Kemper Gift Allows Advocacy to Advance

UMKC Advocacy Students

By Patricia O’Dell

Rafe Foreman is the Douglas R. Stripp Dean’s Distinguished Professorship of Law and Director of Advocacy at UMKC School of Law. His passion, however, is not for honors or titles. Foreman’s dedication to the field of advocacy is fed by a passion to give those without a voice the tools and platform that they need. This dedication led to a $1.4 million gift from the Kemper Family Foundations to expand the Advocacy Program’s reach for UMKC, its students and beyond.

“Advocacy touches everything,” says Foreman. “Work, politics, family. There are people who are voiceless. No one is telling their stories. We are training people to do that.”

Foreman is confident that even those who feel they do not have a gift for advocacy or see themselves as litigators benefit from the advocacy program.  As the director of advocacy and the coach of the Trial Advocacy teams, he sees students with varying backgrounds and a wide spectrum of skills.

“I see kids who come here from so many different environments, he says. “It’s a whole cross section.  But it doesn’t matter where they come from or what skills they have. We give them the tools to be heard.”

The law school encourages first year students to compete in 1L Last Team Standing, a competition that allows first year law students to try a case. Foreman teaches his students to focus. He encourages them to stop comparing themselves to others but instead to concentrate on being an advocate for the position at hand.

“Last Year Standing gives us a baseline. These students need these skills even if they never appear in a courtroom. Strong advocacy is critical in an argument, in a board room or during a chamber of commerce meeting.”

Donor Bebe Kemper caught Foreman’s fever. Her father, Douglas Stripp, for whom the professorship and chair are named, was a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Charles Evan Whittaker. Stripp mentored young attorneys in trial advocacy. Kemper attended Foreman’s class and liked what she saw.

“Bebe feels the program is carrying on her father’s legacy,” Foreman said. “After attending the class she came to me and said, ‘I want to do more.’”

The Kemper Family Foundations’ $1.4 million gift has enabled the law school to increase the Stripp Endowed Professorship from an endowment to a chair and provide two Advocacy Fellows each year for five years.

“This leads to stronger recruiting,” says Foreman. “It broadens our reach. We’ve had a flood of applicants from across the country for these fellowships. Beyond that, it allows us to attend more competitions and add courses and programs which enhances the students’ experience.”

Broader recognition preceded the Kempers’ gift. The Advocacy Program was ranked 12th by American National Jurist Magazine and most recently ranked 21st by U.S. News and World Report.

“When I came here we weren’t ranked in advocacy,” says Foreman. “But we are less interested in recognition.  What we want is more students to have access to the program.”