It’s not every day that someone gives a gift of $10,000 in your name. University of Houston Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes received that remarkable honor when Regina Rogers*, a Houston philanthropist, community activist and graduate of the UH Law Center in 1970 donated $10,000 to create the Dean Leonard M. Baynes Scholarship for Diversity in Law.
“When Regina decided to give $10,000 in my name, oh my goodness, I was so surprised,” said Baynes.
Dean Baynes notes that the legal profession is not particularly diverse. “There are not enough people from different backgrounds in law. One of my goals as dean is to increase diversity. To be so generous in an area that means so much to me is very heartwarming.”
Diversity is a very broad concept, Baynes observed. “Besides gender, racial and ethnic groups, diversity also includes the LGBTQ+ community and first-time college students,” he said. “For so many people who are talented, smart and have good credentials, scholarships make the difference in which law schools they decide to attend. It’s very important that we provide as many scholarships as we can, since law schools that offer more scholarships are the ones students gravitate to. Often in diverse communities, scholarships matter a lot. We don’t want economics to stand in the way of having students succeeding and partaking in this great profession.”
Diversity is more than just a buzz word at UH. UH Law Center is the only law school to be named a diversity champion by Inside Diversity Magazine. The school has won the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for seven years in a row.
“The legal profession has historically excluded people of diverse backgrounds,” said Baynes. “That’s ironic, because the legal system was the profession that opened many doors of opportunity through litigation and advocacy.”
Baynes backs up his words with commitment. In recognition of the Rogers gift of $10,000, he matched that gift with $10,000 of his own.
“UH is a Tier One institution; it’s very diverse and really has changed the landscape for so many students of all backgrounds in all disciplines—not just law, but also engineering and business,” said Baynes. “UH is the city’s university. It makes a huge difference in the trajectory of so many peoples’ lives. I hear it over and over that so many people come to this institution, and it enhances their opportunities in working in incredible professions.”
Baynes believes that gifts such as this scholarship are the key to Houston’s continued success.
He adds, “In our city, what holds us back is economic inequality. We need to make sure everyone can maximize their God-given talents, and education does that. That’s the power of education.”
*Regina Rogers is a community activist who holds a J.D. degree from the University of Houston Law Center (1970) Regina is the founder of four nonprofits, serves on eight nonprofit boards, and has touched numerous lives through her volunteer and philanthropic contributions. Honored in 2019 as a recipient of a “Points of Light Award” created by President George H.W. Bush.