Robina Foundation Gives $25 million to Fund Law School’s James H. Binger Center for New Americans and Clinical Faculty Professorship 

February 6, 2017

Today the University of Minnesota Law School announced a transformational $25 million gift from the Robina Foundation. The grant—the single largest philanthropic gift in the Law School’s history—will fund the newly named James H. Binger Center for New Americans, establish a James H. Binger Professorship in Clinical Law, and provide scholarship support to Law School students.

The gift will provide permanent financial support to the Law School for the ongoing operations of the James H. Binger Center for New Americans. The Center brings about transformative change by creating a national model for the provision of comprehensive and cohesive legal services for immigrant communities through a variety of means, including improving federal immigration law and policy through impact litigation; protecting detainee rights and improving access to legal representation for refugees and immigrants; educating noncitizens about their legal rights; creating dynamic and comprehensive immigration clinics for students; and collaborating with others on immigration issues. During its four-year pilot program—supported by the Robina Foundation—the Center won a landmark case at the U.S. Supreme Court; won political asylum for clients from around the world; and won release for detained immigrants in Minnesota.

The Center has three law firm partners—Dorsey and Whitney, Faegre Baker Daniels, and Robins Kaplan—and three nonprofit partners—the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and The Advocates for Human Rights.

The Robina Foundation gift will be distributed in this way: $23.5 million will be directed for an endowment to support the Center, $1 million to establish and fund the James H. Binger Professorship in Clinical Law, and $500,000 to support scholarships for Law School students.

The clinical law professorship shall be awarded to a faculty member teaching within the Binger Center with a focus on immigration, asylum, detainee rights, and/or refugee law and policy.

Speaking at today’s public announcement ceremony, University President Eric Kaler said, “We only need to look at the headlines to understand the importance of this gift. There are very few issues as pressing today in Minnesota and around the nation as the legal and public policies about—and the fate of—our immigrant and refugee communities. To our very generous partner, the Robina Foundation: Thank you for your sense of justice and your remarkable generosity. We’re so honored to be able to translate this historic gift into action: educating and training a committed group of young lawyers to ensure the safety of—and justice for—Minnesota’s new Americans, and others like them around the country and the world. This is a great day for our University, for our Law School, and for justice for all Americans.”

Commented Dean Garry W. Jenkins: “This gift represents an extraordinary vote of support for the University of Minnesota Law School. The work of the Binger Center will impact immigration law and policy and support vulnerable people whose lives and livelihoods have been damaged by conflict and persecution. Moreover, the Center is unlike any other clinical program found at other law schools, because it unites an entire community of talented advocates in common cause for the rights of immigrants and refugees, and it gives law students leading roles in this work. By combining the passion and intelligence of our students with the resources and expertise of our partners, we provide unparalleled representation to immigrants—often saving families, sometimes even saving lives.

“Thank you to the Robina Foundation for your extraordinary vision, this strategic investment, and for the assurance that our students will benefit from the highest quality of experiential learning for generations to come.”

“Legal education is in the midst of significant change,” said Kathleen Blatz (’84), chair of the Robina Foundation and former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, “and we are enthusiastic about how the University of Minnesota Law School remains committed to educational excellence and programmatic innovation. In a short period, the Center has proven itself to be a vital part of our community and a highly influential entity at a time when immigration is at the center of the national conversation. This project is consistent with the legacy of James Binger and his desire to promote transformational philanthropy.”

Professor Benjamin Casper Sanchez (’97), director of the Center, said: “To the Robina Foundation—we are thankful you believed in us and provided us the pilot funding to build the Center together these past four years. We can’t begin to express our gratitude now for this truly historic gift. The call we put out today is to young people, and to people of any age, who have been inspired by the example of immigrants and refugees overcoming enormous obstacles to become new Americans. If you are one of these people and you want to make a difference by becoming a lawyer, then we are talking to you. If you want to join our cause and defend the values of human dignity at the core of the United States Constitution, then please reach out to us. Apply to law school! There’s never been a more important time for you to follow your values and your idealism. With the endowment of the Binger Center for New Americans here at the University of Minnesota Law School, I promise you there has never been a better place.”

The Robina Foundation, a Minnesota-based private grant-making foundation, seeks to positively impact critical social issues by encouraging innovation and financially supporting transformative projects of its four institutional partners. These partners, selected by the foundation’s founder, James H. Binger (’41), are Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, the University of Minnesota Law School, and Yale University. This newest grant brings the Robina Foundation’s total giving to the University of Minnesota to nearly $60 million since 2008.

Left to right: President Kaler, Dean Jenkins, Kathleen Blatz (’84), and Professor Casper Sanchez—with staff and partners of the Binger Center—speak at Robina gift announcement
Left to right: President Kaler, Dean Jenkins, Robina Foundation Chair Kathleen Blatz (’84), and Professor Casper Sanchez (’97)—with staff and partners of the Binger Center—speak at Robina gift announcement

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