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Billionaire developer donates $25 million to Northwestern University

Neil Bluhm

Neil Bluhm

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Updated: January 19, 2014 11:48AM

Casino and real-estate developer Neil Bluhm, a Chicago billionaire, has donated $25 million to Northwestern University, including the largest gift ever — $15 million — dedicated to the law school.

Bluhm received his law degree from Northwestern in 1962, and serves as a national trustee, a board member of Northwestern’s Memorial Foundation and helps support the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“I am extremely pleased to support Northwestern University and the law school with this commitment,” Bluhm said in a statement. “And I am especially proud to assist with the important work of the law school. I am inspired by the vision of Dean Daniel Rodriguez and his goals for the law school’s mission and future.”

Rodriguez said in a statement that the gift “will enable us to temper financial burdens on our law students, advance the excellent work of the Bluhm Legal Clinic and pursue strategic initiatives to strengthen the impact and reputation of our world-class law school.”

Of the total, $6 million will be used to support need-based financial aid and key initiatives of the law school’s strategic plan, which is under development. The law school’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program will be the next biggest beneficiary of the gift — $5 million will be used to help graduates who accept public service and government jobs to repay law school loans.

The Bluhm Legal Clinic will receive $3 million to strengthen its endowment and enhance clinical legal education programs; these funds are in addition to the $7 million Bluhm has already given to support the legal clinic.

The remaining $1 million will be used over a 10-year period to build support from law school alumni through annual gifts to the Law School Fund.

Bluhm, president of JMB Realty Corporation, has had a long history of giving to Northwestern. In 1999, he pledged nearly $7 million to the Neil G. Bluhm Fund that led to the naming of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at the law school. Bluhm’s children — Leslie, Andrew and Meredith — participated in the funding of that gift.

A Northwestern national trustee from 1986 to 2008 and a life trustee since 2008, Bluhm received Northwestern’s Alumni Medal in 2009, the highest honor an alumnus can receive from the University. Bluhm serves on the Board of Trustees’ Investment Committee.

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