Jane M. G. Foster - Clip 3

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John Walsh


Thomas R. Bruce

Resource Type

Video Interview

Date of Recording





From the video archives of the Cornell Law School Heritage Project. The interviewer/videographer is Thomas R. Bruce. This video covers recollections of Jane Foster by her friend, John Walsh of Portsmouth, Ohio.

Jane Foster was born in Ohio. Her father was a doctor and her mother a teacher who founded a weekly newspaper. She had already travelled widely by the time she came to Cornell in 1914. She was one of only two women in the class of 1918, and one of the first women to join the editorial board of the Cornell Law Quarterly. Although she graduated Order of the Coif, near the top of her class, no law firm would hire her.

For over a decade she worked as a legal assistant for the New York City firm of Davies, Auerbach, and Cornell. As there was no prospect for advancement to partnership, she left in 1929. She lived in Brooklyn Heights using her considerable talents, independence, and expertise in corporate finance and banking to assist her friends, community, Cornell Law School, and her own growing financial interests. In the 1950s she returned to Portsmouth, Ohio to care for her ailing mother and lived there until her own death.

Cornell Law School was the beneficiary of Jane Foster's endless generosity. Jane had invested in one of the companies she had helped restructure in the 1920s, the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, and on her death was a wealthy woman thanks in part to her stock in IBM (so renamed in 1924). The Jane Foster wing in the Law School, the Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law endowed chair, the Ida C. and William Ogden Kerr Memorial Prize, and many unrestricted gifts came from her alone.

Jane Foster was born in 1893. She was a well educated, talented, but modest woman who was denied a law career by virtue of her sex. When she died in 1993, one week shy of her hundredth birthday, she had done more to support legal education at Cornell than any other in the school's history.


Cornell Law School, Cornell Law School alumni


The initial phase of this project was sponsored by a generous grant from the law firm of Sutherland Asbill and Brennan LLP. Clip 3 of 6.