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Miami Law Receives $1.5 Million Gift to Establish Triple Degree Program

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Dean Patricia D. White, Steven Mariano, President Donna E. Shalala.

Dean Patricia D. White, Steven Mariano, President Donna E. Shalala. (Photo: Miami Law) Full-Size Photo

Miami Law announced today a $1.5 million pledge to name the triple degree J.D., M.B.A., LL.M. program at the School of Law by Steven M. Mariano, CEO and Chairman of Patriot National Insurance Group, Inc.

A scholarship offer from the University of Miami's School of Law some 25 years ago almost sent Steven Mariano down a path of studying torts, judicial rulings, and peremptory challenges. But the southern New Jersey-born and bred Mariano turned it down, electing instead to become an entrepreneur – a decision he's never regretted.

Still, even as he launched and led successful businesses, first in North Carolina and now in Florida, Mariano continued to think highly of UM, praising the university for the positive impact it's made in the community.

Now, his $1.5 million gift to the institution's School of Law has established a permanent connection with the professional school he almost attended.

Mariano's gift will create what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind program in which students who were undergraduate business majors will earn three degrees-a J.D., an LL.M. in taxation, and an MBA – in just four years.

"This generous gift to the law school bolsters the cross disciplinary initiatives that are a top priority at UM," said UM President Donna E. Shalala. "Steve Mariano has provided the law school with a gift that will benefit our most brilliant law students."

The Mariano JD, MBA, LL.M. Program will begin next academic year, awarding scholarships to students who will be known as Mariano Scholars.

"Law and contracts are a very big part of what I do daily," explained Mariano, who serves as Chairman and CEO of Fort Lauderdale-based Patriot National Insurance Group, Inc., a leading national provider of workers' compensation insurance; Patriot Risk Services, Inc., a URAC-accredited insurance services provider; and Six Points Investment Partners, LLC. "In this particular case, the triple-degree program will meld law, taxation and business. It's very important for CEOs to have people working for them who have this type of specialty. Usually you don't see that in one person. This is something that's very much needed and a specialty that will be in even higher demand in the future."

"A good tax lawyer has to understand the business objective for, and the economics behind, the transactions he is reviewing," said Patricia Brown, director of the UM law school's Graduate Program in Taxation, recently ranked fifth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. "Most tax lawyers, to the extent they learn this at all, do so piecemeal over the first few years of practice. The sequencing of the courses in this program will result in students having the necessary business knowledge before they take the specialized tax classes that complete the LL.M. degree. It will give them an enormous head start in practice."

As part of the triple-degree program, Brown said the School of Law's taxation program will develop advanced courses "that take advantage of the business knowledge that these students will bring to the table. This should create a 'virtuous circle,' where top students are attracted to the program because of the quality of the courses."

School of Law Dean Patricia D. White called the program "highly demanding," explaining that the combination of legal and business courses "will give graduates an extraordinary skill set. Steve understands the power of what we are offering."

Mariano said his will be more than just a name on a program. He intends to offer to mentor the students and to help to arrange internships for them.

"The University of Miami is, without question, the leading institution in South Florida and also among the best in the country," Mariano said. "It has a nationally ranked tax program, and Dean White has done a tremendous job bolstering the School of Law. We wanted to support an institution that has a great impact on our community. The stronger the University of Miami is the more that the nation's best and brightest will come to South Florida."

Mariano came to South Florida 11 years ago, establishing Patriot National's headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. He is active in the South Florida community, staying involved with several charitable and development organizations. He will serve as chair of the 2011 Broward Heart Ball, one of the largest regional charity events in South Florida, which will benefit the American Heart Association. He is a proud father of five children, ages 12 to 19, and his cousin, Christopher Pizzo, J.D. ’09, the Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff at Patriot National, is a graduate of UM's law school.