Barbara Bice celebrated for transformative $2 million estate gift

Leslie Ridgeway • April 14, 2022
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LA Memorial Coliseum is site of event honoring support of public interest law students, agencies

Barbara Bice, educator, philanthropist and community leader, speaking at the celebration of her $2 million gift renaming the Public Interest Law Foundation. View more photos of the celebration on Flickr >>

Before an expansive view of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and downtown Los Angeles, educator, philanthropist and community leader Barbara Bice uttered the words, “Please, light the torch!”

With that, the Coliseum’s iconic torch behind her came alive with flame to honor local public interest law agencies and the students of the Public Interest Law Foundation, renamed in 2020 as the Barbara F. Bice Public Interest Law Foundation. With the global pandemic, the celebration of Bice’s pivotal $2 million estate gift which will support and enhance the foundation’s work was delayed but not diminished, as an enthusiastic gathering of more than 90 USC Gould School of Law alumni, students, practitioners, faculty and friends convened for a special dinner on March 31 at the 1923 Club atop the historic Coliseum’s Scholarship Tower.

True to form, Bice made the event less about her and more about public interest law, a legal pursuit she has ardently supported for decades, and the Gould students and faculty, as well as local agencies, who engage in the work of representing the most vulnerable in society.

“I thought it was the perfect venue for PILF,” said Bice before the torch lighting. “Over its 100-year history, the Coliseum has been the site for the celebration of many individual and team accomplishments, including the Olympics. Tonight we celebrate the organizations who contribute so much to the Los Angeles community, and the PILF students who for over three decades have worked with them as a team to enhance the delivery of legal services.”

Dean Andrew Guzman, noting the law school was among the first to teach public interest law and experiential legal education, highlighted the support of then-Gould Dean Scott Bice, husband of Barbara Bice, in helping to get PILF and its summer grant program and sponsorship of pro bono clinics off the ground. Guzman talked about the Bices’ involvement in the annual PILF auction and their contribution of boating trips to Newport Beach and Catalina Island, which resulted in lifelong relationships with students — and at least one marriage, for two students who met aboard their boat. He pointed to Barbara Bice’s affinity for students as a natural outgrowth of her career as an educator.

Barbara and Scott Bice, former USC Gould dean, faculty member and an alumnus, are strong supporters of public interest law at Gould. View more photos of the celebration on Flickr >>

“We at Gould are very fortunate that Barbara has been such an active and dedicated advocate for our students over the years,” he said. “She cares deeply about them and the work that they do.”

Also speaking were alumnae Wende Julien (JD 2009), executive director of the L.A. County Probation Oversight Commission, and Mirelle Raza (JD 2021), deputy attorney general at the California Department of Justice. Julien delivered an emotional speech about the valuable assistance of PILF students to local agencies like Public Counsel in representing incarcerated individuals mistreated by the system.

“Thank you, Barbara, for building up PILF to be mighty — for incubating legal champions, for supporting so many public interest organizations that need support, and for building a path so that future Gould PILF students can ‘fight on’ for justice,” she said.

Raza, who served as PILF president from 2019-2020, lauded the transformative potential of Bice’s $2 million gift, bolstering PILF’s summer grant program that supports pro bono opportunities for students who would otherwise not be able to afford externships with public interest law organizations. With a compassionate, giving nature, Bice is considered “the mother of all Gould students,” Raza said.

Barbara Bice with former PILF President Mirelle Raza (JD 2021). View more photos of the celebration on Flickr >>

“Barbara provides guidance and support in a way that I can only describe as warm but fierce,” she said. “And this embodies what PILF is about, being fierce and impassioned about public service, but providing these services to our community in a warm and welcoming way.”

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