Scholarship Matching Challenge is a “Kicker” and Multiplier Effect that Inspires Donors

From left: Jennifer Miller Paci ’80, Yin Yin Wu ’25, Victor Paci ’80

by Eileen Korey

Cornell Law School student Yin Yin Wu ’25 was four years old when her family emigrated to the United States from China. She grew up in Brooklyn where her parents worked in nail salons, ten to twelve hours a day, nearly every day, eventually owning their own. She inherited their work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit: “We lived upstairs from a restaurant, and as early as first grade, I would cut lemons and bread for them,” Wu recalls. “With the five dollars they paid me, I would go to the Dollar Store, buy a pack of ten pencils for a dollar and then sell each pencil for a dollar to the children who went to school with me in Sunset Park.”

Still, her earnings could not support her ambition. She dreamed of being an attorney. “Part of the American dream is trying to transcend the socioeconomic barriers you’re born into,” says Wu. “Being a lawyer is a way to do that. It’s empowering because knowing the law is knowing how society works.” She excelled in her academics and earned scholarships so she could attend New York University and, eventually, Cornell Law School—where she was able to meet her benefactors.

Victor “Vic” Paci ’80, and Jennifer Miller Paci ’80, were thrilled to provide scholarship support for Wu, believing that a Cornell law degree opens up a world of opportunities and a “network for life.”Both successful attorneys in the corporate realm, they were strategic in their approach to philanthropy. They had previously established the Miller Paci Family Scholarship endowment fund, and were contemplating a significant new gift to that endowment. That’s when they learned about Cornell University’s Scholarship Matching Challenge, in which the Provost provides funds to match half the total offered by the donor. The Paci’s pledged $250,000 and the university matched it with $125,000.

“The match from the university is a kicker, essentially a multiplier effect,” says Vic. “It builds upon our own commitment to do the greatest good by taking advantage of the synergy presented by the match.”

“There’s something very special about the Cornell Law School culture,” says Jennifer. “It’s the academic rigor balanced by a strong sense of place and an air of intimacy and community that is quite unique. The Cornell campus provides opportunities to be more successful than bigger schools where students may not get as much support. We believe access to that kind of education helps students build a network that can have a ripple effect and help disadvantaged communities.”

Wu also believes that philanthropy “creates a chain reaction” and an incentive among beneficiaries to help others when they are able. “Vic and Jennifer’s donation makes it possible for me to be here and not feel as saddled by debt,” says Wu. She’s excited about a future less burdened by debt. Recently she accepted a prestigious federal clerkship following graduation, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. “I want a career as a litigator, and the judicial clerkship will allow me to further develop my research and writing skills and enable me to be the best litigator I can be.”

The Pacis are confident that their support for Cornell Law School is being put to good use. They point to Cornell’s significant investments in clinical and experiential programs that provide opportunities to make real world impacts early in a law student’s career, the impressive number of students going into federal and state judicial clerkships, and its top ranking in employment rates at graduation. “They are doing really good things,” says Vic.  “And that motivates us to support the school in ways we hope help sustain those really good things well into the future.”