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Family's gift of $15 million honors Robert and Carolyn Dineen's remarkable legacy, kicks off campaign for new College of Law building

July 21, 2010

Kelly Homan Rodoski
(315) 443-3784

Even though they each graduated in the top 10 percent of their respective graduating classes in Syracuse University’s College of Law, Robert Emmet Dineen L’24 and Carolyn Bareham Dineen L’32, both faced major challenges in their paths to establishing law careers.

Undeterred, they relied on their education, sheer tenacity and each other in building exceptional careers as lawyers and as respected members of the communities in which they lived and worked. Robert was appointed superintendent of insurance for New York state in 1943, and in 1965 became the president and chief executive officer of Northwestern Mutual Life. Carolyn, who earned a law degree at a time when, comparatively, few women were accepted into law school, practiced for many years with a Syracuse law firm.

To honor their parents’ impressive legacy, their three children, the Honorable Carolyn Dineen King H’06, Kathryn Dineen Wriston and Robert E. Dineen Jr. L’66, all prominent attorneys in their own right, have pledged a naming gift of $15 million for the construction of a new building for the Syracuse University College of Law. The Dineen family gift is the lead gift in a fundraising campaign the University is launching for the new building. It is the largest gift in the history of the College of Law, one of the largest gifts in University history, and an important milestone in the University’s current $1 billion capital campaign—of which a new Law School building has been a priority.

“The Dineens are quintessential members of the SU family,” says SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. “Robert and Carolyn Dineen exemplified the spirit of Syracuse University, triumphing over challenges as they forged extraordinarily successful careers. Carolyn, Kathy and Bob have built on that proud legacy and we are profoundly grateful for the leadership they have shown within the SU community. To be a great university you need a great law school, and the new building made possible through this landmark gift will be a fitting testament to the Dineen family legacy.”

The new building is expected to cost between $85 million to $90 million and total approximately 200,000 square feet. SU Architecture alumnus Richard Gluckman ’70, G’71, of the Gluckman Mayner architectural firm in New York City, will be the lead architect on the project. The building will be constructed on a site immediately west of the college’s current buildings, E.I. White Hall and Winifred MacNaughton Hall, located on the SU campus’s western edge. This is especially meaningful to the Dineen family because the building, fittingly, will sit not far from the Irish immigrant neighborhood, which was known as “the swamp,” where Robert senior was born and raised.

Robert junior, speaking for his family, said, “I think my parents would be overwhelmed,” when asked of what Robert senior and Carolyn Dineen would think of a building honoring their legacy and bearing their name. Robert junior is a member of Syracuse University’s Board of Trustees and a member of the College of Law’s Board of Advisors.

“I am truly humbled by the incredible generosity of the Dineen family,” says Hannah R. Arterian, dean and professor in the College of Law. “Their gift will have a transformational effect on the learning environment of our students. This new building will be an iconic symbol for the College of Law, giving it a strong sense of place that law students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests will consider an inspirational home. This gift makes a profound statement about the Dineen family’s legacy and their commitment to legal education at Syracuse University College of Law.”

The Dineen Family

Robert and Carolyn Dineen worked hard and sacrificed much to establish themselves in the law community.

Robert, a Syracuse native and the son of an Irish immigrant, had to choose between pursuing an undergraduate degree or going to law school (students at that time could go directly to law school without an undergraduate degree). He did not receive a law degree, but rather a “certificate of law.” After graduating in 1924, but deemed too young to practice law, he went to work as a claims adjuster for insurance companies in Upstate New York and Canada.

He applied for a job with local law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King in 1926. There was initial hesitation on the part of the partners to accept someone so young, but they hired him based on a personal reference. He later became a partner in the firm. Robert served as superintendent of insurance for the State of New York from 1943-50, and then joined Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. Fifteen years later, he became the company’s president and CEO.

Carolyn Bareham Dineen, a Rochester, N.Y. native, faced challenges just by virtue of being a woman. She earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from William Smith College and Columbia University, respectively, and enrolled in the College of Law as one of only two women in the class. She worked as a newspaper columnist to put herself through school as her father, who did not believe women should be lawyers, refused to help her financially with her education.

A pioneer among women, Carolyn went on to establish a successful law career at the local law firm of Costello, Cooney & Fearon and met Robert when they were representing co-defendants in a lawsuit.

Robert junior says one of the proudest moments his father—and his family—experienced was at SU in June 1966, when his father was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University, bestowed by then Chancellor William Pearson Tolley. At a celebratory lunch that followed, the elder Dineen made an observation on just how much his hard work paid off. It was first time he ever used the front door of Sims Hall on campus (he had previously always used the back door when making deliveries for the Syracuse Ice Cream Company.) The elder Dineen also said there could be no more jokes about how he was the only one in the house without a degree.

Robert junior says that Syracuse pride runs deep in every member of his family. “If my father and mother had not gone to the Syracuse University College of Law, Carolyn, Kathy and I would not be here today,” he said, speaking to College of Law students at the college’s annual Law Review Banquet in April. “Because of the opportunities and education that the College of Law provided to my parents, every member of the Dineen family owes their success to Syracuse.”

The Dineen family gift to the College of Law supports one of the five priorities of The Campaign for Syracuse University—building futures. This campaign priority provides funding for infrastructure improvements—critical in today’s ever-changing world—that will enhance SU’s teaching and research facilities and provide state-of-the-art technology, whether on campus, at its regional centers in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., or in its study centers abroad. With a goal of $1 billion, The Campaign for Syracuse University is the most ambitious fundraising effort in SU’s history. More information about the campaign is available online at

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