Stephen and Sandra Sheller, who have spent their respective
careers in law and behavioral health treatment advocating for the
poor, powerless and those experiencing injustice, have made a $1.5
million gift to establish a new center to further that cause at the
Temple University Beasley School
The Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice will
partner with non-profit groups and city agencies to identify and
address urgent social justice needs in the city and region. Set to
open this spring in Temple’s Howard Gittis Student Center,
the new center will build on Temple Law’s
50-year tradition of offering legal assistance to those in need,
while providing hands-on learning experience for law students.
“The law school is always seeking creative solutions to
address the ways in which our society falls short of the promise of
justice for all,” said Temple Law Dean JoAnne Epps. “The Stephen
and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice will help us do just
that. This gift is a recognition of the historic mission of Temple
and our abiding commitment to assist the community around us as we
educate our students.”
“Temple is the perfect place for this,” said Stephen Sheller.
“If we can affect the way justice happens, we can impact, on a
large scale, a lot of lives for the better.”
In more than four decades as a leading national litigator,
Sheller’s causes have ranged from civil rights, to voter
protection, to employment discrimination, to consumer fraud and
protection. He has won some of the largest civil and criminal
settlements in U.S. history.
As an art and family therapist, Sandra Sheller’s work with
families experiencing homelessness and those who serve them birthed
in her a passion to broaden her sphere of influence in helping
those struggling with poverty, oppression and disenfranchisement.
In 2006, the Shellers founded the Sheller Family Foundation to
expand their commitment to improving lives. The foundation has
become a vehicle to support institutions and programs that champion
the causes of the underprivileged, underserved and marginalized;
expose and remediate corrupt and unethical conduct; and effect
significant, structural social change.
“I have seen that a lot of struggling people have really lost
their voice,” said Sandra. “We talk a lot about freedoms that
Americans have, and a lot of times, if you’re combating poverty and
oppression, you can’t really partake of those freedoms. So the
whole idea is on a higher level to advocate for those people who
don’t have a voice and maybe even empower them to advocate for
According to Epps, the center will follow the needs of the
community, whether they be in civil liberties, the environment,
consumer protection or disabilities rights. A board of directors
comprising legal experts and community leaders to be organized this
summer will meet with non-profit agencies and community leaders.
They will identify the causes that are most urgent and support area
residents who lack access to adequate legal representation.
The center will be a think tank where participating law students
and young alumni work together with faculty and practicing lawyers
to receive invaluable experiential training in legal research,
advocacy and policy development. When issues call for changes to
policy, the center will work to make those changes through white
papers and legislative proposals. And when litigation is required,
they will pursue that as well.
The center is an extension of Temple Law’s significant
commitment to public service. Each year, the school places
graduates in public interest positions at rates well above regional
and national averages. In a typical year, one-third of graduating
students are members of the Public Interest Law Honor Society,
which requires 50 hours of pro bono work.
“I hope we will be a model for how a law school can both
contribute to the education of their students and make meaningful
change in the community,” said Epps.