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Jacob Raver

First-year law student, Jacob Raver, JD '16, U.S. Marine Corps, attends his Criminal Law class at Stanford Law School. PHOTO: Steve Castillo

Veterans Bring "Can Do" Attitude to New Fellowship

Three military veteran alumni, John Dugan, JD '99, Steven Benz, JD '90, and Craig Largent, MS '89, JD '04, join forces to endow the Law School Veterans Fund. 

Spring 2014

When student members of the Stanford Law Veterans Organization (SLVO) first sought to lay the groundwork for an endowed fund that would support veterans at Stanford Law School, three alumni generously stepped in with seed gifts. The Law School Veterans Fund, established in the summer of 2013, underscores the value that military service gives to veterans in their civilian lives through their continued commitment to help others.

The fund establishes a summer public interest fellowship for a student veteran enrolled at Stanford Law School (SLS) to focus on veteran-related legal projects. As the fund grows after its first five years, any additional resources from the endowment may provide financial aid for SLS students who are veterans, military spouses, or children of active duty or retired service members.

"When veterans go to law school, most have just finished up active duty," says John Dugan, JD '99, one of the fund's three founding benefactors, who graduated from West Point and served as a captain in the Army before attending SLS. "These law students have an immediate understanding of the challenges faced by veterans and are well positioned to do something about it. I believe they will surprise us with the issues they tackle and the difference they make."

The Veterans Fund will provide resources for SLS students to aid fellow veterans across a broad range of legal issues and career needs, including securing future employment, managing disability challenges, and navigating the subtleties of the veterans' benefits system.

"There's a big need out there," Dugan says. "A lot of it revolves around ensuring our combat veterans receive the benefits they need to overcome an injury, for example, and otherwise transition to their productive roles in society."

"I expect it to evolve," says Steven Benz, JD '90 (Parent '15, '17), another founding donor. "We're just getting started and look forward to involving the growing veteran community in our exciting initiative." Benz served as a deputy staff judge advocate with the 113th Fighter Wing at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland for 10 years, rising to the rank of major.

The program's potential impact is bolstered by an increase in the number of military veterans coming to study at SLS. The new SLS Class of 2016 has 11 members with prior military service—twice as many as the Class of 2015. The SLVO provides peer-to-peer support and mentoring for these veteran students at SLS, and works with other student groups across the university to collaborate on important military and legal issues related to veterans in the United States.

"It's very encouraging to me that the number of veterans at the school has increased," says Craig Largent, MS '89, JD '04, a founding donor for the fund. Largent began his Air Force career as a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship cadet at Northwestern University and later taught engineering physics at the Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton, Ohio. He says he isn't surprised that student veterans initiated the fund. "Students who've had three tours in Iraq and had 300 people working for them . . . they know how to organize!"

"Veterans add a critical element to Stanford Law School's diversity, generally across the student body and also in enhancing the scope of the school's academic discourse," says Benz. "The legal issues facing our military—from Guantanamo Bay to the Status of Forces Agreement to the use of drones—these are all issues where the law is still fluid and developing. We could get a lot of helpful and insightful input from our veterans, many of whom have already had hands-on experience with these circumstances."

"Military service provides a special perspective," Largent says, "and a unique connection to assuring the country's well-being. If we can involve veterans in developing policy, that is something we should encourage."