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John William Sterling

John William Sterling (May 12, 1844 - July 5, 1918) was a philanthropist and corporate attorney, remembered as a benefactor to Yale University.

John William Sterling was born in Stratford, Connecticut[?]. He graduated Yale University with a B.A. in 1864; he was admitted to the bar in 1867. He obtained an M.A. degree in 1874 and an LL.D. from Columbia University Law School in 1893. He became a corporate lawyer in New York, and was a founder of the firm of Shearman & Sterling in 1873.

Around 1870, Sterling met James Orville Bloss, his intimate friend for the next fifty years. Historian Jonathan Ned Katz[?] suggests that theirs was also a sexual relationship.

Thomas G. Shearman[?], Sterling's partner, defended Reverend Henry Ward Beecher in his trial for adultery. Sterling was lawyer for Jay Gould, James Fisk, the National City Bank[?], and Standard Oil.

On his death in 1918 Sterling left an $18 million bequest to Yale University, which was at the time the largest non-founding contribution ever made by an individual to a private university -- equivalent to about $180 million dollars in 2003. A portion of this was used to fund the Sterling Professorships, and other portions used for building the Sterling Memorial Library, Sterling Divinity Quadrangle, the School of Medicine, Trumbull College, and the Hall of Graduate Studies.

Yale's Sterling School of Law is named for him.

Sterling is entombed at Woodlawn Cemetery.



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