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Donor Spotlight: Larry, ’68, and Lois Dimmitt

New plans excite alumnus, encourage gift to School of Law building fund

Larry and Lois Dimmitt

From School of Law Alumni Newsletter - Spring 2020

Larry Dimmitt, ’68, finished the last two years of his legal education taking classes in trailers. After graduating, he proudly watched a new law school building rise on a campus scourged by a tornado. Now, 50 years later, he and his wife, Lois, heartily made a $100,000 gift toward a new building that will meet the changing demands of legal education.

The Dimmitts’s gift to Ideal Place: The Building Campaign for the Washburn University School of Law has been doubled thanks to an anonymous donor’s $1 million matching gift challenge. Their gift, enthusiasm from the matching gift challenge, and recently-approved $33 million building plans have created renewed momentum toward completion of this much-needed new home for Washburn Law.

“Because of the changes in demand and the competition among law schools to provide the best quality legal education possible – in reflecting on that over the last several years – it became clear to me that Washburn does need to update its law school facility,” Dimmitt said. “This is something Lois and I want to be involved in because of what Washburn has meant to us through the years in terms of our lives and my career in the law.”

Dimmitt hopes fellow alumni also see the importance of a new building and join him in giving.

“We need to do whatever we can to continue the high reputation Washburn has, and that certainly includes the quality of the law school building,” Dimmitt said. “I think the current plans are very exciting and innovative.”

Dimmitt came to Washburn in the fall of 1965 after earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from Kansas State University and nearly completing a master’s in the same subject (he completed the degree while in law school). The following spring, unknowingly, he took his last exam in Carnegie Hall.

“A week or so later, the tornado came through on June 8 and blew the top half of the law school away and took with it, as we discovered, some of the finals,” he said.

The physical space he chose for his legal education was gone but the dedicated faculty, staff and students remained. Classes were held in five mobile units and three more contained the library and other resources.

“My memories are not unfavorable because I think we all felt determined to go in and make the law school experience work,” he said.

Upon graduating, Dimmitt took a position as a staff attorney in the Topeka office of Southwestern Bell for five years. He then worked at the company’s headquarters in St. Louis for a year and a half before being sent to New York City to work on antitrust cases for AT&T, which resulted in the divestiture of Southwestern Bell from AT&T. He spent four years on these cases with major, national ramifications.

“Many of those lawyers were people who had graduated from Ivy League law schools,” he said. “That's when I found out a legal education from Washburn was every bit as good, if not better.”

Born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, Dimmitt returned to his home state in 1979 and led the statewide legal department of Southwestern Bell in Topeka. The divestiture from AT&T brought major rate and regulatory matters to Dimmitt’s department. He retired in 1994 after a 26-year career with the company.

He stayed engaged by teaching telecommunications law as an adjunct at Washburn for 10 years. He and Lois give regularly to the Law School and other University departments. Lois attended Washburn in the 1960s before passing the CPA exam. She had previously completed a degree in history at Kansas State and earned a teaching certification. Also retired, she volunteers her accounting and leadership skills to numerous non-profits. Larry served as president of the Downtown Topeka Rotary Club and serves on the Rotary International board of directors. The couple has two grown children, Cindy and Michael.

Even with worldwide uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dimmitts decided to direct their next gift to the School of Law building campaign. They discussed their love of Washburn and reasons for giving over the phone and posed for this story’s photograph on their porch, a safe distance from the photographer. They look forward to an end to social distancing and a time when they can come to campus and see a new building rise up and provide the education for the next generation of legal scholars.

Kuehne Bell Tower

If you would like to support the new School of Law building, contact Patrick Mikesic at 785.670.1869 or by email at pmikesic@wualumni.org. You can also learn more and give online and have your gift doubled by an anonymous donor who is honoring Sen. Bob Dole, B.A. ’52, J.D. ’52, by naming an outdoor plaza after the esteemed alumnus.

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