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Joseph F. Rice School of Law

Law school alumnae paying it forward

Members of South Carolina’s legal community are known for being generous with their time. These University of South Carolina School of Law alumnae believe giving financially is equally important in growing the next generation. 

“Frankly, by giving to the law school – and I also donate to my undergrad school – I feel like I'm being impactful in a way that is consistent with a value that's important to me,” says Sylvia Matthews ‘86, who has given for 27 years. 

Matthews’ mother – who was a professor and a Ph.D. – instilled the importance of education early on. Matthews continues to hold higher learning in high regard and does her part to ensure those who want to become lawyers have the option. 

“I think it’s important for the law school to be able to provide scholarships for students,” Matthews says. “Offering scholarships creates opportunities for those who might not go to law school at all.” 

Kim Cochran ‘13 has given every year since graduating; she pauses to contemplate the years leading up to graduation and the decade that has since passed. 

"I was really lucky to receive financial assistance through scholarships when I was a student. I know firsthand the doors that can open when you have help behind you,” Cochran says. “Now that I've graduated, I just want to pass the torch and do for others in the same way that was done for me.” 

As of fall 2022, 82 percent of South Carolina Law students rely on scholarships. Matthews, Willis, and Cochran give because they know every gift makes a difference. 

“Honestly, I was not sure I was someone that could give. My perception was that most donors are multimillionaires,” says Sheila Willis ‘11, who began contributing three years ago. “In talking to the folks in the development office, it really became clear that I could give in a way that was meaningful both to me and to the school.” 

Matthews, Cochran, and Willis also express gratitude for the education and opportunities the law school provided, including the generosity of the mentors and donors that inspired and supported them. 

Donating resources isn't the only way they give. These alumnae embrace myriad opportunities to serve their communities by volunteering, mentoring, and serving on many boards – often simultaneously.   

“Some volunteer with their time, others are privileged enough to be able to open a checkbook,” Cochran says. “I think however people can give; all of those ways are meaningful." 

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