Auction for Public Service Sets New Record

November 3, 2005
PILA Auction
Students examine silent auction items. The silent auction raised more than $21,000.

The Public Interest Law Association (PILA) grossed $65,000 during its annual auction fund-raiser Oct. 28, with the help of generous donations by professors and an increased take from the silent auction, which alone raised $21,537. Auction co-director Emily Zackrison said the event is expected to net about $55,000 after expenses — $14,000 more than last year.

"I think the silent auction really pulled through. We had a ton more business donations," Zackrison said. "The Law School matches it after expenses, so it will be over $100,000 toward PILA grants. We're really happy about that."

PILA donates all benefit proceeds to support students who work in public service positions during the summers after their first and second years of law school. Last year PILA funded a record 54 fellowships.

Law professors Jim Ryan and George Cohen hosted the auction, held at the Doubletree Hotel. The "Masquerade" theme even helped add to PILA's coffers; the auction directors decided to sell masks as party favors, which many of the more than 700 attendees bought.

Top items in the silent auction included Barbri courses, which sold for about $500 each, graduation accommodations, and "Coughlin Loves Cops" — an evening of police movies with professor Anne Coughlin, which sold for $375.

Coughlin's graduation dinner package — in which a limited number of students can bring an unlimited number of friends and family members — also tied for the biggest seller in the live auction, at $2,600.

"She's a hero for PILA," Zackrison said, noting that many professors donate auction items that involve activities with students, such as golf outings or dinners at professors' houses.

"Professor donations brought in over $10,000 this year. They were essential to the Auction's success," Zackrison said. "Students really appreciate spending time with professors."

Students, professors, and friends of the Law School donated vacation time in homes in the Florida Keys (which tied for the best-selling item at $2,600), the Outer Banks, Nantucket, Hawaii, and Bangkok, Thailand.

"The biggest surprise was the D2 parking spot — one of them went for $1,550," Zackrison said.

Because former PILA grantees are required to donate time to raise money the year after they receive their grant, the PILA auction has naturally grown over the years. Several grantees are assigned a group of businesses to solicit for gift certificates.

"Every year we think of other places we might want to solicit," Zackrison said.

This year date packages proved popular. Several included dancing lessons donated by a dance studio, along with dinner at a local restaurant. Babysitting packages donated by students were available for parents seeking a night on the town.

Other PILA auction items included being a DJ on WTJU for an hour; a tour of the CIA spy museum with professor Frederick Hitz, former inspector general for the CIA; dinner before the NCAA Men's Basketball championship with Dean John Jeffries; a garden clean-up donated by the Virginia Environmental Law Forum; a day behind the scenes on Capitol Hill; wine testing with professor Dan Ortiz; a paella dinner by a renowned sous chef; a plane trip and tickets to see "Late Night with Conan O'Brien"; Redskins and Wizards tickets; and a whitewater rafting adventure package, including an overnight stay in a cabin courtesy of professor Deena Hurwitz. Professor Jon Cannon donated his 1991 Ford Tempo, which sold for $300, about half the bluebook value.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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