for the "Global Arena"

Stanford university. MintImages/shutterstock

Stanford university. MintImages/shutterstock

While there’s been a resurgence of nationalism—as evidenced by Brexit, Trump’s rise and other developments—savvy donors understand that the globalization genie can’t be put back in the bottle. As a result, they are giving big to help students navigate an increasingly interconnected legal and business landscape.

Consider news out of California, where Stanford Law School (SLS) received a $25 million gift from alumnus venture capitalist William A. Franke to endow its Global Initiative, which will now be called the W.A. Franke Global Law Program. The program, according to Stanford provost Persis Drell, “will provide the kind of education needed to develop leaders in a rapidly changing world.”

“I’m excited by the law school’s vision to make Stanford Law a true incubator for the next generation of global leaders,” Franke said. “My hope is that this gift will add a layer of global preparedness to the education offered at Stanford and will help continue the tradition of sending SLS graduates into the world able to tackle pressing issues and add value in the global arena.”

Franke speaks from experience.

He graduated from Stanford University with a BA in History in 1959 and a LLB in Law in 1961. According to Stanford, he has been the chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 forest products company, chairman of a large regional bank, chairman of a large U.S. convenience store company, and, from 1993 to August 2001, chief executive officer of America West Airlines (now integrated into American Airlines).

Through investments made by Indigo Partners, the private equity firm Franke founded, he has also been the founding chairman of Singapore’s Tiger Airways and serves as chairman for Frontier Airlines, Hungary’s Wizz Air, and Chile’s JetSMART Airlines.

He is widely credited with introducing the ultra-low-carrier airfare model in the U.S. Late last year, Boarding Area called Franke the “Godfather of the Airline Industry.”

Frank isn’t alone in his desire to prepare law students for an increasingly interconnected global landscape.

His gift comes on the heels of a $20 million commitment from former U.S. representative, diplomat, and war hero Frank Guarini to support the Guarini Institute for Global Legal Studies at NYU. “Our increasingly international world needs lawyers who can meet the complex challenges presented by a changing global and technological landscape,” Guarini said at the time.

His sentiments, not surprisingly, sound a lot like those expressed in Stanford’s press release, which reads:

In the current global environment, lawyers are increasingly facing transnational legal problems and engagement with people, legal systems, businesses, governments and multilateral institutions from around the globe. Law schools’ educational offerings must prepare students to operate in a highly globalized environment.

A closer look at the press release also underscores a focus on Asia, which the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicted will stay the fastest-growing region in the world through 2030.

Stanford Law’s first “global quarter”—that is, a period of time when “students can spend an entire quarter focused on global business law”—will focus on business in China, Singapore and Asia. After six weeks of classes on campus to prepare students to understand international business transactions, senior faculty will then take students abroad for three or four weeks to meet and work with international lawyers, academics, politicians, students and business leaders.

Franke’s previous support for Stanford includes funding the W.A. Franke Professorship in Law and Business, as well as annual gifts through the Stanford Fund for Undergraduate Education. Franke has also served as a member the SLS Dean’s Advisory Council.

His higher ed giving also extends beyond Stanford.

In 2008, Franke donated $25 million to Northern Arizona University, which named its W.A. Franke College of Business in honor of his gift. And in 2016, he gave $24 million to the University of Montana’s (UM) College of Forestry and Conservation and our Global Leadership Initiative. Check out our take on that gift here.