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The Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust today announced a $1 million gift to St. Mary’s University School of Law for scholarships to outstanding students from Webb County.

“St. Mary’s School of Law strives to attract the best and brightest students who will one day become legal professionals with a dedication to excellence, a passion for service and a commitment to ethical practice of law,” said Charles L. Cotrell, Ph.D., president of St. Mary’s University. “I thank the Vergara Trust for honoring us with a gift that will create opportunities in the law school for talented and deserving South Texas students, while furthering the mission of St. Mary’s.”

Scholarships from the Lamar Bruni Vergara Endowment will benefit highly qualified incoming students from Webb County. The first scholarships will be distributed in fall 2008.

The trust was established to ensure the philanthropic efforts of lifelong Laredo resident Lamar Bruni Vergara continued even after her death. The trust has supported a variety of religious, health and educational efforts in South Texas. While this is the first endowment, the Vergara Trust has previously given money to the St. Mary’s School of Law for scholarships.

The announcement of the $1 million gift was made during a reception today welcoming longtime St. Mary’s Law Professor Charles Cantú as interim dean of the School of Law.

“It is appropriate for announcement of this generous gift to come on a day when we are welcoming Charles Cantú in his new role leading the law school as interim dean,” Cotrell said. “As a professor with more than 40 years at St. Mary’s, he possesses both the history to understand where we are coming from and the vision to move forward during this time of transition.”

Cantú assumed the duties of interim dean on June 1. Former dean Bill Piatt remains on the faculty as a tenured law professor. While interim dean, Cantú will focus on several areas, including recruiting highly qualified students, promoting excellence in the classroom and encouraging alumni to take a more active role in their alma mater.

“A substantial number of St. Mary’s law school graduates from Webb County return home to practice law, becoming engaged and active citizens in their community,” Cantú said. The Lamar Bruni Vergara Endowment will ensure even more opportunities exist at St. Mary’s for outstanding Webb County students.”

Cantú, the South Texas Professor of Law and the longest-serving tenured Hispanic law professor in the country, is known for his dedication to students and involvement in many social and civic causes throughout the region.

Cantú graduated in 1964 from St. Mary’s School of Law after receiving his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas. He received his M.C.L. in 1965 from Southern Methodist University and his LL.M. in 1978 from the University of Michigan. In 1999, Cantú was named a St. Mary’s Distinguished Law Graduate.

Before joining the St. Mary’s law faculty in 1966, Cantú traveled extensively in South America and was a Fulbright Scholar at the Universidad de René Gabriel Moreno in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. He has been a visiting professor at the South Texas College of Law and the University of Houston.

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