To: Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Community
From: Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez
Re: A historic day for our Law School
Date: Thursday, October 22
J.B. Pritzker (JD ’93) and his wife, M.K., through the Pritzker Family Foundation, have pledged a donation in the amount of $100 million, the largest gift ever to any law school. This gift propels the amount raised in our Motion to Lead campaign above $190 million—in just the first year since the campaign’s public launch last September.
To honor their unprecedented generosity and to recognize the tremendous contributions of the Pritzker family to the fields of law, business, and public service, the Law School will henceforth be named the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. As such, we will join each of Northwestern University’s other professional schools (Kellogg and Feinberg) with names that recognize transformative benefactors to our programs.
Let me provide a bit more context on what this gift means for our Law School and legal education as a whole.
In short, it is a game-changer. A gift of this magnitude opens myriad possibilities and immediately catapults Northwestern to a position from which we can impact not only our Law School, but also legal education writ-large in constructive, profound, and market-demanding ways. Indeed, this gift creates a responsibility for us to do this. While the gift in and of itself will not get us all of the way to fulfilling our comprehensive plans, we are now closer than ever before.
Amidst the systemic and disruptive changes of the past decade, legal education is at a crossroads. The profession and marketplace require that law schools prepare a new kind of lawyer—one who is able to navigate and lead complex legal and policy problems and to work imaginatively at the interface of law, business, and technology. The challenges we face demand that we break legal education out of its traditional silo, and bring forward multi-disciplinary programs and tools to address the growing complexity of our modern world. Spurred by J.B.’s and M.K.’s remarkable gift along with the generosity of so many others, both in the past and future, Northwestern is now poised to do just that.
The Pritzker gift will create scholarships for future law students, helping to make a first-rate legal education accessible regardless of a student’s financial circumstances, and assisting us in our efforts to enroll the nation’s top law students.
A substantial portion of the gift will be used to develop initiatives, curricula, and projects aimed at developing students and graduates who are creative, constructive problem-solvers, armed with an entrepreneurial mindset and multidisciplinary skills and resolutely committed to social justice and the rule of law. The Pritzker gift will give us the financial foundation to continue and expand this valuable work.
The gift will permanently endow and rename the Law School’s Entrepreneurship Law Center after J.B.’s father, as the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurial Law Center; fund entrepreneurial and leadership skill development endeavors; and advance law-business-technology initiatives, including the Master of Science in Law program for professionals in scientific, engineering, and medical fields.
The gift will support faculty excellence through endowed professorships. It also will support our ongoing and emerging public interest initiatives in the United States and in key regions throughout the world.
Our reform efforts thus focus on two main objectives: to make law school more affordable and to make it more adaptive to the modern world. This gift enables us to make meaningful progress in both respects. The future has never been brighter for our esteemed Law School.
The Pritzkers are longtime Northwestern supporters. They have made gifts to the University for 16 consecutive years and have been strong supporters of the Law School’s annual fund. They have supported the Law School’s Center for International Human Rights and the Center on Wrongful Convictions and, fifteen years ago, the family’s $10 million leadership gift in our prior campaign established the Pritzker Legal Research Center.
A key moment in their story hinges to Nicholas J. Pritzker, who arrived in Chicago in 1881 and grew up an immigrant in poverty. His family believed that education was the key to a better life, and Nicholas, who eventually put himself through law school, ultimately built a highly successful law practice. Throughout his life he committed himself and his family to public service and community purpose. He raised three sons, all of whom followed their father in obtaining their law degrees and joining the family’s law firm of Pritzker & Pritzker. Nicholas’ grandson, Donald Pritzker, was the co-founder and chief executive that built the Hyatt Hotels Corporation into a global hospitality brand. Three generations after Nicholas Pritzker raised himself out of poverty, the Pritzker family’s commitment to improving the communities in which they live has endured. It has become one of the nation’s most successful business families and owes its success to the study of law and to entrepreneurship.
M.K. Pritzker is a director of the Pritzker Family Foundation and serves as a trustee of the Northwestern Memorial Foundation. She is also founder of the Evergreen Invitational Foundation, which supports innovative programs and research studies at Northwestern Memorial Hospital that further explore and address important women’s health issues.
J.B. Pritzker received his J.D. from Northwestern Law in 1993. Equal to his philanthropic support has been his strong dedication and longstanding service to both the Law School and Northwestern University. He is a life member of the Northwestern Law Board, and he joined the University’s Board of Trustees in 2004.
J.B. is co-founder and managing partner of Pritzker Group. The private investment firm, with offices in Chicago and Los Angeles, comprises three professional investment teams: middle-market acquisitions, technology venture capital, and asset management.
He is a leader in the Chicago entrepreneurship community and has been the key driver in growing and strengthening the entrepreneurship and technology sectors in the Midwest. J.B. currently chairs ChicagoNEXT, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s council on innovation and technology. He founded 1871, Chicago’s digital startup center and played an important role in the creation of the Illinois Venture Capital Association, the nation’s top regional private equity association, and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, the leading regional advocate for entrepreneurs. He also cofounded Chicago Ventures and funded the startup of Techstars Chicago and Built in Chicago.
J.B. is a prime example of an individual who has utilized his legal training as a way to engage with and lead ventures that bridge the legal, business, technology, and entrepreneurship sectors. As such, attaching the Pritzker family name to our law school is a perfect match as we forge a path that will do the same—one that prepares our graduates to leverage these multi-faceted collaborations, to lead in a dynamic and changing profession and world, to foster solutions that spur economic growth, to facilitate necessary policy reforms, and to modernize and expedite the delivery of legal services for all throughout our society.
Please join me in thanking J.B. and M.K. for their incredible generosity and all of those throughout our community who have helped make this possible.
We will soon develop an FAQ page on our website to provide more information about this gift; I encourage you to read it.
This morning we held a celebratory event in Thorne Auditorium to commemorate this transformative occasion. It included remarks by President Schapiro, Board of Trustees Chair Bill Osborn, J.B. Pritzker, a current student and four of our faculty, and myself. If you were unable to attend in person, you may view a video recording of this ceremony on our website.
In closing, I am compelled to restate some language from our Motion to Lead campaign case statement which is now even more apropos. Indeed, these words fittingly belong with our Law School, the law school that, through the years, has consistently pioneered many of the legal academy’s most important and timely advances and innovations. This is our legacy and now, to an even greater extent, our duty.