Northwestern University School of Law professor emeritus Newton Minow
Northwestern University School of Law professor emeritus Newton Minow ()

Two top law schools are creating endowed professorships, thanks to hefty donations.

A group of donors raised $4 million to establish the Newton N. Minow professorship at Northwestern University School of Law, while entertainment attorney Betram Fields pledged $5 million to Harvard Law School to create the Betram Fields professorship.

Northwestern will also establish a Newton N. Minow Debates series, to be held every other year on a variety of legal topics. The series is a nod to Minow’s past as head of the Federal Communications Commission during the 1960s, and also to his work establishing the first televised U.S presidential debates.

Minow graduated from Northwestern Law in 1950, and is a trustee and professor emeritus in addition to being senior counsel at Sidley Austin. The $4 million gift came from Minow’s friends, law firm colleagues and fellow alumni, according to the law school.

“Newt’s contributions to public and civic life in the United States, the practice of law and the intellectual life of the law school are beyond measure,” dean Daniel Rodriguez said. “He is also a friend and mentor to many generations of lawyers.”

Minow is perhaps best known for a 1961 speech he delivered as FCC chairman in which he called television a “vast wasteland.” The creators of Gilligan’s Island then sarcastically named the fictional S.S. Minnow after him, Minow recounted during a 2011 talk at Harvard Law School.

Harvard donor Fields is a partner at Greenberg Glusker in Los Angeles and has represented some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, including the Beatles, DreamWorks Studios, Tom Cruise and Tom Clancy. The 1952 Harvard Law graduate has written two novels and two nonfiction works. He lectures on entertainment law at Harvard and teaches an entertainment law course at Stanford Law School.

“Harvard is an institution that over the centuries has contributed enormously to American thought, especially judicial though,” Fields said. “It changed my life dramatically and had a fundamental impact on me and my career.”

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com.