By Tatyana Hopkins
Kenneth E. Jaconetty, J.D. ’88, has made a planned gift of $2 million to establish the Kenneth E. Jaconetty Scholarship Fund, an endowed scholarship program that will provide need-based funding for second- and third-year GW Law students who are active members of the Black Law Students Association or enrolled members of a Native American tribe with an interest in intellectual property law.
“We are deeply grateful to Mr. Jaconetty for his generous estate gift, but even more grateful for the commitment he has shown to ensuring that GW Law continues to realize the educational benefits of a broadly diverse student body,” said GW Law Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew. “His gift will ensure that generations of talented students, regardless of financial resources, will have equal access to a top-quality GW Law education.”
Hoping to make meaningful use of his estate, Mr. Jaconetty said he was inspired by his own law school experience as well as the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of the past summer, sparked by the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., to start the scholarship program.
“I had a light bulb moment that this was a way I could make maybe a small difference in addressing some of the long-standing issues in this country,” he said.
Mr. Jaconetty, who earned his Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before completing his law degree at GW Law, was encouraged to go to law school after working as a patent examiner for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
“They were very encouraging of either making a career there or people going to law school and learning the practice of intellectual property, which is what I chose to do,” Mr. Jaconetty said. “So, after a couple of years of being a patent examiner, I started law school and then made the full jump, left the Patent Office and went to work for a law firm.”
Attending GW Law’s evening program, Mr. Jaconetty’s school costs were covered by the law firm that he clerked for during the day. He said he appreciates in retrospect how fortunate he was to graduate debt-free from both his undergraduate and law schools and understands that not only do many minority students not have access to generous benefactors like he had, they also have been historically discriminated against in the legal profession.
Law is one of the nation’s least diverse professions, where 85 percent of all lawyers are white and 65 percent are men. However, the long-existing inequities are more pronounced in intellectual property practice: just 1.8 percent of lawyers in the field are Black, 2.5 percent are Hispanic or Latino and less than 0.5 percent are Native American.
Mr. Jaconetty also has established a similar scholarship at his undergraduate university for minority students studying chemical and bioengineering.
“The background you need to go into this profession can be more limiting in terms of race and ethnicity because typically to be a patent attorney, you have to have a technical degree such as some sort of engineering or science-based degree,” Mr. Jaconetty said. “That’s the reason I see these two endowments working hand-in-hand.”
Sophia Sim, GW Law’s associate dean of admissions and financial aid, said as an endowed scholarship, the gift will be invested to permanently support a legacy of helping students gain access to GW Law’s top-rated intellectual property law program.
“Focused on improving diversity in the intellectual property field, the Jaconetty Scholarship will attract the best and the brightest—a perfect match for our phenomenal intellectual property program,” she said.
As The George Washington University approaches its third century, we reaffirm our commitment to providing students accessible and affordable world-class academic opportunities to empower them to succeed. Contact Bruce Martin to learn more about building a legacy for future GW Law students.