Neil Bluhm Gives $15 Million to Northwestern Law

December 17, 2013

Gift is the Largest in Law School History

Neil G. Bluhm, a member of the class of 1962, has made a gift of $15 million to Northwestern University School of Law to support public interest and government work through the Loan Repayment Assistance Program and clinical legal education at the Bluhm Legal Clinic. It is the largest charitable gift in the Law School’s history.

It is part of a $25 million leadership gift from Bluhm and the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation that will also benefit Northwestern University and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“I am extremely pleased to support Northwestern University, the Law School, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital with this commitment,” said Bluhm. “And I am especially proud to assist with the important work of the Law School. I am inspired by the vision of Dean Daniel Rodriguez and his goals for the Law School’s mission and future.”

Bluhm wanted his gift to be allocated in ways that would help Dean Rodriguez accomplish his key objectives. With that in mind, the largest portion of the gift—$6 million—will be unrestricted. It is anticipated that these funds will be used to fund key initiatives growing out of the currently underway strategic planning process and need-based financial aid. The Law School’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program will be the next biggest beneficiary of the gift—$5 million dollars will be used to help graduates who accept public service and government jobs repay law school loans. The Bluhm Legal Clinic will receive $3 million to strengthen its endowment and enhance clinical legal education programs; these funds are in addition to the $7 million Bluhm has already given to support the legal clinic. The remaining $1 million will be used over a ten-year period to build ongoing, sustainable support from Law School alumni through annual gifts to the Law School Fund.

“With major changes in legal practice forcing law schools to evolve to meet the demands of the market, we live in an unprecedented time of both challenge and opportunity,” said Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez. “The old models don’t work as well as they once did; we need to build new models. Northwestern Law School is able to do this because of the extraordinary support of alumni like Neil Bluhm. This is the largest gift in the Law School’s history, but that is not why it is important. What is important about Neil Bluhm’s gift is the future it makes possible.”

Following his graduation from Northwestern Law, Bluhm launched a remarkable and distinguished career. He began at the Chicago law firm of Mayer, Brown, and Platt, where he quickly became partner before co-founding the JMB Realty Corporation in 1970. JMB promptly became a major commercial real estate investment firm that owns, develops, and manages a variety of large real estate projects throughout North America, including malls, hotels, planned communities and office complexes.

As managing principal, Bluhm also oversees the strategic direction of Walton Street Capital LLC, a private equity real estate investment firm that he co-founded in 1995 with former senior executives of JMB Realty. The firm focuses on investing the principals’ own capital in real estate, in partnership with institutional and private investors. Since its founding, affiliates of Walton Street Capital have received total equity commitments in excess of $7 billion.

Bluhm has also developed casinos in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Mississippi and Canada, as well as The Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois, which opened in July 2011. Over the past forty years, Bluhm has overseen the acquisition and development of approximately $50 billion in real estate and casino projects.

Additionally, Bluhm has a distinguished record of service and philanthropy to the University and to the Law School. In 1999, he and several members of his family gave a gift of $7 million that named the Bluhm Legal Clinic. He serves on the Board of Trustees’ Investment Committee, and previously he served on the Law School’s Law Board, the Law School Visiting Committee, the Law Alumni Board, the Law Development Board, and the Law Campaign Steering Committee (during Campaign Northwestern). In 2009, he received Northwestern’s Alumni Medal, the highest honor an alumnus can receive from the University.

Currently, he is a Life Trustee at Northwestern University, board president of the Whitney Museum of American Art, life trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, a member of the board of Northwestern Memorial Foundation, a benefactor of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and an honorary director of the Greater Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. He has also served on the advisory board of the nonprofit group Chicago Cares, which his daughter Leslie founded.

Bluhm is the father of three children, Leslie N. Bluhm, Andrew G. Bluhm, and Meredith A. Bluhm-Wolf. Meredith is a 1995 graduate of Northwestern Law, and she serves on the Bluhm Legal Clinic Advisory Board.

“We are sincerely grateful to Neil and his family for this generous gift that will significantly benefit the Law School at a transformative time in legal education,” said Northwestern President Morton Schapiro. “It’s a major commitment that will lend critical support to the Law School’s bold leadership, innovative programs, and distinctive scholarship in American jurisprudence.”