“It really speaks well of the values and character LSU Law instilled in our class, which had a lot of camaraderie and was full of talented people who went on to be highly regarded and very successful in the legal community. I’m just very proud of my class. We rose to another challenge and shined yet again.”
- Warren Byrd, deputy commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Insurance and a Class of 1978 Scholarship Committee member.
The LSU Law Class of 1978 rose to the challenge forty years after they had graduated law school to establish the second endowed scholarship named in honor of a graduating class of the Paul M. Hebert Law Center.
Judges W. Ross and Elizabeth Erny Foote, both graduates of the Class of 1978, created the challenge. Ross and Beth met on their first day of LSU Law in the fall of 1975. They married shortly thereafter and graduated together in 1978. Both Ross and Beth went on to successful law careers, including serving on the bench in the 9th Judicial District Court and the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana respectively.
“Our lives have been made possible by the LSU Law Center,” said Ross. “We left with so much more than just law degrees, and we’ve always thought it was important—not only for ourselves but for everyone who owes their success to the LSU Law school—to give back as much as possible.”
In addition to establishing their own scholarship, the Footes wanted to motivate their classmates to give back to their alma mater. Ross and Beth pledged $60,000 to the Class of 1978 scholarship fund and challenged their classmates to match it dollar for dollar in collective giving. If the class could come up with $100,000 in donations, the Footes would give an additional $20,000.
The catch? Because of Beth’s position with the U.S. District Court, the couple was required to remain anonymous in order to solicit donations. The lure of the anonymous donors ended up adding an element of intrigue to the challenge.
“We had quite of bit of fun trying to figure out who was putting up all this money,” recalls Byrd. “Eventually we realized it didn’t matter. If they were contributing almost 50 percent of the goal, then we damn sure better be able to take it across the finish line. It really inspired our class to make the scholarship a reality.”
After about a year of fundraising, the class met the $100,000 goal. A total of 76 classmates contributed to the effort, including three who are deceased and had donations made on their behalf, creating a $180,000 endowment.
The Footes were revealed as the anonymous challengers at the 40th reunion celebration in October 2018.
“It was especially fun to see some of the looks of disbelief that it came from two judges and not some hedge fund or plaintiff attorneys,” Ross laughs. “None of them had a clue it was us.”
Beth says the scholarship adds to a legacy of greatness that the class began establishing more than four decades ago.
“We were really the first class at LSU Law to have a significant number of women,” she says, noting slightly more than 15% of the class was female—a figure that grew nearly 50% in the last 20 years. “Along with having so many successful women, which I’m particularly proud of, it was just an outstanding class of people. The number of judges and bar presidents our class produced is remarkable.”
Ross hopes the scholarship will help LSU Law increase its competitiveness in attracting top candidates, as well as assist students who feel like they cannot attend law school due to the cost.
Caroline Swanson (’22) was the first recipient of the Class of 1978 scholarship. “Receiving any scholarship is exciting, but to be the first is really special,” she said. “I’m very fortunate to have a family that is doing their best to help me pay for law school, and the 1978 scholarship is very helpful to me and my family. I’m very honored and grateful to have been chosen.”
The Class of 1978 is just the second class to create an endowed scholarship, joining the Class of 1967. Endowed scholarships are invested into perpetuity and are awarded annually, whereas non-endowed scholarships are akin to annual gifts and are awarded each year so long as there is enough money to fund the award.
“Just imagine if every class picked up on the idea and met the same challenge,” says Ross. “Fast forward another 40 years and that’s $12 million in endowed scholarships for LSU Law, which would make us very, very competitive. We’ve set a bar with this scholarship, and now we’re challenging every other class to meet and exceed it.”
About the Scholarship:
Recipients of the Scholarship must be full-time students enrolled in the Law Center. Financial need may be a consideration in selecting recipients.
Class of 1978 Scholarship Committee members:
Debbie Brown Gentry