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Kim Banks MacKay ’95 – Motivated to Give Back

“Focus on what motivates you.” That’s what Kimberly Banks MacKay ’95 tells law students and young practitioners who ask her advice on planning a career that is successful and fulfilling. “Don’t follow what you think is the appropriate path if it’s not something that excites you.”

As Executive Director and Senior Pharmaceuticals Counsel for Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, MacKay has a job that integrates the three things that fascinate her most – medicine (she was originally a pre-med major at Princeton), business, and the law. “Never bored,” she is involved in all aspects of the business except for litigation. “I am not a litigator,” she offers. “What I love are contracts, negotiations, deal making – providing solutions to business problems with legal implications.”

Kim MacKay and Yvette Bravo-Weber   
Kimberly Banks MacKay with MSP Dean Yvette Bravo-Weber at the April 2010 annual Minority Student Program banquet.
That MacKay acts on what she has a passion for is evident from her enthusiastic participation in the Minority Student Program (MSP) Legacy Alumni Campaign Committee. Speaking at the April 2010 MSP annual banquet about the recently-launched campaign, she described the program as “a family of faculty, students and alums who have all served as my source of strength, guidance and inspiration. I can honestly say,” she added, “that MSP has shaped my legal career.” The campaign is led by a committee of 13 alums, from classes spanning 35 years, who, like MacKay, are committed to ensuring that current and future students can similarly point to the program as an integral part of their experiences as students and practitioners. 

The Legacy Alumni Campaign, whose theme is “Strengthening the Foundation – Expanding the Network,” aims to reconnect and re-engage MSP alumni with the program and the law school and to raise funds for the MSP endowment. MacKay, who as a former member of the Rutgers University Board of Trustees and a former president of the law school Alumni Association has a good perspective on philanthropy at the university, was “shocked” to learn the size of the current endowment. “As a group, we have not been as supportive of the program as we should have been,” she says.

That’s partly because the “ask” hasn’t been made of MSP alums as often, or as emphatically, as it should have been. MacKay firmly believes that “if you ask, people will do.” Committee members have stepped up to the challenge, donating more than $75,000 of varying amounts to the endowment. “We care and we are willing to put our wallets behind it,” she says. MacKay urges other MSP alums to do the same: “You did not get to where you are by yourself. You stood on the shoulders of others and it is only right to turn around and lift up somebody else.” For those motivated by more practical reasons, MacKay reminds them of matching employer contributions, five-year pledges, and tax deductions. And number one on her top 10 list of reasons to contribute to the endowment fund – “If you don’t step up, this will not get done. The students are counting on YOU!”

“You did not get to where you are by yourself. You stood on the shoulders of others and it is only right to turn around and lift up somebody else.” 

Besides financial support, the Legacy Alumni Campaign Committee is working to increase the general involvement of alums in the program. “Mentoring current students, helping to organize workshops, participating in speaker series – these are the kinds of resources we’re also asking alums to provide.” Investing in the MSP, both in time and in money, will help ensure that tomorrow’s students have the same opportunities as those who have already participated in the program.

MacKay, a second-generation MSP student, came to Rutgers School of Law–Newark after working for several years in the banking industry. “I knew I wanted to go to grad school,” she recalls, “and had a strong interest in staying in finance.” She considered getting an MBA but decided that a J.D. was “a degree of general application that would be most valuable if I decided to move into other industries.” Helping her come to that realization was her father, Cecil Banks, Class of 1976. “My father always said that law school doesn’t teach you the law as much as it does a way of thinking that can be applied to a wide variety of enterprises.”

For MacKay, discovering “how powerful the law is as a tool” was the most profound lesson learned at Rutgers. She credits faculty such as the late Arthur Kinoy, whom she never had, and Emeritus Professor Al Slocum for teaching that “the combination of law, principles and personal commitment can transform society.”

After graduation, MacKay worked for two years as an associate at Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP in New York then served as clerk for Judge Joseph A. Greenaway Jr., now on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, when he was first appointed to the federal bench. Much as she values that experience, it disabused her of the idea of becoming a law professor, because she would “never be happy being so far removed from the business environment.” After her clerkship, the strong MSP network helped MacKay get her first in-house counsel job, as corporate counsel, corporate and securities, at Lucent Technologies, Inc.

Today, MacKay is enjoying what she describes as “her space within the law” at Novartis. “Working in the pharmaceutical industry is very rewarding,” she says, “knowing that you’re part of an effort that is helping someone to stay alive or stay healthy.” Also rewarding is devoting time and financial support to help strengthen the Minority Student Program which, 15 years out of law school, MacKay still regards as “family.”