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Villanova University School of Law Receives $2 Million Gift from Joseph and Eleanor McCullen for the Center for Law and Religion

New Center builds upon the Law School’s Augustinian Catholic mission and will create opportunities for new curriculum focused on advocacy, law and religion.

Villanova University School of Law (VLS) announced today that Joseph T. McCullen Jr. ’57 CLAS, Chairman of McCullen Capital LLC., and his wife, Eleanor, have given $2 million to establish the Center for Law and Religion. This new Center will offer innovative curriculum to Villanova law students and will serve as a hub for conferences and seminars on emerging advocacy issues in law and religion. Mr. McCullen first supported the Law School by establishing The Joseph T. McCullen Symposium on Catholic Social Thought in 2007. 

The gift is part of the University’s $600 million Comprehensive Capital Campaign, “For the Greater Great: The Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change.” Villanova launched the public phase of its Campaign in Oct. 2013, which to date has raised $460 million towards its $600 million goal. The most ambitious in the University’s 173-year history, Villanova’s Campaign is aimed at cultivating academic innovation across its schools and colleges, investing in recruiting and retaining the finest teacher-scholars, dramatically enhancing financial aid and student opportunities, and continuing to build a premier living-learning environment on the University’s 260-acre campus.

"This gift in support of The Center for Law and Religion is an important investment in Villanova Law's innovative approach to legal education," said John Y. Gotanda, the Arthur J. Kania Dean and Professor of Law at Villanova University School of Law. “It will allow us to develop programs and convene conferences and symposia around important advocacy issues. We are honored that Joseph and Eleanor McCullen are supporting our Center. I, along with the entire Villanova Law community, am grateful for the commitment and dedication of the McCullens.”

“Eleanor and I are more than pleased to support the establishment of The Center for Law and Religion at the Villanova Law School,” said Mr. McCullen. “Some of the basic principles and religious values that our Country’s forefathers incorporated into our Constitution are currently being challenged. Villanova University, with its Augustinian Catholic heritage, is a perfect place to address fundamental issues in the amalgam of religion and law.”

New academic programming will be introduced under the auspices of the Center for Law and Religion, including innovative coursework, a visiting scholars program, and conferences and seminars on emerging issues in these fields. The Center, which will serve as a resource for the entire University community, will sponsor interdisciplinary research and collaboration. Additional initiatives being explored for inclusion as part of the Center include clinical opportunities and a concentration program in law and religion.

“The McCullens have been loyal supporters and advocates for Villanova University and Villanova Law for many years,” said Michael J. O’Neill, Villanova’s Senior Vice President for University Advancement. “This campaign gift underscores their commitment to advancing the Law School’s strategic vision.”

The Center for Law and Religion will build upon and complement VLS’ three existing centers:  the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law; the David F. and Constance B. Girard-diCarlo Center for Ethics, Integrity and Compliance; and the John F. Scarpa Center for Law and Entrepreneurship. 

About Joseph and Eleanor McCullen

Mr. McCullen is the Chairman of McCullen Capital, LLC (MCAP), a Boston-based family office formed in 2000 to manage and invest the assets of the McCullen family.  MCAP also provides administrative support to the McCullen family’s 501(c)(3) charitable foundation known as the Flame of Love Foundation, which was established to provide assistance to distressed and poor individuals.

Mr. McCullen’s business career includes 25 highly successful years as a venture capitalist, with a focus on early stage technology companies. He served as a Managing Director of J.H. Whitney & Co. and OneLiberty Ventures (now called Flagship Ventures). Mr. McCullen was a founding investor in a variety of successful companies and business ventures.

Mr. McCullen devoted 12 years to government service, four of them in the military as a young man, and later as a Special Assistant to the President of the United States (1971-1973). He went on to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Acting Secretary of the Navy (1973-1977).  Mr. McCullen also was an Associate Director of Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Transition Team, and over the years served part-time and pro bono on several governmental Boards and Commissions.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Villanova University in 1957 and received an honorary doctorate degree from his alma mater in 1976.  Mr. McCullen is the recipient of two Distinguished Public Service Medals.

The McCullens, particularly Eleanor, have a long history of supporting legal issues related to religious freedom. Mrs. McCullen, a lifelong Catholic and pro-life activist, served as the lead plaintiff in the US Supreme Court case McCullen v. Coakley. In that case, which was adjudicated in June 2014, the Supreme Court made a unanimous decision that struck down on First Amendment grounds a Massachusetts abortion clinic buffer zone statute. 

Mrs. McCullen serves in the National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order; she was previously the Vice Minister of the Franciscan Monastery in Kennebunkport, Maine. She has devoted her life to counseling pregnant women seeking abortions; she has provided financial assistance, food, material items and has helped secure employment for mothers and fathers. In addition, Mrs. McCullen counsels prisoners in Norfolk, Mass.

Frequently featured on the national public speaker circuit, Mrs. McCullen has been profiled in publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and National Review. She has studied at St. Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania and received an honorary degree of Humane Letters from Holy Apostles College in Connecticut.