It is the Fall of 1965 in a small agrarian village just outside Canton, China, and Joseph and Loretta Law are about to do the unthinkable: they are about to send their eldest son on a two-day journey halfway around the globe so that he can pursue his dream of attending the University of Pennsylvania. This single moment—an act characterized today by their children as one of pure love—would ultimately impact not only the lives of the entire Law family, but of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
Dennis Law, C’69, M’73, arrived at Penn eager to prove himself. The first from his town in China to attend a university in the United States, Dennis quickly fell in love with Penn—so in love, in fact, that his notes home quickly took on Penn-vangelical tones. Dennis made it his mission to convince younger brother Ron, C’71, M’75, to follow in his footsteps, and in a tribute to both Dennis’s powers of persuasion and Penn’s ability to deliver the goods, Ron, who had been and leaning toward Cornell, went Quaker and never turned back. Brothers Chris, C’78, M’82, and Jeremy, M’86, eventually followed suit and the four brothers ultimately received seven of their eight degrees from Penn. (Jeremy received his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado.)
While the brothers all graduated from Penn, pursued careers in medicine, and settled in or near Denver, Colorado, Chris suggests they couldn’t be more unique. “We’re actually four very, very different people—definitely not cookie-cutter, as you might suspect.” Indeed, the brothers specialize in medical disciplines ranging from general and cosmetic surgery, to cardiology and orthopaedics—“medical night and day,” as Chris puts it.
But despite their professional differences, there remains a point on which they remain deeply, personally unified: respect for the sacrifices of their parents. So when they learned of the plans for the Henry A. Jordan M’62 Medical Education Center, the brothers saw it as an opportunity to not only give back to Penn, but to honor the parents whose love and trust made their careers possible.
Today, the Joseph and Loretta Law Auditorium and Law Family Pavilion serve as jewels in the crown that is the Jordan Center, with the Auditorium counted among the most technologically advanced spaces on Penn’s campus. Remarkably true to the architectural renderings, the Jordan Center—and the Law facilities within—are especially gratifying to the brothers. “Sometimes you take advantage of your disadvantages. If Penn had the potential for unlimited expansion, they might have opted for a sprawling, big campus,” says Chris Law. “But because they had to build upward, they managed to jigsaw-puzzle the three most important components of medical science: academics, research, and clinical activity. By locating these all on top of each other, they’ve created a very powerful nucleus. I think it’s going to prove to be very efficient and very impactful.”
Chris Law is not alone in his praise for the design and potential of such an integrated and technologically sound space. Ezekiel Emanuel, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Penn, shares his enthusiasm. “One of the things we’re trying to do is take the knowledge we have here and create a global impact—to educate students and practitioners around the world,” says Emanuel. “For instance, look at China. They need to train 300,000 doctors in the next five years. I’m not suggesting we could satisfy that entire need, but Penn is uniquely situated to be the leader and, therefore, the educator of the globe.”
Beyond the implications of global digital education, the Law Auditorium also plays a major role in connecting Penn Medicine to the world in a clinical capacity. The bleeding-edge teleconferencing technologies provide students and practitioners on campus the opportunity to diagnose and discuss treatment options with their counterparts in Botswana in real time.
For the brothers Law, the real payoff comes from the synergy that exists between the space and its occupants. “Having the equipment doesn’t necessarily mean much by itself. It’s what people put in it that’s so important,” says Chris. “And the Perelman School of Medicine is absolutely capable of creating programming that’s worth sending out.”
To date the Law Auditorium has hosted some of the most compelling collaborations and classes imaginable. While its full impact may never be quantified, it is already safe to say that the selfless act of two proud Penn parents has paid a dividend—for the family and for the world.