Michigan Law gets big gift, a trend for some lucky schools

Add the University of Michigan Law School to the list of law schools landing a sweet infusion of cold cash.

The school has received $33 million in a gift from Lisa and Chris Jeffries. Chris Jeffries, a 1974 grad of Michigan Law, is the co-founder of Millennium Partners, a real estate development company.

The gift, the largest in schjool history, was announced at the Board of Regents meeting in December. Santa could not have timed it better, considering how Christmas was right around the corner.

A number of schools have recently announced similar donations. The University of Alabama School of Law received a $26.5 million donation — also the largest in school history. It named the school after the donor, Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. 

Stanford University Law School got $25 million, which was the largest gift ever from an alum. The money is to expand the school's global education offerings. It was given by William A. Franke, a prominent businessman. 

The highest reported gift to a law school was $135 million, given to the University of Arizona College of Law. It was given by James Rogers, an attorney and media pioneer, and the school now bears his name. 

The  Jeffries' $33 million to the University of Michigan Law School will be entirely dedicated to student support, including scholarships and other forms of financial aid, summer funding programs, and debt management, the school announced. 

"We are deeply grateful for Lisa and Chris's transformational gift. Their generosity is particularly meaningful because it directly supports our students, who are the heart of our mission," said Mark D. West, dean and Nippon Life Professor of Law. "The Jeffries's support also reflects one of Michigan Law's greatest strengths: the passion and generosity of our alumni community."

By approval of the U-M Board of Regents at its December 6 meeting, the Law School's South Hall — opened in 2012 — will be named Jeffries Hall.

"Law school is a unique way of disciplining your mind, and my time at Michigan was formative and memorable," Chris Jeffries said. "I'm especially interested in paying the way forward for students who lack financial resources, and this gift will allow them to have opportunities and experiences they otherwise wouldn't be able to."

The Jeffries's total lifetime giving commitment amounts to more than $40 million. Their previous gifts include $5 million toward the building of South Hall in 2007 and $2.5 million to support the establishment of the Law School's 1L Summer Funding Program in 2015.

After obtaining his law degree, Jeffries was a partner in the Southfield, Michigan, law firm of Keywell & Rosenfeld and then a principal in the leveraged buyout of Key International Inc., a major metal recycling and automotive equipment manufacturing business in the Midwest.

The couple married in 2007 and resides in Miami.

Their gift contributes to the Victors for Michigan Law campaign, which will closed at the end of 2018 and has exceeded its $200 million goal.