Boston College Law School’s Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) is one of 140 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each through Cummings Foundation’s $25 Million Grant Program. PILF was chosen from a total of 580 applicants during a competitive review process. It will receive $50,000 this summer with the option to renew for another $50,000 next year.
PILF promotes public interest at Boston College Law School and raises money to fund summer stipends for students whose work in the public sector would otherwise be unpaid. This year and next, PILF will use the grant to support these stipends.
“The Cummings Foundation grant has made an immediate and significant impact on the ability of BC Law students volunteering with local organizations to provide over 3,000 hours of critical legal services assistance to underrepresented clients and communities in Greater Boston this summer,” said Michelle Grossfield, Director of Public Interest and Pro Bono Programs at BC Law.
“It is incredible that with the grant, we are able to fund one hundred percent of eligible stipend applicants for the first time in PILF’s nearly 40-year history,” PILF President Molly Jane Thoms ’22 said. “Everyone deserves to be compensated for their work, especially when that work addresses vital issues such as safety, housing, racial justice, education, and environmental protection.”
The grant was collaboratively written by Thoms, Julia Palmerino ’23, Shannon Bligh, Assistant Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, and Grossfield, with assistance from Joe Vitale, Associate Dean of Finance & Administration and Professor Ingrid Michelson Hillinger, a longtime champion of public interest students and advisor to PILF.
The Cummings $25 Million Grant Program supports Massachusetts nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties.
Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the areas where it owns commercial property. Its buildings are all managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate, Cummings Properties. This Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 11 million square feet of debt-free space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation.
“We are so fortunate in greater Boston to have such effective nonprofits, plus a wealth of talented, dedicated professionals and volunteers to run them,” said Cummings Foundation executive director Joyce Vyriotes. “We are indebted to them for the work they do each day to provide for basic needs, break down barriers to education and health resources, and work toward a more equitable society.”
With the help of about 90 volunteers, the Foundation first identified 140 organizations to receive grants of at least $100,000 each. Among the winners were first-time recipients as well as nonprofits that had previously received Cummings Foundation grants. Forty of this latter group of repeat recipients were then selected to have their grants elevated to 10-year awards ranging from $200,000 to $500,000 each.
“Our volunteers bring diverse backgrounds and perspectives, which is so critical to our grant selection process,” said Vyriotes. “Through this democratized approach to philanthropy, they decide more than half the grants every year.”
This year’s grant recipients represent a wide variety of causes, including food insecurity, immigrant and refugee services, social justice, education, and mental health services. The nonprofits are spread across 45 different cities and towns.
The complete list of 140 grant winners, plus more than 900 previous recipients, is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.
Cummings Foundation has now awarded more than $375 million to greater Boston nonprofits.
Since it began in 1984, PILF has awarded stipends to over a thousand total students. Stipends are essential for the financial stability of individual students. The stipend program also advances PILF’s greater mission of ensuring that public interest careers are accessible to as diverse a range of students as the communities public interest lawyers serve. This year, PILF has worked in collaboration with the law school to meet the ever-increasing need for stipends due to a larger 1L class and heightened interest among students in public sector careers. This partnership underscores BC Law’s commitment to fostering the next generation of public service lawyers.
Recognizing the tremendous work of PILF board members to fundraise for their peers and the importance of compensating law students, Professor Ingrid Michelson Hillinger began fundraising for PILF in 2013. Her fundraising efforts through the Ingrid Michelsen Hillinger Legacy Fund have transformed PILF’s capacity to fund stipends. In addition to regular stipends, the Hillinger Fund specifically provides for 10 Hillinger Fellows (2Ls indicating a clear commitment to careers in public service) and the 10 Racial Justice Stipend Recipients (students whose work is tied to dismantling systemic racism).
The organization is based in the Mary Daly Curtin and John J. Curtin, Jr. Public Interest Center, which is a suite on the third floor of East Wing. PILF students use the Curtin Center for meetings, casual conversation in the lounge, events in the conference room, and the offices as quiet places to study. The board consists of over 40 1L, 2L, and 3L students in executive, directorship, and chair positions, as well as countless general members within the student body.
Throughout the academic year, PILF organizes community service opportunities, events with faculty, social justice trainings, and a mentorship program. For over 30 years, PILF has also hosted a yearly Auction & Celebration of Public Service. Many members of the BC Law community may remember the event warmly – especially for the “professor items” like bowling with Professors Bratt and Cohen. Since 2020, PILF has more explicitly centered racial justice as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion in its programming and day-to-day function. The DEI Team hosts bi-weekly DEI roundtables open to the entire community, oversees the Racial Justice Stipends Program, and partners with other student organizations and the administration to advance DEI initiatives on campus.
About Cummings Foundation
Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings and has grown to be one of the largest private foundations in New England. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons retirement communities, iin Marlborough and Woburn, and Cummings Health Sciences, LLC. Additional information is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.