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Equality and Education

A Hometown Alum’s Investment in Scholarship Support
Posted April 10, 2015
A named scholarship for the Baltimore Scholars Program honors the special relationship between Jules Kirsch and his son, and their shared passion for access to education and civil rights. IMAGE: Will Kirk A named scholarship for the Baltimore Scholars Program honors the special relationship between Jules Kirsch and his son, and their shared passion for access to education and civil rights. IMAGE: Will Kirk

When Jules Kirsch, A&S ’51, made his commitment to establish an endowed scholarship in his hometown, it was with the hope that the students who benefit would be inspired to develop their own sense of philanthropy along the way. “People find meaning in their lives from two principal sources: work and taking care of others,” Kirsch says, referencing Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, a book that he says was revelatory for him. “Taking care of other people was always a key motivator for me.”

A Baltimore native, graduate of Baltimore City College, and scholarship recipient himself, Kirsch attended Johns Hopkins, graduating from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics. After service in the navy during the Korean War, he went on to Harvard Law School and began what is now a 50-year career, which initially focused on the field of intellectual property law.

Kirsch’s path changed during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He joined the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee, an organization that provided legal assistance to civil rights workers in the South, and went to Louisiana to volunteer with the all-black law firm of Collins, Douglas, and Elie.

“Police in Bogalusa, Louisiana, were seen riding in cruisers in Klan robes,” Kirsch recalls, but this terroristic environment only strengthened his resolve for justice. He assisted the firm during a landmark lawsuit against the city of Bogalusa, which ultimately went before a federal judge and resulted in a federal court order that required police officers to respect the civil rights of black citizens and to take courses in civil rights. He also spent the summer of 1966 in Selma, Alabama, defending, among others, a white civil rights worker who was arrested for vagrancy while helping register people to vote. This was a common way for the police to harass civil rights advocates, according to Kirsch, who was the first civil rights lawyer to be admitted to the federal bar in Louisiana.

Jules Kirsch with his son, Mark.After returning to New York, he became chair of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Westchester Chapter from1969–71, during the Vietnam War. In 1969, he and his wife adopted their son, Mark (pictured right with his father on his wedding day), for whom the scholarship fund will be named. Kirsch subsequently began providing pro bono services for families seeking to adopt who could not afford legal representation.

Honoring Baltimore Roots

His legacy of generosity and his spirit of compassion are what fueled Kirsch’s decision to provide scholarship support for his alma mater. Though he currently resides in NewYork City, Kirsch was motivated to establish a scholarship fund at Hopkins after learning about the Baltimore Scholars program, which offers scholarships for Baltimore high school students who are accepted to Johns Hopkins University.

It was a perfect fit for Kirsch and perfect timing for Hopkins, as scholarship support is a key priority of the university’s ongoing Rising to the Challenge campaign. Kirsch took the initiative to meet with a Hopkins representative and begin the process of providing a gift through his estate to benefit future attendees of the Krieger School. Kirsch’s wife, Joyce Morin Utz, also a lawyer, shares his commitment. Their gift to endow the Jules and Mark Kirsch Scholarship Fund is one of the largest ever given in support of the Baltimore Scholars Program.

To fund their gift, they will give two properties — their New York City apartment and a house on Martha’s Vineyard — to the university. “The apartment we live in is one of our major assets, and it would just fall into the estate and become a complicating factor, probably triggering an estate tax,” Kirsch says of their decision to make a real estate gift. It was also important to Kirsch to make his wishes known. “I wanted to share my commitment while I’m still alive.”

Keenly aware of education’s role in helping individuals realize their full potential, Kirsch hopes that his contributing to the Baltimore Scholars program will play a vital role in the lives of the recipients.