New donation will create an environmental law clinic and environmental justice institute

Dick and Joan Jacobs
Dick and Joan Jacobs

GULFPORT, Fla. (Nov. 25, 2020) — Stetson University College of Law is excited to announce a new alumnus gift to establish the Dick and Joan Jacobs Public Interest Environmental Law Clinic.

The goal of the Clinic will be to support greater stakeholder participation in environmental policy and decision making in the courts, agencies, and legislatures. An initial focus of the Clinic will be to:

  • represent scientific societies, individual scientists, and public interest plaintiffs in amicus curiae briefs;
  • advise stakeholders on developing public comments on rulemakings; and
  • promote the rights of citizens to engage in public debate.

Dick and Joan Jacobs have provided a $200,000 gift to use in a matching challenge geared toward funding the establishment of the Dick and Joan Jacobs Public Interest Environmental Law Clinic. They hope friends and colleagues, as well as like-minded individuals interested in shaping environmental policies, will help expand the project.

The ultimate objective is to create an Institute of Environmental Justice with an expansive array of public interest services to the legal and lay communities, as well as governmental organizations, while offering law students opportunities to provide hands-on services as part of their legal training.

“The kids have got to become the difference makers,” Dick said. “We just can’t keep repeating the past. That’s why you go to law school – to be a difference maker. An Institute for Environmental Justice will give students the chance to have an impact on environmental policies while they are still lawyers in training and, we hope, inspire them to continue that work after graduation.” 

The Jacobs, through a $100,000 initial gift, had already created The Dick and Joan Jacobs Biodiversity Institute Endowment Fund that provides financial support for the Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy to assist it in performing and expanding its mission, including supporting the position of a Biodiversity Fellow. They have also generously provided a 15 percent distribution from their estate plan for future funding.

Kate Welch in India.
Student Kate Welch in India.

In addition, in 2016, the couple established The Dick and Joan Jacobs Environmental Externship Fund to ensure students would have the financial means to engage in experiential, “dirty hands, wet feet” learning opportunities related to climate change, environmental justice and more. Thanks to this fund students have had unique opportunities, including travel to India for an externship with the Wildlife Trust of India and to Honduras to attend a scientific meeting for the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles.

“We are so thankful to Dick and Joan Jacobs not only for their generosity and dedication to Stetson Law, but also for their expansive vision that merges their desire for environmental justice with the law school’s goal of providing experiential learning and training practice-ready advocates,” said Dean Michèle Alexandre. “It’s a natural partnership and one that I believe will produce work that could shape environmental law and policy not only in the state of Florida, but also nationally and internationally.”

About Dick and Joan Jacobs

Dick and Joan Jacobs graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1954. They married in 1953 and moved to Florida in 1957 after Dick’s military service.  He had a successful life insurance career before deciding to enroll at Stetson Law. He graduated in 1967 magna cum laude and first in his class.  

Dick Jacobs during a trip to Namibia.
Dick Jacobs during a trip to Namibia.

Dick commenced his legal practice in 1967, and the law firm he led grew to be the largest on Florida’s West Coast. In 1983, he took a leave of absence from his firm to assist a troubled bank, for which he served as president during its final three years. Dick joined Johnson Pope in 2015, reuniting with several of the attorneys from Dick’s original firm who are now Johnson Pope attorneys. He has authored and co-authored several books and legal publications, including: Crash Landing–Surviving a Business Crisis, which outlines lessons learned from the bank crash; Wonderlust, a book of his photography and lessons learned trekking seven continents; and most recently, Democracy of Dollars, a book about our troubled system of constitutional government.

Throughout his career, Dick has been active with the Florida Bar and within his community, currently serving as Trustee of St. Petersburg College’s Institute for Strategic Policy Decisions. He speaks frequently on climate change and sea level rise.  In December 2020 he will be inducted into Stetson University College of Law Hall of Fame.

How you can help

If you would like to contribute to the Dick and Joan Jacobs Public Interest Environmental Law Clinic, you may do so on our Giving page.