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Gift to Cincinnati Law targets injustice

Alumnus Bill Morelli gives to the Nathaniel R. Jones Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice

A University of Cincinnati alumnus has donated $200,000 to support a center at the law school focused on race, gender and social justice.

Bill Morelli, A&S ’74, JD ’78, has created the Bill Morelli Endowment Fund for the Nathaniel R. Jones Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice at the College of Law. Renamed in 2019 after Judge Nathaniel Jones in honor of his career as a champion for justice, the Jones Center trains and cultivates scholars, leaders and activists committed to social change.  After his retirement as a federal judge, Judge Jones joined the law firm Blank Rome LLP, serving as its first chief officer of Diversity and Inclusion.

Morelli says the timing of his gift was intentional.

“At a time when national discussion—often divisive—is taking place on issues of race, gender and justice, it’s important for the legal profession to take the lead in framing issues and developing solutions,” he said. “The Jones Center is at the center of thought leadership in this area and I hope this gift can bring together scholars and practitioners in the field to inspire the next generation of lawyers to shape public policy and help build bridges of understanding in the broader community.”

“Bill’s gift not only celebrates our university and the life work of Judge Nathaniel Jones, it supports our commitment to racial justice,” UC President Neville G. Pinto said. “It helps us create more welcoming spaces for listening, dialogue and support as we move forward and work to solve systemic issues of justice.”

At a time when national discussion—often divisive—is taking place on issues of race, gender and justice, it’s important for the legal profession to take the lead in framing issues and developing solutions. The Jones Center is at the center of thought leadership in this area and I hope this gift can bring together scholars and practitioners in the field to inspire the next generation of lawyers to shape public policy and help build bridges of understanding in the broader community.

Bill Morelli A&S '74, JD '78

The new fund will be used to establish a practitioner-in-residence program, allowing the College of Law to host a social justice advocate or innovator to teach courses on race, gender and social justice. It will also allow the college to host conferences at which scholars in law and other fields such as philosophy, sociology, political science, or public health, will come together to address, and explore solutions for, issues of race, gender and social justice. The practitioner-in-residence program and conference will occur on alternate years. The first practitioner-in-residence is tentatively scheduled for 2021.

“The practitioner/conference focus allows the Center to take its work to the next level by expanding opportunities for students to work directly with nationally known advocates on cutting edge strategies to make change.  The conferences will provide much needed perspectives from disciplines other than law to help craft solutions to the many ills confronting us,” Dean Verna Williams said. “Bill’s generosity and wish to bring people together for discussion and seeking solutions is timely and needed.”

Morelli’s gift is also rooted in personal experience, including his involvement in tutoring elementary and junior high students at UC in the early 70s as part of the Student Community Involvement Program. Also, he and his wife Cindy have realized that having a transgender son and watching his journey have highlighted the need to have idea exchanges around issues involving segments of our community that some still marginalize.

“It is important to have centers of learning and develop legal responses to these issues,” he said. “I’m hoping we can bring people together and be a platform for sharing information in both an academic and non-academic way with a broader community audience.”

three women, one man

Emily Houh, Stephanie Jones, the late Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, Kristin Kalsem and Evelyn Higginbotham. Hough and Kalsem are co-directors of the Jones Center.

Morelli adds that his decision to give to the Jones Center also coalesced with UC’s recent Bicentennial year, the naming of the Center after Judge Jones and his respect and admiration for Dean Verna Williams, a founder of the Center.

This donation supports the priorities of Next, Now: The Campaign for Cincinnati, the comprehensive fundraising effort for UC and UC Health.

Featured image at top: UC Law students at the event celebrating the renaming of the Jones Center. Photo/Joe Fuqua/UC Creative + Brand

NEXT, NOW

With its focus on innovation and impact, Next, Now: The Campaign for Cincinnati is where ambition meets action. At the University of Cincinnati and UC Health, we’re driven by next; thinking bolder and dreaming bigger to create the tomorrow we envision, today. Learn more at nextnow.uc.edu