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Public Interest Law Foundation Lands $225,000 Grant

PILF receives 3 years of funding from Cummings Foundation.


Boston College Law School’s Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) is one of 150 local nonprofits that will share in $30 million through Cummings Foundation’s major annual grants program. PILF was selected from a total of 715 applicants during a competitive review process. It will receive $225,000 over three years.

The grant will help students provide pro bono legal assistance in Boston-area communities where the needs are greatest. PILF students lend their time and knowledge to a variety of organizations, including non-profits, government offices, and legal entities. In addition to working on many types of legal issues including housing, immigration and asylum, domestic abuse, education, consumer protection, and child welfare, students gain valuable experience in public interest law and develop a hands-on understanding of legal challenges faced by individuals in local communities.

The Cummings $30 Million Grant Program primarily supports Massachusetts nonprofits that are based in and serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties, plus six communities in Norfolk County: Brookline, Dedham, Milton, Needham, Quincy, and Wellesley.

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.

“Greater Boston is fortunate to have a robust, dedicated, and highly capable nonprofit sector that supports and enhances the community in myriad ways,” said Cummings Foundation executive director and trustee Joyce Vyriotes. “The entire Cummings organization is thankful for their daily work to help all our neighbors thrive.”

The majority of the grant decisions were made by nearly 100 community volunteers. They worked across a variety of committees to review and discuss the proposals and then, together, determine which requests would be funded. Among these community volunteers were business and nonprofit leaders, mayors, college presidents, and experts in areas such as finance and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion).

“We believe strongly that grant decisions will be more equitable when made by a diverse group of community members,” said Vyriotes. “We’re incredibly grateful to the dozens of individuals who participated in our democratized philanthropic process.”

The Foundation and volunteers first identified 150 organizations to receive three-year grants of up to $300,000 each. The winners included first-time recipients as well as nonprofits that had previously received Cummings grants. Twenty-five of this latter group of repeat recipients were then selected by a panel of community volunteers to have their grants elevated to 10-year awards ranging from $300,000 to $1 million each.

This year’s grant recipients represent a wide variety of causes, including housing and food insecurity, workforce development, immigrant services, social justice, education, and mental health services. The nonprofits are spread across 49 different cities and towns.

Cummings Foundation has now awarded $500 million to greater Boston nonprofits. The complete list of this year’s 150 grant winners, plus nearly 2,000 previous recipients, is available at

About PILF

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

Featured photo caption:

Front row (L to R):

Maria Tringale, Director of Development, BC Law; Odette Lienau, the Marianne D. Short, Esq., Dean; Emily Masse, SSW’23, JD ’24, Co-President, PILF; Michelle Grossfield, Public Interest and Pro Bono Program Director, BC Law; J. Swanger, JD ’24, M.Ed. ’24, Co-President, PILF.

Back row (L to R):

Emily Gresh, Senior Associate Director, Corporate & Foundation Relations, Boston College; Robert “Bob” D. Keefe, Esq, JD ’72, Cummings Foundation Trustee & Site Committee Chair.