Law School News

South Texas College of Law Houston Gala Raises $325,000 for Student Scholarships

South Texas College of Law Houston (STCL Houston) – which opened its doors in 1923 with seven part-time instructors and 34 students – recently celebrated its 95th anniversary as the first and only law school in downtown Houston at its Illuminations Gala.

More than 300 guests attended, including 152 alumni, 21 faculty and staff members, 16 judges, and two city officials. Hosted at the Ballroom at Bayou Place, the event offered an opportunity for attendees to reconnect with classmates, honor the many individuals who were foundational to the school’s success, celebrate STCL Houston, and raise money for vital scholarships for students. The evening included both a “live” and a “paddles up” auction and raised $325,000 toward student scholarships.

Gala co-chairs STCL Houston Professor Elaine Carlson ’79 and her daughter, alumna Courtney Carlson ‘08, served as emcees for the event.

STCL Houston President and Dean Don Guter presented alumnus and former board member Richard Anderson ’82 with the 2018 Dean’s Medal – the highest honor awarded by a South Texas dean in recognition of an honoree’s outstanding contributions to his or her community, the legal profession, and the law school. Anderson was the 2010 recipient of the law school’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in honor of his lifetime service to STCL Houston. For 25 years, Anderson was a leader in the aviation industry, most recently as the CEO of Delta Airlines. Currently, he is president and CEO of Amtrak, and serves as a director on the boards of Medtronic Inc. and Cargill.

In his remarks, Guter recounted key historical moments in the law school’s history, including the fact that early classes were held in the basement of the downtown YMCA – with wooden ceiling fans to battle the Texas heat – as the city’s first air-conditioned building came later in 1923. He shared that tuition at the school’s outset was $85 a year, and that while the administration could not maintain this low cost over the years, affordability and accessibility have remained hallmarks of a South Texas College of Law Houston education – contributing to the National Jurist’s 2013 designation of STCL Houston as a “Best Value Private Law School.”

Guter shared with attendees that South Texas was the first law school in the state to offer the Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) degree. He also noted that the first African-American student graduated from the law school in 1968, and today, minorities comprise approximately 44 percent of the student body – leading the National Jurist in 2016 to name STCL Houston as one of the most diverse law schools in the country.

He highlighted the success of key South Texas programs and the individuals who were instrumental in establishing and maintaining their excellence through the decades. For example, he applauded Associate Dean T. Gerald Treece for shepherding the school’s Advocacy program from its first national championship in 1980 to this year’s unprecedented 130th national title. He lauded the strength of STCL Houston’s Legal Research and Writing program and the faculty members who have taught and coached students to 21 total Scribes’ awards in the nation’s most respected legal writing competition – unmatched by any other law school. Similarly, he congratulated Debra Berman, director of the school’s Frank Evans Center for Conflict Resolution, and Dean Emeritus Jim Alfini for the 16 first-place wins in national and international alternative dispute resolution (ADR) competitions in the last five years – with four in the last year alone.

“Perhaps the school’s most impressive achievements, however, occur on a one-on-one basis,” Guter said. “I’m speaking, of course, of the tremendous impact of our 19 Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics. Our students – under the direction of faculty and staff attorneys – daily improve the lives of families in need while gaining real-world lawyering skills along the way.”

He noted that, over the past year, approximately 270 South Texas students contributed more than 35,600 hours of direct client service in the Clinics – equating to nearly $1.8 million of pro bono legal representation. And – for clients in the Civil Practice Clinics alone – the school obtained more than $1.23 million in benefits in the last academic year.

Following Guter’s remarks, J. Ken Johnson, director of STCL Houston’s board of directors, shared highlights of the school’s 2021 Strategic Plan with attendees.

To conclude the program, Guter noted, “Because of our invaluable donors, our top-notch faculty, our hardworking staff, and our supportive alumni, we continue to offer one of the nation’s most diverse student bodies the opportunity to obtain an exceptional legal education. This is a promise we’ve made to students since 1923, and one that will continue to draw students to our doors long after our Centennial celebration.”

To view photos from the Illuminations Gala, go to