APRIL 14, 2014— A fellowship for University of Minnesota Law School students studying human rights has been established in the name of prominent Iranian lawyer Mehdi Eftekhari, who died in 2013 at age 93. His daughter, Nazie Eftekhari, and son, Amir Homayoun Eftekhari, created the fellowship in their father's honor.
Between the 1940s and 1970s, Mehdi Eftekhari was instrumental in building modern-day Iran, providing expert counsel for the nation's first telephone service, first electrical grid and first system of dams. In 2000, he and his wife, Homa, moved to Minnesota to be with their children. Here, they helped the Bloomington-based Foundation for the Children of Iran provide critically needed medical care.
"My father had a strong commitment to the rule of law, a commitment he hoped to inspire in future jurists," said Nazie Eftekhari. "He knew that the way to a better life was through education."
The fellowship's first recipient is Sanam Ghandehari, who graduated from the University of Tehran, passed the Iranian bar exam and practiced law for six years before immigrating to the United States. In December 2013 she completed her LL.M. degree at the Law School; the next month she entered the J.D. program, where she is a member of the class of 2015.
"I was proud to receive a fellowship [in the name of] someone from my own country, especially one who went to the same law school I did in Iran," said Ghandehari. "Iranians like me who are trying to make a legal career in the United States have very few examples to follow. This fellowship shows me there are opportunities for us here."
"The University of Minnesota Law School has a long history of excellence in human rights law," said Dean David Wippman. "We are grateful to have a fellowship that will support our students in carrying on this tradition. Through the Human Rights Center, the newly established Center for New Americans, numerous clinics, scholarship, advocacy and pro bono work, the Law School offers a multitude of ways for students to involve themselves deeply and meaningfully in human rights law."
The Mehdi Eftekhari Fellowship in Law is part of Fast Start 4 Impact, which means it will receive an additional $10,000 over four years for student support. The Fast Start program, funded by the University of Minnesota Foundation, has raised $11.2 million to date, creating 104 Fast Start scholarships and fellowships, which are supporting 115 students.