Public Interest Auction Donations — Suggestions Wanted

I just returned from a visit to St. Paul, where we stayed with long-time friends Bill McGeveran and his family. Bill and I got talking about how he and several other law profs at the U of Minnesota will be taking a bunch of soon-to-be 3Ls to a karaoke bar as part of a donation to the annual public interest auction. Presumably, this was an exceptionally attractive purchase for the law students – what funnier than seeing your usually serious and straight-faced law prof singing to Paula Abdul or Amy Winehouse? Bill tells me it went for a large sum of money, commensurate with the ridicule he and his colleagues will suffer after the night is over. It got me thinking about all the very creative ways professors can contribute to the public interest auction. I have a colleague whose annual softball game (students v. her family of five), which is followed by a lobster bake, goes for a hefty price at the auction. I have also heard that John Sexton, when he was dean at NYU, sold a “pie-in-the-face-of-the-dean” item. At the end of the auction, Dean Sexton would graciously stand still while the winner of that item covered him in the pie-of-choice. I can only imagine what that went for. I have only offered (with colleagues) a night out shooting pool. This seems embarrassingly staid compared to the above options. What high-priced sought-after professor donations have you heard about?

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5 Responses

  1. Simple dinners with profs (at home or out and about) cost little and raise a lot of money. These are some of the highest bid-getters (as a group) at WVU’s auctions. Some go to a bar, some have deck parties, etc. We may do a pool party next year – this year we hosted 4 students for a gourmet dinner.

    David Hardesty, WVU’s president emeritus, auctioned off ~100 WVU ties in various lots – that was popular. Our outgoing dean, John Fisher, donated a golf outing on a regular basis. Another professor donated time at a vacation home (and I may donate one of my timeshare weeks next year).

  2. HLS Alum says:

    Dean Kagan offers a poker night at her house, with takeout from a restaurant of the students’ choosing. It always goes for a pretty hefty amount.

    Charles Ogletree bakes 2 homemade sweet potato pies that also go for a ton of money.

  3. former bidder says:

    From a law student’s perspective (of which I was one a handful of years back) is that when it comes time to “pay up” for these experiences with professors they often don’t quite seem “worth it.” Not that what the professors offer is anything to sneeze at (some friends and I had a delightful dinner with a prof of mine that was great), but often the amount people pay is pretty staggering: $150 each, for instance, to go to watch some lame local band and then eat at a local restaurant.

    I’ve heard of many examples where five people pool their resources for a bid on “an evening with Professor X,” end up bidding $1,000, and then the other 4 end up stiffing the student who actually pays the auctioneer. The student knows the bid was crazy, so he or she doesn’t make the others pay, and everyone walks away feeling uncomfortable. Of course it’s all for a “good cause,” but unless the students all have jobs at big firms lined-up, it doesn’t quite feel that way . . .

  4. Bar Study Break says:

    One professor at our school was a partner at Townsend and Townsend before leaving practice (4 years ago) to become a full time professor. My school also has a pretty decent IP program (which is funny because I went to a pretty low ranked school). This professor got together several IP lawyers that he worked with to all have lunch with a few students. The students were able to pick the brains of some very high placed IP lawyers in San Francisco and made some good connections.

    The other one that has gone over well comes from professors that have season tickets to one of the many Bay Area sports teams. They would auction going to the game with them plus food at the park.

  5. Chicago says:

    My school’s auction does a lot of this professor related stuff (along with non-professor related items likes cruises, a week at an alumni’s Tuscan villa, trip to the NBA draft, a flight in a fighter jet, etc.), but the professor involved items are very popular as well. For example, a scotch tasting with Douglas Baird went for around $2200 this year (for 8 people). The activities professors offer vary considerably: dinner, basketball games, poker nights, golf, wine tasting, concerts, live theater, and a lot of other activities (other professors just donate things instead of time, whether its time at a vacation home, use of a boat, old ties, or a signed book from a former lecturer turned presidential candidate).

    I think its pretty successful, but I really don’t have figures for comparison from other schools. This year the auction raised about $90,000.