Law Schools

Northwestern University School of Law announces $100M gift and new name

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Entrance to the Northwestern University School of Law

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What does $100 million get you these days? How about the naming rights to a major law school in the United States?

Northwestern University School of Law announced Thursday that wealthy hotel scion and venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker and his wife, M.K. Pritzker, will donate $100 million to the school, which will now be known as the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. During an event held at the law school, officials said that the donation would be used to support and expand the school’s social justice, entrepreneurial and clinical programs, as well as beef up financial aid opportunities to students.

“The purpose of the gift is broadly to help provide scholarships for the best students in the country so that no matter their socio-economic background, they can attend Northwestern Law School,” said J.B. Pritzker, a law school alumnus who noted during his remarks that his great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all attorneys.

Pritzker, who earned his J.D. in 1993, is also a life member of the Northwestern Law Board, and is a member of the University’s Board of Trustees. His wife, M.K., is a director of the Pritzker Family Foundation and serves as a trustee of the Northwestern Memorial Foundation.

In fact, Daniel Rodriguez, dean of the law school, promised that none of the money would be used on physical improvements to the school. “The point of this gift is that all of it goes to the efforts to enhance our educational opportunities for our students,” Rodriguez said during his remarks. “It will reduce the problem of student debt, which has an impact on students’ life choices and their professional choices.”

Law student Patricia Boone hammered home the impact that the donation would have on financially disadvantaged students by drawing from her background as a high school dropout who grew up in foster care. “This gift means nontraditional law students, despite their background, will have the opportunity to pursue their dream unapologetically,” said Boone, who got a standing ovation from the capacity crowd inside the largest auditorium at the now-Pritzker School. “It also means that all law students, regardless of their financial status, will have the same opportunities to participate in all law school programming.”

Besides the entire law school, the Pritzkers will also get their name on something else. School officials announced that the Entrepreneurship Law Center will now be known as the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurial Law Center—in honor of J.B. Pritzker’s father, a co-founder and former chief executive of Hyatt Hotels Corp.

“Helping our students develop an entrepreneurial mindset will prepare them to be more effective with their future endeavors, whether those endeavors involve becoming an entrepreneur, representing an entrepreneur or something else entirely,” said Esther Barron, director of the new law center. “By expanding the way law students approach legal and business issues, through real world experiences and opportunities to innovate, our grads will be better equipped to thrive in many different professional capacities, including business roles, legal roles, and what we see as a growing and important trend: blended roles that require competency in both.”

In the end, Pritzker said that the donation was really just a continuation of the original family business. “The study of law, the practice of entrepreneurship and the commitment to advancing civil and human rights—these are the common threads of my family history and of which I’m extremely proud,” said J.B. Pritzker, who according to Forbes has an estimated worth of $3.4 billion. “M.K. and I feel blessed to be able to honor our ancestors by making this gift to Northwestern School of Law.”

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