The Northwestern University School of Law will soon be the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. It will also be $100 million richer.
In an unveiling ceremon today (Oct. 22), which included a brass band and a room-full of students, faculty members, and alums, William Osborne, Northwestern University’s board of trustees chair, announced the gift from J.B. and M.K. Pritzker. The Pritzkers are heirs of a philanthropic family that built their fortune by establishing Hyatt Hotels.
“Today we celebrate a major turning point in the history of the law school. And dare I say, the history of legal education,” Osborne said. When Osborne announced the gift, his voice was shaking and he later said the generosity made him “teary eyed.” The gift, which is the largest ever given to a United States law school, caused the room to give an extended standing ovation.
GIFT TO FUND LOW-INCOME STUDENTS AND DEVELOP ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro called the gift “an extraordinary infusion of resources” and would allow the law school to “raise it’s sights higher than they had dreamed possible.” Later adding, “With our new name, and our new resources, what we will achieve together is barely imaginable today.”
According to the school, the resources will go to allowing the best students, regardless of socio-economic background, to attend Northwestern. Additionally, the resources will be dedicated to advancing the intersection of business, law, and technology and developing social justice efforts.
“If our law school graduates select fields that are highly paid because of their passion for those subjects, that’s great,” Schapiro said at the event. “But, if less well-paid options aren’t even considered due to student loan burdens from undergrads and then here at law school, that’s our fault.”
PRITZKER FAMILY HAS DEEP CHICAGO ROOTS
Resources from the gift will permanently endow the school’s entrepreneurship center and will rename it to the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurial Law Center. It will also help develop a new master of science in law degree for “professionals employed in the scientific, engineering, and medical fields,” according to a prepared statement from the school.
Finally, the gift will advance work in the school’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, the Children and Family Justice Center, the Center on International Human Rights, and the Environmental Law Center.
“Yes, this is a challenging time for the legal profession and for law schools,” Northwestern Law School Dean Dan Rodriguez said during the event. “But it is as well, an ideal time for those law schools like ours, which are deeply committed to the principle that law is a fulcrum for economic progress and social change.”
The Pritzker family has deep roots to the university and Chicago. Nicholas Pritzker was raised as an immigrant in poverty and settled in Chicago in 1881. In 1900, he was admitted to the Illinois College of Law, where he later graduated. Donald Pritzker, J.B.’s father, was the co-founder and chief executive of the Hyatt Hotels Corporation. J.B. graduated from Northwestern Law in 1993 and the Pritzker Family Foundation has gifted the university in each of the past 16 years.
BUILDING A ‘UNIQUE INSTITUTION FOR CHANGING THE WORLD’
Schapiro insisted this would be a continuation of strong fundraising efforts and would not lead to a “sense of complacency” from the university. “We will not let you down,” he added.
Rodriguez concluded his remarks by saying they are “supremely confident our law school will prosper in this time of change.”
“We are truly building a unique institution for changing the world here in Chicago,” he announced.
In 2013, Chapman University School of Law received a hefty $55 million donation from Dave Fowler, a real estate developer, and his wife, Sarah Ann Fowler. In the 1990s, the University of Arizona law school received a series of donations totaling $130 million from James Rogers, a broadcasting executive.