Northwestern University trustee Neil Bluhm and the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation have made a $25 million gift to Northwestern.
The gift includes a $15 million commitment for the law school, the biggest gift ever made to the school. It will also provide funding for other areas including including Northwestern Medicine, the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the Bienen School of Music and the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University.
“I am extremely pleased to support Northwestern University and the law school with this commitment,” Bluhm, a 1962 graduate of the law school, 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.”
“This is an extraordinarily generous gift from Neil and his family’s foundation,” Rodriguez said. “It 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.”
Bluhm asked that his gift be allocated in ways that would help Dean Rodriguez accomplish his key objectives. With that in mind, the largest portion of the gift — $6 million — will be unrestricted. These funds 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 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 ongoing, sustainable support from law school alumni through annual gifts to the Law School Fund.
“We are sincerely grateful to Neil and his family for this wonderful gift that will significantly benefit the law school at a transformative time in legal education,” said Northwestern President Morton Schapiro. “It’s a major commitment that will lend critical support to the law school’s bold leadership, innovative programs and distinctive scholarship in American jurisprudence.”
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. He is also a member of the Cancer Center Advisory Board. Bluhm is a former member of the KSM Center for Real Estate Research Advisory Council, the Law School Visiting Committee, the Law Alumni Board, the Law Development Board and the Law Campaign Steering Committee (during Campaign Northwestern).
Bluhm co-founded JMB Realty Corporation in 1970 with his college roommate, Judd D. Malkin. JMB Realty is a major commercial real estate investment firm that owns, develops and manages a variety of large real estate projects throughout North America, including malls, hotels, planned communities and office complexes.
As managing principal, Bluhm also oversees the strategic direction of Walton Street Capital LLC, a private equity real-estate investment firm that he co-founded in 1995 with former senior executives of JMB Realty. The firm focuses on investing the principals’ own capital in real estate, in partnership with institutional and private investors. Since its founding, affiliates of Walton Street Capital have received total equity commitments in excess of $7 billion.
Bluhm has also developed casinos in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Mississippi and Canada, as well as The Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, which opened in July 2011. Over the past 40 years, Bluhm has overseen the acquisition and development of approximately $50 billion in real estate and casino projects.
In addition, Bluhm is a CPA. He began his career as an attorney and is a former partner in the Chicago law firm of Mayer, Brown and Platt.
Bluhm is a member of the board of Northwestern Memorial Foundation and a benefactor of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
He is also board president of the Whitney Museum of American Art, a life trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago and an honorary director of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Greater Illinois Chapter. In addition, he has served on the advisory board of the nonprofit group Chicago Cares, which was founded by his daughter Leslie N. Bluhm.
His daughter Meredith A. Bluhm-Wolf, who graduated from NU's law school in 1995, serves on the Bluhm Legal Clinic Advisory Board.