Law school receives donation, changes name



Pippa Leigh

Following a $25 million leadership gift from alumnus Charles Widger ’73 VLS, the School of Law has announced its renaming. The school will henceforth be known as the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, becoming the first University school to be named for a donor. Current third year law students will be the first to graduate from the newly named school.

University President Rev. Father Peter M. Donahue O.S.A. Ph.D. led a toast to Widger and his wife, Barbara, at a ceremony the commemorate the event. Wider’s is the second-largest donation in University history, and the largest donation ever to the Law School. The gift was a three-year process for the Widger family.

“I’m sure Chuck [Widger] can attest that this decision to make a $25 million gift is not made lightly, “ Donahue said. “A gift of this size sends a powerful message to our students, faculty and staff and most importantly to our alumni in law and business communities about the value of a Villanova law degree.” Donahue conluded with a laugh, saying, “May I remind you that there are many other things to name at Villanova!” 

Widger graduated from the Law School in 1973. Best known as the founder and executive chairman of Brinker Capital and co-author of the 2014 New York Times behavioral finance bestseller “Personal Benchmark.” He has remained an active chair of the Board of Consultors at the Law School, and helped to innovate the Center for Ethics, Integrity and Compliance. 

Widger praised Father Peter’s academic leadership in his speech later on in the ceremony, commemmorating other donations to the University, particularly that of Jim Davis, who bestowed a gift of $50 million to the business school. 

“Campaigns like ours are made successful both by the thousands of small contributions which form the base and foundation of the campaign pyramid and the several large top of the pyramid gifts,” Widger said. “Each gift is essential.”

Recently, the Law School has seen a significant and consistent yearly increase in applicants, job rates, alumni giving and student satisfaction. 

Widger’s investment will be going towards three programs in his honor: the Endowed Scholars Program, the Endowed University Professorship and the Dean’s Innovation Fund. The majority of the money will be for scholarship to provide financial support to incoming law students.

Widger credits his success to his law degree and wants the next generation of students to have the same opportunities. The university currently doesn’t have any university-wide faculty that cross-campus, so the Law School will bring in a nationally renowned interdisciplinary professor. 

Law School Dean John Gotanda shared what makes a Villanova lawyer different from others in the field, largely crediting the innovative programs alumni like Widger have promoted.

“Students have a strong moral compass. [The faculty] very much care about teaching not only about ethics but really how to be a professional,” Gotanda shared with The Villanovan. 

Gotanda also highlighted the Law School’s mandatory professional development program, calling it “an unusual component of a law school,” that “really teaches students about networking skills, resume and interview skills, while giving them exposure to an ethics component.”

The Law School also has a special focus on connecting law and business since both fields heavily rely on one another. 

“Today we recognize that law is not practiced in a vacuum and that lawyers work with other fields. They work with accountants, engineers, social workers, and communicators so law has become more interdisciplinary” Gotanda said.