Celebrating 20 years as the S.J. Quinney College of Law

By Kevin Carrillo

On Nov. 2, 2021, it will be 20 years since the University of Utah College of Law became the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, thanks to a generous donation from the S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation. The effects of that donation cannot be overstated.

But first, before discussing the contributions, something should be said about S.J. (Joe) Quinney. Joe was born in Logan, Utah in 1893 and became a talented lawyer, prominent businessman and ski industry pioneer. He had a statewide impact, being a founder of the law firm of Ray, Quinney and Nebeker, a founder of Alta Ski Area, a member of Utah’s House of Representatives, a prime force in Utah’s legal and business community and a lifelong supporter of the arts and culture.

Joe had a storied 60-year legal career. He served as counsel to George S. and Marriner S. Eccles of First Security Bank, Amalgamated Sugar Company, Utah International, Anderson Lumber, and Pioneer Wholesale Company. He was also a member of Holy Cross Hospital advisory board, and a director and officer of the Utah Symphony.  He was an advisor in the founding of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles, Nora Eccles Treadwell, and Emma Eccles Jones Foundations. And Joe, with his wife Jess, developed, and funded the S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation.

The Quinneys began making meaningful philanthropic gifts such as a contribution to the library at Utah Agriculture College, their alma mater, with the words, “Good books, well-read are indispensable to the educated, cultured person.”  That gift, made in 1928, was followed up many years later with a gift to the University of Utah College of Law to establish the S.J.Quinney Law Library.   Then, in 1995, the Quinney Foundation made funds available for an endowment for the Wallace Stegner Center to help support the work in natural resources that Joe and his wife, Jess, so firmly supported and believed in. These gifts demonstrate the commitment the Quinneys had to invest in students and their true potential.

A portrait of Joe Quinney was unveiled at the dedication of the College of Law library.   As many can see, when they visit the law school, the portrait accurately projects the “twinkle in his eye,” as pointed out by Herbert C. Livsey at the ceremony honoring Joe and the Foundation’s gift in 2001.  Livsey went on to state that “Joe was a very dynamic individual and had many, varied interests.  . . . When Joe traveled he always took his skis and a tuxedo.”

Joe’s legacy has had an enormous impact, most directly, on students.  At the time of the initial gift, it was noted by then Dean for Student Affairs, Barbara J. Dickey, that “students are the ultimate beneficiaries. ‘Scholarships will directly aid [them], enrichment programs will enhance their law school experience, professorships will attract the highest caliber faculty, and library and technological developments will allow us to keep pace with the latest in computer technology.”

All of Dickey’s prognostications have proven true.  We have an amazing faculty that rivals any law school in the country.  The students attend law school in a beautiful and LEED platinum building with the most advanced technology available.  And the student body is made up of highly qualified, diverse and committed students who strive to use their legal degrees to create a better tomorrow.

Dean Elizabeth Kronk Warner, the first female and Native American dean at the College of Law, said, “The gift was truly transformational and has allowed us to do and accomplish so much – from providing student financial support to supporting world class research and activities of faculty.  There is not a day that goes by that I do not thank Joe Quinney and his family for the exceptional gift and investment in the College of Law.”

Reyes Aguilar, Associate Dean of Admissions, commented on the student body qualifications that, “At the time the Quinney Foundation made its gift, the impact on our ability to recruit students was immense and over time has contributed to our ability to maintain a top 50 ranking status.  What could not be anticipated at the time the gift was established was the important role it played in helping to hold us in good stead through the years following the Great Recession when the student recruitment environment became exceptionally competitive.  I am truly grateful for the gift made to us by the Quinney Foundation.  It has made a difference!”

Chase Gary Peterson, ’22, who received a Quinney scholarship in 2019-2020 wrote:  “I cannot thank you enough for your financial assistance to my education.  You allowed me the opportunity to pursue a law degree at a world-class institution in a wonderful city that I have been very grateful to call home. Thank you again.”

Joe’s legacy can be found in every area of the state, from Alta Ski resort to the Utah Symphony, but most importantly, for us, his legacy to the law school is deeply felt and greatly appreciated.  Joe’s example that the value of a legal education can benefit the public should not be lost on any of us. Our goal is to provide the best legal education possible.  Because of the Quinney gift we can more readily achieve this, and as we do, we contribute to a better society.  Our highly educated and engaged graduates are exactly the type of lawyers the college has historically produced and continues to produce to this day.

Our gratitude to Joe, his example, his family and their legacy can never be forgotten.

Thanks Joe.


Kevin Carrillo is director of development at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law.