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UC’s Newest Trustee is a Familiar Face on the Board

Prominent attorney Stanley M. Chesley says he feels honored to once again serve on the board of “a magnificent institution.”

Date: 3/16/2009
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre
“I may be the most senior, but I’m the new kid on the block,” says Stanley M. Chesley, who will join the UC Board of Trustees at its next meeting on March 17. The Cincinnati attorney who rose to national prominence in “caring for the underdog” and defining class-action law has long been a passionate supporter of the University of Cincinnati for laying the foundation for his success today. “If it weren’t for the University of Cincinnati, I wouldn’t have been able to get an education,” he says.
Stanley M. Chesley
Stanley M. Chesley

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland appointed Chesley for a second, nine-year term on the UC Board of Trustees on Feb. 6.

“I’m delighted to have Stan Chesley join us on the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees,” says H.C. Buck Niehoff, chair, UC Board of Trustees. “His previous experience on the board and his input will be extremely helpful as we move forward in the search for a new president.”

Chesley previously served on the UC Board of Trustees from 1985 through 1994 and five times was elected chairman of the board. “In my sixth year, I withdrew my nomination so that O’dell Owens could be elected the first African-American chairman of the UC Board of Trustees,” Chesley says.

Chesley is the senior partner of the law firm of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley Co., L.P.A. He has been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America as one of the nation’s preeminent litigators for more than 15 years and is the top-rated lawyer in Ohio Super Lawyer.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from UC in 1958 and, in 1989, was named a distinguished alumnus of the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences. He graduated from the UC College of Law in 1960 and received the College of Law’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1990. He was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters from UC in 1993.

Chesley is national president of the Jewish National Fund and is a longtime supporter of UC’s Judaic Studies Department as well as numerous local Jewish organizations. He is a board member of the UC Foundation and campaign co-chair of UC’s Proudly Cincinnati campaign to raise $1 billion toward supporting the future goals of the university.

In 2006, Chesley and his wife, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott, announced a substantial gift to the College of Law to endow the Stanley M. Chesley Professorship of Law. The professorship enhances the college’s teaching and research by bringing visiting law professors of national and international prominence, in all areas of expertise, to UC.

The son of parents who emigrated from the Ukraine to Cincinnati, Chesley was a self-described average student at Walnut Hills High School who says that without his admission to UC, he wouldn’t have been able to afford to get a higher education. “My tuition was 800 dollars a year,” he recalls.

He blossomed and matured through his studies and his involvement in student organizations, serving roles in Student Government, the Arts & Sciences Council and the Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society for college students.

In the legal profession, Chesley first rose to national prominence representing families of the victims of the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate, Ky., that killed 165 people. Other high-profile cases included the 1980 MGM Grand Hotel Fire in Las Vegas that killed 84 people, the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal, India, the 1985 plane crash in Gander, Newfoundland, that killed 248 soldiers who were returning home for Christmas from a peace-keeping mission in the Middle East, and the landmark litigation against the nation’s tobacco companies. He also battled for drought insurance settlements for farmers following the drought of 1988, and led a successful 1993 effort to keep the city’s pools open amid a lifeguard shortage.

Chesley’s own personal story supports the opportunity flowing from the largest employer in the city. “There is opportunity in every aspect of the university, whether it’s in liberal arts or engineering, research, the medical school or graduate programs.

“I’m fascinated with the importance of our medical school to our community. The other thing I’m fascinated with is the number of people who have stayed in Cincinnati because they graduated from the University of Cincinnati, whether they’re from here or not. That has been what has made our community, in my opinion, a community that understands the importance of a college education and the careers that have come about as a result of achieving graduation.”

Chesley says he is passionate about continuing opportunities in higher education amid what he calls “a Hamiltonian Society,” in which the B-plus, average-income student could be shut out of a higher education. “We cannot close the door to education to the middle class and to less privileged people. I want every student who’s qualified to come to college and feel welcome,” Chesley says.

Chesley says an education at the University of Cincinnati covers all ends of the spectrum, not just teaching and research. During his previous service on the Board of Trustees, the board united against a proposal from the AAUP to end the football program. It also raised $300,000 to make repairs to Nippert Stadium.

“I remember that one time, the Nine-to-Five union told me they weren’t allowed to come to board meetings,” he says. “I told them they could bring as many people as they wanted to the next board meeting, and it was standing room only. We believed then about transparency and we believe now about transparency,” he says.

Chesley adds that the nation encountered times of recession during his previous service on the board. “I know there’s an economic downturn, but people will pick and choose what they think is important, and my view is, make lemons into lemonade. That’s my style and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

Stan “Chesleyisms”

  • Ism One – You never get more than you deserve unless you ask for it.
  • Ism Two – If you burn a candle at both ends, you get twice as much light.
  • Ism Three – The dog that has the bone is the most dangerous, so I have no problem with controversy. I state my position, I care for the underdog and now I represent corporations. I am what I am and I’m proud of it.
  • Ism Four – If you want somebody to do something, get a busy person.