Courtney and Chris Combe Give $1 Million to Expand International Public Service Initiatives

Chris Combe, Courtney Combe, and Juliet Sorensen

As campaign co-chairs for We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern University, Courtney and Chris Combe are very familiar with the many ways philanthropy is working to help Northwestern students and faculty solve society’s most critical challenges. 

In their official capacity, the Combes joined the Law School community to celebrate the launch of Motion to Lead: The Campaign for Northwestern Law. They were struck by the Law School’s commitment to social justice initiatives, in the United States as well as around the world. They decided to make a gift that would enable the Law School to expand programming in an area they are deeply committed to: international public service and justice. 

Chris Combe is chairman of Combe Incorporated, a White Plains, N.Y.-based private, family-held company that manufactures and markets health and personal care products. He earned a B.A. in Economics from Northwestern in 1970. He has been a member of the University’s Board of Trustees since 1997 and of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors since 1981. 

Courtney Combe has been a member of the Women’s Board of Northwestern since 1987. A number of other members of the Combe family are also Northwestern graduates, including Ivan D. Combe, Chris Combe’s father and the founder of Combe Incorporated, who earned his undergraduate degree from Northwestern and studied at the Law School before pursuing his business career. 

The gift provides programmatic support for the Access to Health project, an initiative in which students and faculty from the Law School, the Feinberg School of Medicine, and the Kellogg School of Management work as a team to conduct needs assessments and implement sustainable, capacity-building interventions with communities around the world. This year, Access to Health students worked on a number of projects in communities around the world, including, notably, public health projects in Douentza, Mali

The gift also establishes two new fellowships, one for a Northwestern Law graduate to pursue international field work, and one that will bring a clinical fellow to the Access to Health program. 

The Michael and Mary Schuette Global Fellowship in Health and Human Rights will make it possible for Northwestern Law graduates to provide in-country support and advocacy for individuals and communities on issues related to health and human rights and development. 

“This is a tremendous opportunity for young attorneys interested in pursuing careers in health and human rights law,” said Juliet Sorensen, clinical associate professor of law with the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center for International Human Rights, who oversees the Access to Health Project. “There just aren’t that many post-graduate fellowships that support international public service work. I’m delighted we are able to offer this opportunity to our students.” 

The 2015–2016 Schuette Fellow will work with the Near East Foundation, the oldest non-sectarian non-governmental organization in the United States. 

The Michael and Mary Schuette Clinical Fellow in Health and Human Rights will assume a leadership role within the Access to Health program to expand the number of clinical opportunities available to students and to enhance the impact of the Clinic’s work in the communities it serves. 

The Combes named the Fellowships in honor of J. Michael Schuette and Mary Schuette. 

Mary Schuette earned her bachelor’s degree in 1960 from Northwestern, and is an active University volunteer. 

J. Michael Schuette earned his bachelor’s from Northwestern University in 1959 and his J.D. from the Law School in 1962. He worked for many years as outside general counsel for Combe Incorporated. He died in late 2014. 

“We wanted to honor Mike’s memory, as well as our long friendship with both of them,” Chris Combe said. “Even though my father didn’t finish his law degree, he always said that it was the best education he ever could have had for a business career. Our family’s business success has definitely been aided by Northwestern Law, and memorializing Mike is a way for us to honor that.” 

The Combes have been steadfast supporters of Northwestern University through the years. They have made significant gifts to the University, supporting athletics and initiatives focused on social entrepreneurship and sustainable solutions to global issues.

“This gift is another manifestation of their commitment to international justice, as well as their extraordinary commitment to Northwestern University,” said Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez. “The Access to Health program is a unique interdisciplinary program, and this gift will help expand its reach. That’s a tremendous benefit for Northwestern students and for communities around the world.” —Kirston Fortune

May, 2015