Sept. 8, 2014 – The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law will have a new endowed chair and support for its loan forgiveness program and annual Fordham Debate program thanks to a $2.2 million gift from the estate of the late Rita E. Fordham.
Rita E. Fordham was the widow of Jefferson B. Fordham, former University of Pennsylvania Law School dean and Distinguished University Professor of Law at the U. The gifts were announced at a Celebration of Life memorial last month.
In her will, Rita E. Fordham gave the College of Law more than $2 million to establish and fund the Jefferson B. and Rita E. Fordham Presidential Dean’s Chair. Another $100,000 will increase the endowment of the Fordham Loan Forgiveness Program, which is used to help law school graduates employed in the public and public interest sectors repay their student loans. A third gift of $130,000 will be used to endow the college’s annual Fordham Debate program, which addresses relevant contemporary public policy and legal issues.
“The support for a distinguished chair allows us to compete for the best faculty talent and to reward and retain our most talented scholars at the University of Utah,” said Ruth Watkins, senior vice president for Academic Affairs at the U. “These gifts promote excellence, and we are deeply grateful.”
Rita E. Fordham became the administrative assistant to Law Dean Daniel Dykstra in 1957. In the summer of 1963, she met Jefferson B. Fordham while he was a visiting professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. They were married in March 1964 and lived in Philadelphia until Jefferson B. Fordham completed his deanship at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In 1970, they returned to the U where he began his 19-year tenure as Distinguished University Professor of Law at the College of Law.
Rita E. Fordham was born in Astoria, New York, as the youngest of nine children. She attended City College of New York and lived in Idaho before moving to Utah. She died in December 2013 and was predeceased by her husband who died in 1994.