DECEMBER 5, 2011—Human rights fellowships are just one facet of experiential education available at the Law School. Among the many alumni who are committed advocates of human rights work, two are Sam Heins (’72) and Judge Diana Murphy (’74). Each of them, recognizing the importance of private contributions to the Law School, decided to make a donation toward human rights fellowships. These fellowships offer students the opportunity to promote social justice through practical training and hands-on experience.
Murphy’s rich history of human rights work goes back to her first year of law school, when she was appointed by the governor to the Minnesota Constitution Study Commission. The 1971 Commission was established to consider whether a constitutional convention should be instituted or the existing constitution amended. Murphy was selected to head the committee reviewing and amending the sections of the constitution dealing with election laws and human rights.
Now a judge on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, Murphy sees her donation as a way to give students educational opportunities they may not otherwise have. Her hope is that recipients of the fellowships go on to "commit themselves to advance the rights of all peoples." She also gives a vote of confidence to Dean David Wippman and his agenda for the Law School, and she sees supporting the fellowships as a natural fit, given her experience and interests. "It’s a great period for the Law School," says Murphy. "I’m very happy about that."
Sam Heins is also dedicated to providing students with access to information and practical learning experiences. In reflecting on his own time as a student at the Law School, he recalls that no international human rights courses were offered and he had to seek out other avenues to learn about the subject. He hopes that by establishing the Samuel D. Heins Research Support Fund, human rights law will continue to be a part of the educational background for generations of lawyers.
When it comes to accepting recognition for any good work that may result from his fellowship support, Heins insists on taking a back seat to the students. He admires the students who "put themselves in wholly foreign and in some ways even threatening circumstances to do human rights work," he says. "If there’s good coming out of it, it’s because the students have the willingness and the energy and the courage to do it."
Heins acknowledges that few people are able to earn a living by practicing human rights law. However, in his view, whether a graduate ends up practicing tax law at a large New York firm or following one of the many other paths available after graduation, "engaging and making people interested in the first place is what matters."