Law School creates full–tuition scholarship program with $10 million gift

Sixty of the nation's best law school students will receive full-tuition scholarships to the University of Chicago Law School, thanks to a $10 million gift from alumnus and University Trustee David M. Rubenstein, JD'73.

The gift, the largest contribution from an individual in the Law School's history, will fund 20 merit scholarships in each of three successive classes, supporting 60 students in all—about one-tenth of the Law School's student enrollment. It is the largest scholarship effort the Law School has ever undertaken.

"We are grateful to David Rubenstein for his generosity," said President Robert J. Zimmer. "These scholarships will support outstanding students, and thereby enrich both the intellectual life of the Law School and ultimately the impact of the work of its alumni."

"David's magnificent act of philanthropy is a game-changer," said Law School Dean Michael Schill. "Our faculty are dedicated to teaching the nation's best law students, a commitment that has created the Law School's interactive, intellectual atmosphere. By helping our students, we will enhance this distinctive academic culture."

This gift to the University is personal for Rubenstein, who came from a family of modest means and attended the Law School on a full-tuition scholarship.

"My scholarship meant that I could tell my parents I wouldn't need any money from them for law school," Rubenstein said. "That meant a lot to me."

After a political career that included service in the Carter administration, Rubenstein became cofounder and managing director of the Carlyle Group, one of the world's largest private equity firms. He said his own law school scholarship enabled him to choose work in public service after law school - a benefit that he hopes the new scholarships also will provide.

"I probably couldn't have pursued that opportunity if I had been burdened with debt," Rubenstein said.

Rubenstein joined the University's Board of Trustees in 2007, and now serves on the Alumni Relations and Development Committee and the Financial Planning Committee. He is active in numerous philanthropic causes and currently serves as chairman of the board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

With the new program, the Law School is reviving a tradition of offering full scholarships to top students. Starting in 1959, the Law School provided the Floyd Russell Mechem Prize scholarship, one of the first full-tuition merit scholarships offered by any top-tier law school. That award helped up to eight students per year, and its recipients included U.S. Court of Appeals Judges Danny J. Boggs, JD'68, and Douglas Ginsburg, JD'73.

The Rubenstein gift is expendable, meaning it will be spent over a period of years rather than being placed in the endowment. Rubenstein said he hopes the program's success will spur other alumni to join the effort.

"Let's see the results right away," Rubenstein said. "If it works, you can expand it or extend it."

Like Rubenstein, Schill was among the first in his family to receive a post-secondary degree, and he also relied on scholarship support for his education.

"David's commitment to providing scholarships resonated strongly for me," Schill said.

Rubenstein said he views his contribution as a "modest repayment" for all that the Law School helped him to achieve.

"The Law School gave me so much, and I wanted to give back," he said.