School of Law receives $2 million gift
Bequest will establish the Ralph and Madeline Wrobley Distinguished Professorship in Law and Entrepreneurship
May 21, 2014
The estate gift — the largest in the Law School’s 119-year history — will establish the Ralph and Madeline Wrobley Distinguished Professorship in Law and Entrepreneurship, an endowed position that will strengthen the Law School’s continued focus on entrepreneurship.
“During Ralph’s career he was an innovative leader in the legal and business community,” said UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton. “This gift to establish a distinguished professorship will help insure that his leadership and creativity are recognized and will continue in the future through the programs and activities in the School of Law.”
Wrobley, who spent his legal career in Kansas City as a managing partner with two large law firms and as partner in a third, said he wanted to support the Law School, which he called a vitally important part of the city’s legal community.
“UMKC Law School has played an important part in the legal community in this town and has made a major difference in Kansas City,” Wrobley said. “Both the graduates of the school and the school itself have been important to Kansas City.”
Wrobley grew up in Kansas City but received his own legal training at the University of Chicago. He returned to Kansas City in 1961 to take a job with Stinson Mag — now Stinson Leonard Street. Wrobley spent 26 years at Stinson, serving part of that time as a managing partner of the firm. He left Stinson for a three-year stint as a partner with Bryan Cave, a St. Louis-based firm, and finally found his way to Blackwell Sanders, where he also served as a managing partner. Blackwell Sanders later merged to form Husch Blackwell, the firm where Wrobley remains Of Counsel.
“When you serve as a managing partner, you do spend more time thinking about practicing law in the city. It may have made me more sensitive to the importance of a law school to the city,” Wrobley said.
Wrobley said he chose to give the gift to UMKC because he wanted to give something back to the community where he built a long, successful legal career. He said his wife Madeline, who died last summer when she was 74, would have fully supported the gift to UMKC.
“We both recognized how important a law school in the city is,” he said.
Madeline Wrobley was active in many civic causes in Kansas City, including the League of Women Voters, the American Cancer Society, Family and Children’s Services, and the Salvation Army.
In his own law practice, Wrobley advised privately held companies, and provided counsel on mergers and acquisitions. He is pleased that his gift will establish a professorship in entrepreneurship, which he called a key to Kansas City’s future.
The Law School has long been focused on entrepreneurship and has received national recognition for this outstanding program. A recent ranking in the National Jurist magazine identified UMKC Law School as among the most innovative law schools in the nation, in large part because of the school’s efforts around entrepreneurship. For more than a decade, its law faculty have collaborated within and outside the university to develop new programs that fuse entrepreneurship and law.
“We are so thrilled to receive this bequest,” said Ellen Suni, dean of the School of Law. “Getting such significant support for our program will go a long way toward helping us educate our students to be entrepreneurial in their lawyering and to become entrepreneurs themselves. It will also assist us to become thought leaders in law and entrepreneurship, thereby advancing the reputation of our school.
“We very much appreciate the generosity of Ralph Wrobley, an icon of the Kansas City legal community, who truly recognizes the practice of law as a noble calling and understands the importance of a strong law school to the Kansas City legal community,” Suni said. “We expect this gift will play a key role in helping us establish a Center for Law and Entrepreneurship here at UMKC.”