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Light the World

The Domino Effect of a Teacher’s Generosity

$1 million and counting—the remarkable story of the power of many.


The story of the Ingrid Hillinger Fund for Public Service is the story of the BC Law community. It started as an idea that grew out of Professor Hillinger’s love for her students and her deep involvement in their lives. It transformed, with the help of many, into a million dollar fund that today enables BC Law students to realize their public service aspirations. It is the story of determination and commitment. It captures the best of what our community can accomplish when we join forces.

Professor Ingrid Hillinger, center, with public service scholars Alena Chaps ’16, left, and Shannon Johnson ’15.
Professor Ingrid Hillinger, center, with public service scholars Alena Chaps ’16, left, and Shannon Johnson ’15.

To date, an impressive number—338 alumni and friends—have made outright gifts or pledges, ranging from $20 to $100,000. The vast majority of gifts are for under $1,000, which proves how broad participation can transform one person’s dedication into something much larger and more powerful. For one-third of the donors to this fund, the initiative inspired their very first gift to BC Law.

When the fund reached its million-dollar mark in September 2015, donors received a heartfelt message from Professor Hillinger. “A million thank-you’s,” she wrote. “No words can possibly express my gratitude to each and every one of you for helping me to realize my dream—a fund that will give students of Boston College Law School the opportunity to serve the public interest regardless of their financial resources.”

To date, the fund has supported six public service scholars. Among them was Alena Chaps ’16. The stipend allowed the San Francisco native to work in the juvenile division of that city’s Public Defender’s Office last summer where she shadowed public defenders, did legal research and writing, and worked on motions to reduce felonies to misdemeanors.

Chaps’ experience in California was valuable for another reason as well. “I would like to be a public defender and I wanted to build relationships in California,” she says. Indeed, it set her up for an externship this semester in the Contra Costa County Office of the Public Defender.

The Hillinger fund expands the number of BC Law students receiving summer stipends and complements money raised by PILF (the Public Interest Law Foundation), whose primary source of revenue is an annual auction.

With its compelling mission and immediate impact, the Hillinger fundraising project caught the attention of hundreds of alumni, bringing them closer to BC Law.

One of them was Amy Parker ’13. “During my final year as a student, I volunteered for the undesirable role of selecting PILF stipend recipients. Having to deny several deserving students funding solely based on lack of resources produced in me an exasperation that has lingered,” she says.

“Last year, when my family was looking for a worthy cause, I was determined to support PILF stipends and, fortunately, I learned of Ingrid’s fund from the Advancement Office. After hearing directly from Ingrid how passionate she is about her fund and the students that it will benefit, it was an easy decision to join her and the many others she has inspired to reach an ambitious fundraising goal together.”

Shannon Johnson ’15, who spent last summer at the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, thanks to the Hillinger Fund, is deeply grateful for the opportunity.

“So many awesome things happened,” she says. “It was really meaningful.” She was mentored by a prominent immigration attorney; did community work, particularly with children who had crossed the border; and built relationships with clients.