JACK WITHIAM JR. ’74 RECENTLY SERVED ON THE BOARD with an incredibly talented student trustee who was balancing law school with three jobs to support her family, which included one child and another on the way. “No student should need to have three jobs,” he said.
It is that desire to help students by alleviating some of their financial burden that led Withiam and his wife, Lynda, to establish an endowed scholarship fund at the law school. “I was a beneficiary of similar financial support—in fact, it was essential to my going to college and law school,” he said. “I want to give students the same chance to pursue their dreams that I had.”
Withiam has given generously to Albany Law School, as well as his undergraduate institution, Hamilton College, in a variety of ways. But nothing resonates with him more than scholarship aid. “My involvement is because of the students, and getting to know them is what makes it all worthwhile,” he said. “To hear stories from scholarship recipients who in high school had no hope of going to college, but were great students and had drive, and then had this opportunity opened up to them through a scholarship—it brings tears to your eyes.”
He is also inspired by the many students from Albany Law School who go into public service—or want to, but are concerned about taking those jobs with the burden of student loans. “The cost of education has risen, outpacing GDP growth and inflation, and some students are coming out with heavy debt,” Withiam said, adding that scholarship support allows them to choose a career for the right reasons.
Withiam himself had a long and successful career in the trade show industry. Shortly after law school and following a few years in finance, his Hamilton classmate (and now best friend of 50-plus years), Jeff Little, invited him to join his family’s business, George Little Management. Jack and Jeff along with their other partners grew the company into the largest producer of consumer product trade shows in the U.S. “Jeff always used to say that I had a different way of looking at things. And I did, because of the education I received at Albany Law School,” Withiam said. “My law degree gave me a wonderful perspective on issues we confronted in the business world.”
They eventually sold the company in a phased acquisition that Withiam and his senior partners helped ensure would be favorable to staff and preserve the brand. When the acquirers assumed control, Withiam was named senior vice president and general counsel of the new entity. In 2011, when that company sold George Little to a private equity firm, he and Little retired, but continued to be involved in the industry. Eventually, when the company was sold again to another private equity company, Little and Withiam served as consultants to the purchaser. That company, then part of a larger group, went public in 2017, and the finally retired friends ended up “with a few shares.”
The Lynda and Jack Withiam ’74 Scholarship Fund ensures that Albany Law School students will benefit from the fruits of that labor. The Withiams’ only stipulation for the fund is that the recipients of the scholarship have financial need. “We prefer not to put restrictions on the use,” Withiam said. “We trust the law school to use its best judgment in the interest of helping students."