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Law School Establishes James H. Michael Chair in International Human Rights

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James H. Michael (’47) (right) and his son, Jeff, at the 2010 Annual Scholarship Dinner


The Law School has received a $1 million estate gift commitment from James H. Michael (’47), allowing endowment of a new clinical chair to be named the James H. Michael Chair in International Human Rights.

“My father has travelled extensively and has always had a strong curiosity about foreign cultures,” says Michael’s son, Jeff. “He spent much of the past 20 years in Thailand and initiated international business ventures from there. He has fond memories of his years at the Law School and is taking this opportunity to become a more active alumnus. His experiences around the world sparked his interest in a gift advancing international human rights, and he looks forward to having an impact on the lives of others through his contribution.”

Michael’s gift qualifies for a special 1:1 matching fund created by the University of Minnesota to support three new endowed chair positions initially funded through grants from the Robina Foundation. The Law School will use his gift to secure a faculty member to chair its recently developed Human Rights Litigation and International Legal Advocacy Clinic, directed by human rights expert Professor Jennifer M. Green.

Students in the Clinic have opportunities to learn interviewing and documentation techniques and to experience human rights advocacy first-hand in such forums as state and federal courts. In October 2010, for example, the Clinic joined the team filing a complaint in U.S. District Court on behalf of Abdul Al Janko against U.S. Department of Defense officials for human rights violations and wrongful detention at Guantanamo Bay.

“The Law School is delighted to receive this gift,” says David Wippman, Law School Dean, “and is grateful to the Michael family for supporting the extraordinary depth of the human rights education we give our students.”

In January 2010, in a separate gift to the Law School, Michael established the James H. Michael Scholarship, which will help support students interested in global human rights and international affairs. Matthew Webster (’11) is the inaugural recipient.

Michael served in the 42nd “Rainbow” Infantry Division during World War II, which is widely known for liberating prisoners at the Dachau concentration camp in 1945. The experience stayed with Michael through the years as he headed several successful commercial enterprises. His gifts are one way that he supports human rights at the Law School and around the world.