Franklin Family Bridges Darden-Law Legacy: A Symbol of Lasting Connection and Philanthropy at UVA
By David Buie-Moltz
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business and the UVA School of Law have a close relationship. Students often pursue dual degrees, and faculty members offer interdisciplinary courses. For over two decades, the two schools even shared a plaza that facilitated easy movement between their buildings on North Grounds. However, this changed in 1996 when Darden relocated to the Goodwin Family Grounds, and the Law School took over the former Darden building, resulting in reduced connectivity due to a dense thicket of trees.
On 2 October, the Franklin family, whose name is synonymous with the schools’ close relationship, celebrated the unveiling of a bridge symbolically linking them. The arboretum and botanical gardens on Darden Grounds now feature the Carl Mason Franklin (1911-2004) Footbridge and two benches in honor of his sons, Laurence C. “Larry” Franklin and Sterling C. Franklin. These additions are a testament to the significant contributions of the Morris S. Smith Foundation.
The foundation — established by 1948 UVA Law graduate Carl Mason Franklin and his friend Morris S. Smith — is renowned for its dedication to education. This commitment is evident in its generous donations, securing its place in Darden’s Principal Donors Society. Larry Franklin, a Darden teacher for over ten years; his brother, Sterling Franklin; and his wife, Mei Kwong Franklin, are the foundation’s trustees.
In 1946, 35-year-old Carl Franklin enrolled at UVA Law, benefiting from the GI Bill. He topped his class during the two-year law program. Despite a U.S. Supreme Court clerkship offer, he chose academia, leaving an indelible mark on law education nationwide. A lifelong learner, he amassed six degrees. For his 50th UVA Law Class Reunion, he established a scholarship fund and a prize fund to honor the student with the highest first year GPA annually.
Interim Darden Dean Jeanne Liedtka commented on the bridge dedication’s significance, stating: “Today, we recognize more than just a bridge but a legacy. The Franklin family’s strong ties to UVA are evident in the structures before us. They underscore the transformative power of education and philanthropy.”
For 25 years, Larry Franklin specialized in financial services, mainly in Hong Kong. He transitioned to teaching at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) in 1999, primarily handling MBA courses. Two Darden exchange students from his HKUST MBA classes, impressed by his teaching, recommended him to Darden in 1999. By 2002, he began teaching as an adjunct at Darden. Over 13 years, he instructed 24 courses between Darden and UVA Law, including the notable “Deal Making in China and Asia.”
Sterling Franklin was born at the UVA Hospital in 1947 while his father, Carl, studied at UVA Law. Sterling eventually followed in his father’s footsteps, practicing law and working with various nonprofits. Reflecting on his father’s contributions, Sterling noted Carl’s enthusiasm for establishing scholarship funds at multiple academic institutions.
The Morris S. Smith Foundation, led by Larry, Sterling and Mei Kwong Franklin, upholds Carl’s legacy through four endowment funds for student support at Darden. The foundation also set up a fund to reward Darden staff for excellence in support of case writing.
Celebrating Academic Achievements
In a related 2 October celebration, the Darden community congregated at First Coffee, announcing Brandon Mistry (Class of 2025), a Michigan State University economics graduate and current dual-degree student at Darden and the UVA School of Data Science, as the newest recipient of the James R. Freeland and Laurence C. Franklin Fellowship. The Morris S. Smith Foundation and Professor Emeritus Jim Freeland funded this fellowship. Liedtka praised Freeland for his long and meritorious service to Darden, describing him as one of her “heroes.”
Later, Eric Fletcher, director of enterprise compliance with over two decades at Darden, was named the latest recipient of the Gerry Yemen Award for Excellence in Support of Case Writing, also funded by the Morris S. Smith Foundation. Fletcher was recognized for his guidance on legal considerations when writing case studies — from copyright and permissions to case releases and citations. The award is named after Gerry Yemen, senior researcher and executive director of the Darden Case Writing Research Group.
Connect and Contribute
For more on naming opportunities in the arboretum and botanical gardens, visit the provided webpage or contact Deputy Vice President for Advancement Samantha Hartog at HartogS@darden.virginia.edu. For more on investing in scholarships, visit the Darden School Foundation Scholarships webpage or email email@example.com.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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