Syracuse University Magazine

An Enduring Tribute

Robert Emmet Dineen L’24 and Carolyn Bareham Dineen L’32 in 1937.

The Dineen family honors their parents

with a landmark gift to the College of Law

for construction of a new building

By Kelly Homan Rodoski

College of Law alumni Robert Emmet Dineen L’24 and Carolyn Bareham Dineen L’32 both overcame major challenges to pursue their dreams of becoming lawyers. Robert grew up in an Irish immigrant neighborhood in Syracuse, worked his way through law school driving an ice cream truck, and was initially told he was too young to practice law. Carolyn wanted to study law at a time when few women were in the profession. Her father believed women should not be lawyers and refused to help her financially, so she put herself through the College of Law by working as a newspaper columnist. Both graduated in the top 10 percent of their respective classes and, undeterred, they relied on their education, sheer tenacity, and each other in building exceptional careers as lawyers and as respected members of the communities in which they lived and worked. At the height of his career, Robert served as the president and chief executive officer of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. Carolyn practiced for many years with a Syracuse law firm.

In memory of their parents, the couple’s three children—the Honorable Carolyn Dineen King H’06, Kathryn Dineen Wriston, and Robert E. Dineen Jr. L’66, all prominent attorneys in their own right—have pledged $15 million for the construction of a new building for the College of Law. The family’s naming gift is the largest ever received by the college and one of the largest in University history. It is also an important milestone for The Campaign for Syracuse University, which counts a new law school building among its fund-raising priorities. “The Dineens are quintessential members of the SU family,” Chancellor Nancy Cantor says. “Robert and Carolyn Dineen exemplified the spirit of Syracuse University, triumphing over challenges as they forged extraordinarily successful careers. Carolyn, Kathy, and Bob have built on that proud legacy, and we are profoundly grateful for the leadership they have shown within the SU community. To be a great university you need a great law school, and the new building, made possible through this landmark gift, will be a fitting testament to the Dineen family legacy.”

The 200,000-square-foot building is expected to cost between $85 million and $90 million, and School of Architecture alumnus Richard Gluckman ’70, G’71, of the Gluckman Mayner architectural firm in New York City, will be the project’s lead architect. The building will stand on a site immediately west of the college’s E.I. White and Winifred MacNaughton halls at the western edge of campus. The location is especially meaningful to the Dineen family because the building will be close to “the Swamp,” the neighborhood where Robert Sr. was born and raised. “I think my parents would be overwhelmed,” says Robert Dineen Jr., a University trustee and member of the College of Law’s Board of Advisors, when asked how his parents would feel about a building honoring their legacy and bearing their name. 

College of Law Dean Hannah R. Arterian believes the gift will transform the learning environment for the college’s students. “I am truly humbled by the incredible generosity of the Dineen family,” Arterian says. “This new building will be an iconic symbol for the College of Law, giving it a strong sense of place that law students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests will consider an inspirational home. This gift makes a profound statement about the Dineen family’s legacy and their commitment to legal education at Syracuse University College of Law.”


Hard Work and Sacrifice

Robert and Carolyn Dineen—who met when they were representing co-defendants in a lawsuit—worked hard and sacrificed much to establish themselves in the law community. At a time when students could go directly to law school without an undergraduate degree, Robert opted to enroll in law school at Syracuse. Although he earned a “certificate of law” in 1924, he was considered too young to practice, so he worked as a claims adjuster for insurance companies in upstate New York and Canada. In 1926, he applied for a position with local law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King. The firm’s partners were initially reluctant to hire someone so young, but offered him the job based on a personal reference. He eventually became a partner before returning to the insurance business. From 1943 to 1950, Robert served as superintendent of insurance for New York State and then joined Northwestern Mutual Life. Fifteen years later, he became the company’s president and CEO.

Before deciding to study law, Carolyn Bareham Dineen, a Rochester, New York, native, earned a bachelor’s degree from William Smith College and a master’s degree from Columbia University. One of only two women enrolled in her class at the College of Law, Carolyn passed the bar exam and joined the Syracuse law firm of Costello, Cooney & Fearon. This brought congratulations to her father from his friends and, despite his initial dismay over her career choice, he was proud of her and her accomplishments. A true pioneer, she advocated for a wide range of career opportunities for women, often addressed women’s issues in her newspaper columns, and spoke to students about law as a profession for women. When the couple later relocated to Milwaukee, Carolyn was active in the community, serving various organizations, including as president of the Milwaukee Catholic Home.  

Robert Jr. says one of the proudest moments his father—and his family—experienced took place at SU in June 1966, when his father was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University, bestowed by Chancellor William Pearson Tolley. At a celebratory luncheon that followed, the elder Dineen made an observation on just how much his hard work paid off. It was the first time he ever used the front door of Sims Hall—having previously entered only through the back door when making deliveries for the Syracuse Ice Cream Company. The elder Dineen also said there could be no more jokes about how he was the only one in the house without a degree.

Syracuse pride runs deep in every member of the family, according to Robert Jr. “If my father and mother had not gone to the Syracuse University College of Law, Carolyn, Kathy, and I would not be here today,” he said, speaking to College of Law students at the annual Law Review Banquet in April. “Because of the opportunities and education that the College of Law provided to my parents, every member of the Dineen family owes their success to Syracuse.”

Coming to a Neighborhood Near You

An Orange glow may soon be radiating from a neighborhood near you. This fall, the University launched a series of initiatives designed to boost its visibility in areas with large concentrations of SU alumni and friends. The primary purpose of these regional campaigns—scheduled to run through 2012—is to motivate alumni to become more actively involved with their alma mater. “We want to encourage our alumni to step forward as volunteer mentors, campus speakers, alumni representatives for the admissions office, and as donors to The Campaign for Syracuse University,” says Karen Spear, executive director for regional advancement. “By volunteering their time and talents, including the University in their philanthropic priorities, and providing opportunities for internships and immersion programs, our alumni and friends can have an immediate impact on students.”   

The first of six regional campaigns got under way this fall in Boston, to be followed in succession by Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York City, and two other key cities. Boston seemed the logical place to start because SU already had a cadre of active alumni volunteers ready to help strengthen the region’s Orange presence. This core group evolved into the 21-member Boston Regional Council, which conceived the idea of hosting small neighborhood house parties and helped plan a number of larger events presented by SU’s schools and colleges. Council members also helped develop a creative marketing strategy, featuring Roger Berkowitz ’74, owner of Legal Sea Foods, and Sean McDonough ’84 of ESPN broadcasting fame, as well as other highly visible alumni who got their start at SU and achieved success in Boston. 

Each of these focused, four- to six-month initiatives will follow a strategy similar to Boston, with some fine-tuning to reflect regional flavors and personalities. “Focusing our energies on these areas will ensure that everyone is invited to be part of SU’s vision of Scholarship in Action and have an opportunity to participate in the broader capital campaign,” Spear says. “In the end, we want to be able to say that we reached out and engaged our alumni and friends in an urgent and personal way to help move the University forward.”   

—Christine Yackel

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