Since 2016, the Hartford Promise scholarship fund has helped open doors for hundreds of Hartford students to attend college.
Now, thanks to UConn Law alumni Rick ’78 and MaryEllen Thibodeau ’85, a new scholarship will help these scholars pursue a graduate degree at UConn School of Law.
The couple, longtime Connecticut residents, recently established the Richard E. Thibodeau and MaryEllen Thibodeau Scholarship Fund. It is the first UConn graduate school scholarship that will primarily benefit Hartford Promise scholarship recipients. The first year for eligible recipients for law school will be in the 2018-19 academic year.
“We feel very strongly that certain institutions and professions that provide a public service, such as the armed forces, government, and law, should generally reflect the population that they serve,” MaryEllen said. “We hope our gift will give some young men and women the ability to attend the UConn School of Law, to have a successful career in Connecticut, and provide future opportunities for the generations to follow.”
The Thibodeaus set up their endowment via an IRA charitable rollover, combining convenience with tax advantages. Donors who are 70½ and older can make a gift that fulfills their required minimum distribution, but is not treated as taxable income. Even donors who don’t itemize can benefit from this opportunity. Donors can distribute up to $100,000 a year to a charity.
This gift could help make a difference for Hartford Promise scholars. A recent report by the National Association for Law Placement shows a slow pace in growth of diversity among law firms. Additionally, the School of Law notes that pipeline programs, which provide access to students who might not otherwise consider law as a profession, and financial support are critical in opening doors for underrepresented students.
“We want young people to understand that it is possible to get through high school, go to college, and thereafter enroll in law school,” said Karen DeMeola, assistant dean for enrollment and students at UConn Law and president of the Connecticut Bar Association. “Removing barriers to success, in particular the financial obligation, is so important to students’ academic achievement.”
“We’re deeply grateful for Rick and MaryEllen’s most generous support of the School of Law,” said UConn Law Dean Timothy Fisher. “This scholarship will help Hartford students further their education as they prepare for a lifetime of fulfilling service in the legal profession. We thank Rick and MaryEllen for their transformative gift, and look forward to welcoming recipients.”
Rick and MaryEllen have given to UConn for more than 30 years, inspired by their parents’ example of paying it forward.
“While neither of our parents had much money, they gave what they could of both money and time to the organizations that were important to them and we observed that,” Rick said.
The two credited the School of Law as the foundation for their successful careers. Rick owned his own tax and investment services practice for almost 20 years, and MaryEllen worked as a transactions lawyer for several Connecticut companies.
“I enjoyed the intellectual challenge and rigorous academic atmosphere, and learned the importance of considering various points of view and the need to be prepared,” MaryEllen said. “UConn Law opened up the opportunity for me to have a challenging and interesting career.”
Rick and MaryEllen enjoy the opportunity to help future legal scholars and hope others will follow their lead.
“We would encourage potential donors, whether a UConn Law graduate or not, to reflect on the importance of having a first-class state university with a first-class law school,” Rick said. “Education is the door that opens opportunities and breaks down barriers to success.”
For more information about the Hartford Promise scholarship program, visit www.hartfordpromise.org.