Last night we orchestrated a surprise for Newton N. Minow, JD ’50. Lured to a reception at Sidley Austin LLP’s Chicago offices (where he is Senior Counsel) under false pretenses, Newt arrived to discover it was in fact a surprise party in his honor—to thank him for his many contributions to American political discourse, to First Amendment jurisprudence, to legal education and practice; and to announce the creation of the Newton N. Minow Professorship at Northwestern Law.
This new named chair was made possible by a remarkable group of people: personal friends, fellow alumni, and Sidley Austin colleagues. Together, they donated gifts totaling $4 million to create an endowment for a new named professorship in his honor. The gifts also establish the Newton N. Minow Debates, which will bring together outside experts, law school faculty, and students to debate important and timely legal topics.
Newt’s contributions to public and civic life in the United States are extraordinary. Appointed by President Kennedy, Newt served as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1960s. In 1961 he gave a speech that became famous for his criticism of television as a “vast wasteland.” Not one to merely criticize, Newt set about improving broadcast communications in an astonishing variety of ways. While at the FCC he actively promoted the implementation of communication satellite technology at a time when most people had almost no understanding of that technology. He was instrumental in the creation of the All-Channels Act, legislation passed by Congress in 1961 that made more of the broadcast spectrum available to the public. One result of this was public educational programming, and it’s not much of a stretch to say that without Newt there would be no Big Bird.
In the 1970s he served as chairman and director of the Public Broadcasting Service. In 1976, Newt and two other Northwestern Law grads, Henry Geller, JD ’49, and Richard Wiley, JD ’58, reintroduced televised Presidential debates (an idea that was originally launched in 1960 but had, in the intervening years, fallen on hard political times) and worked with the FCC to change the rules so that these important public information events could be broadcast. Their efforts paid off and the debates began again, starting with Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in 1976. Newt even co-chaired the 1976 and 1980 debates. (For an interesting article about the history of these debates, check out “TV Debates: The Heart of the Presidential Race.”)
The Presidential debates have become an important part of the American political process, and they provided the inspiration for the idea to honor his legacy further by creating a permanent debate program here at Northwestern Law.
Newt identified a problem and then worked diligently, systematically, and effectively to address it. This combination of astute analysis and creative problem solving is what makes him such an effective attorney. He is also a friend and mentor to many generations of lawyers. The fact that the endowment is funded by a consortium of Newt’s personal friends and colleagues illustrates the strength of these relationships. I extend my thanks to them, and to Newt, for their many contributions!
Comprehensive notice here.
We will be pleased to honor, this afternoon at a regal ceremony, the three newest holders of endowed chairs at the Law School:
Steve Calabresi to the Barber Chair
Matt Spitzer to the Chapman Chair
David Dana to the Kirkland & Ellis Chair
The great accomplishments of these distinguished teacher-scholars are included in detail on the attached notice, as are the histories of these chairs. Let me just add that it is always a pleasure to acknowledge the accomplishments of our top faculty by selecting them as chair recipients. Moreover, this ceremony also allows us to thank properly those responsible for the extraordinary gifts that make these treasured professorships possible. And, so, to the Barber and Chapman families and to the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, thank you on behalf of a grateful law school!
Amazing denouement to a story that began with a talented, intrepid young Georgean, Horace Ward, who, as an African American, was rejected as a law student at the University of Georgia in the early 1950′s. He persisted with his strong claim of racial discrimination and the dispute ended only when Mr. Ward was successful in seeking admission to Northwestern University School of Law, from which he graduated in 1959.
He continued on to a stellar career as a lawyer, a state senator, and, with President Carter’s appointment, the first African-American federal judge in Georgia. The University of Georgia, of course, become desegregated in later years — surely in no small part due to the efforts of this remarkable man.
This May, U. Georgia will be awarding Judge Ward an honorary doctor of laws. I know all members of the NU Law community will commend UGA on this appropriate, if long overdue, gesture. And, likewise, all will join me in a warm congratulations to the great Judge Ward!
(thanks to Tony Tangora, in our development office, for pointing me to this story).
Earlier this week the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in People v. Davis, deciding that the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama is retroactive in Illinois. The Miller case decided that children under the age of 18 at the time of their offenses could not receive a sentence of life without parole without consideration of their specific circumstances. Now, individuals currently serving mandatory juvenile life sentences without parole in Illinois will have an opportunity to have resentencing hearings. These hearings will allow judges to weigh all of the circumstances in the 80-odd cases that were subject to these mandatory sentences.
An article in today’s edition of the Chicago Tribune focused on the perspective of judges in particular: “Ruling offers hope to some imprisoned as youths: Judges also pleased by end to mandatory life terms for juveniles.” The article highlights the tireless efforts of lawyers in the Children and Family Justice Center to, in the words of Alison Flaum, Clinical Associate Professor of Law and Legal Director of the CFJC, “…demonstrate the problems with mandatory, one-size-fits-all sentencing.”
“These are but two of the many examples of the impact of Bluhm’s work in the representation of clients and on justice reform,” Tom Geraghty, Director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic (and Northwestern Law alum!) told me earlier today. “Working with others, Bluhm faculty provide important leadership in an impressive array of justice-related activities. Our faculty-led initiatives provide unequaled educational experiences for our students. It is my hope that we will be able to capture and convey what Bluhm faculty are accomplishing while, at the same time, continuing to work collaboratively with the justice community (and with other leaders in clinical education) and modeling the best of professionalism for our students.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself!
If you are interested in additional information and perspectives on this decision, the Children and Family Justice Center published a recap of the Davis case and its implications on their blog, Youth Matters, and Joshua Tepfer published a thoughtful article about how this relates to his work on innocence cases on the Center on Wrongful Convictions blog.
Thank you to my colleagues for their extraordinary work in this area, and for their important contributions to juvenile justice.
NU notice here.
The Law School is hard at work in developing its strategic priorities and case statement for its campaign, to be launched in September of this year. This campaign, which will surely be the largest in the history of the Law School and among the largest of U.S. law schools generally, will help provide us the resources with which to undertake valuable innovations, support the important professional and academic work of our faculty and students, address student financial need, and build an enduring legacy for the Northwestern Law School for the years and decades to come.
Stay tuned for news about our campaign over the coming weeks and, as well, for information about our fall launch!
My colleague, Erin Delaney, was recently awarded a prestigious MacCormick Visiting Fellowship at Edinburgh Law School for her work on comparative constitutionalism. This Fellowship will allow her to expand her research on the United Kingdom and exchange ideas with her European colleagues. As part of the fellowship, she will teach a MacCormick Seminar on Constitutional Change in the United Kingdom at the Edinburgh Law School—a topic about which she also has a paper, “Judiciary Rising: Constitutional Change in the United Kingdom”—forthcoming in the Northwestern Law Review.
This is further evidence of the extraordinary strength of our constitutional law faculty, particularly in the emerging area of comparative constitutionalism.
The MacCormick Fellowships were created in honor of the memory of noted Philosophy of Law scholar Professor Sir Neil MacCormick, the Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at the University of Edinburgh from 1972 to 2008. The program supports advanced research in legal studies and the international exchange of ideas.
Please join me in congratulating Erin, and wishing her the best of luck in Scotland.
On the heels of a very successful Entrepreneurship Law Center symposium last weekend comes news of a successful startup endeavor that involves two of our JD/MBA students.
John Kuelper and Matthew Rosenstock, both JD/MBA ’14, are two members of a six-person team that formed Orpheden Therapeutics, a company that is working on commercializing a therapy to stimulate an individual’s immune system to fight cancer. The therapy is based on research done by Alan M. Krensky, MD, of the Feinberg School of Medicine.
Orpheden Therapeutics is a finalist in the Business Plan phase of the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge. The idea behind this competition is that there is a lot of important research just sitting out there, currently not being developed but with tremendous potential. The Challenge creates an opportunity for teams to take unused patents and create a business plan that would bring the technology to market. The hope is that this effort will unlock some of this research so that it might benefit mankind.
The Business Plan is an early phase of the larger challenge. Because of their success at this level, Orpheden will be able to compete later in the year for up to $100,000 in venture capital funding.
Orpheden Therapeutics is a project of Northwestern’s Innovation and New Ventures Office, which brings together teams from different academic backgrounds to support and accelerate entrepreneurship. Six students compose the team: from the Law School, John and Matthew; from the Feinberg School of Medicine, Jonathan Bell, a MD/PhD candidate, and Mthabisi Moyo and Daniel Levine, both doctoral candidates; and from the Kellogg School of Management, Ronald Mantel, an MBA student.
John is the CEO of Orpheden. He is also a student in the Medical Innovation class, where he is a member of another team, one that is working on an ophthalmology device that simplifies the delivery of post-operative medications to cataract and other eye surgery patients.
These endeavors reinforce something unique to Northwestern: the inclusion of law students on these types of entrepreneurial teams. It might not be immediately obvious why it would be important to have law students on a team that works on cancer therapies or ophthalmological devices. But the fact is these therapies and devices are developed in a highly complex legal and regulatory environment. Many pitfalls lie along the road to commercialization, problems and delays can be avoided by people who understand the requirements. I know from talking with venture capitalists that they value teams that have people who understand intellectual property and regulatory requirements, and they value that expertise because it makes a difference to the bottom line.
Congratulations to John and Matthew and the other members of the Orpheden Therapeutics team, and best of luck in the venture capital round! I look forward to following your progress.