Larger than life, it's lawyer Tom Kline, in stone, at Drexel - Update 4/16

Camera icon Joseph N. DiStefano
Tom Kline, a Philadelphia trial lawyer, is depicted in this larger-than-life statue in the lobby of the former Beneficial bank building in Center City Philadelphia, which Kline purchased for Drexel University’s law school and has been renamed for him.

Philadelphia’s monument population includes full-size depictions of Benjamin Franklin (there are a few around the Penn campus), and metal and stone representations of other Revolutionary patriots, Civil War generals, Lenape chiefs, fictional favorites Rocky Balboa, Poe’s raven and Don Quixote, and politicians now famous and obscure, from William Penn to Frank Rizzo.

And now we can add trial lawyer Tom Kline, partner in Specter & Kline, PC, to that list. Kline’s larger-than-life statue on a pedestal has been set up in the lobby of the Classical Revival former Beneficial Savings Bank headquarters, pending a May dedication.

New details 4/16: Kline stands 7 foot 6 inches atop a yard-high pedestal in the marble statue. The sculptor is Christopher Collins, whose Glenside studio also produced “Spirit Warriors” for the National Park Service, an outline depicting Dakotas on horseback at site of the Battle of Little Bighorn in South Dakota, where tribal fighters killed U.S. Gen. George Custer and his men; and a bronze image of George Washington in the entrance to the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital, among other works.

Sculptor Collins “spent over a year working on this [Klein[ statue and he actually had to go to Italy to work with marble carvers there to complete the job.  He spent a month in Carrara, where the marble for Michelangelo’s David came from,” the sculptor’s brother, Dr. Matthew M. Collins, a cardiologist, told me. “Nobody in the USA does marble like this, so it took some time to figure out.”

Vacated when the bank moved to more modern quarters in 2001, the newly renovated building is now part of Drexel University’s law school, which Drexel agreed to rename the Thomas R. Kline School of Law when it accepted a gift in cash and property whose value Kline estimated at $50 million, in 2014.

The gift enabled Kline’s name to replace that of real estate baron Earle Mack, who had pledged $15 million in matching funds for a Drexel law school expansion project that was later canceled.

Gift markers have been in the news locally, in connection with Blackstone Group cofounder Stephen Schwarzman’s proposals, since modified, for renaming Abington High School and putting his family’s and friends’ names on several locations there, after he promised his alma mater $25 million. No statue plans in Abington.

I asked writer Dan Rottenberg, who has studied and written about Philadelphia philanthropy, if the Kline statue fit in an older tradition.

Rottenberg says Kline’s beneficiaries have done “a fine job of salvaging a venerable downtown bank building,” but he sees this statue as a departure: “This kind of monument to oneself flies in the face of Philadelphia’s self-effacing Quaker tradition. That’s why, for example, there are few Philadelphia streets named after Philadelphians.”

There is no statue of the late James Beasley at the Temple University law school, which is named for its lead donor, Kline’s onetime boss and later rival. Beasley is among the lawyers whose 2-D portraits are displayed at the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame, a national institution housed at Temple. Kline, at least for now, is not in the Hall of Fame at Temple. Drexel has shown its appreciation in marble.