Christmas arrived early for two law schools, in the form of generous donations.

Northwestern University School of Law received a $15 million gift from alumnus Neil Bluhm and the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation—the largest single gift in its history. Meanwhile, alumnus Louis Ainsworth has pledged $1 million to his alma mater, the William Mitchell College of Law, to endow a chair in law and business.

The Northwestern gift is part of a larger $25 million donation by Bluhm to the university—the rest earmarked for the medical and music schools and the university’s Holocaust Educational Foundation.

Of the law school’s allocation, $6 million is unrestricted; dean Daniel Rodriguez has elected to apply that money toward need-based financial aid and other key objectives. Another $5 million has been earmarked for the school’s loan repayment assistance program, which helps repay student loans for graduates in public service and government jobs.

Another $3 million will bolster the school’s Bluhm Legal Clinic, named for Bluhm in 1999 when he donated almost $7 million. The final $1 million of his most recent gift will be distributed to the Law School Fund, which raises money from alumni for law school projects, over a decade.

“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’s ties to the law school date to 1962, when he completed his J.D., and he has served as a university trustee since 1986 and on many law school committees. One of Bluhm’s three children also graduated from the law school.

Bluhm, listed as the 222th wealthiest person in America by Forbes magazine, made his fortune in real estate development and casinos. In 1970, he co-founded JMB Realty Corp., which develops and manages malls, hotels and office complexes. He has developed casinos in three states and Canada.

“I am especially proud to assist with the important work of the law school,” Bluhm said. “I am inspired by the vision of Dean Daniel Rodriguez and his goals for the law school’s mission and future.”

Ainsworth’s donation to William Mitchell will establish the Louis L. Ainsworth Distinguished Professorship for a faculty member focused on law and business. The chair will complement the school’s Center for Law and Business, created in 2010.

“Legal education is changing dramatically, and Mitchell is helping to lead the change,” Ainsworth said. “I’m in a position to help in that transformation of law because of my Mitchell education and business experience, and this professorship, in a field that is growing in importance, will strengthen Mitchell’s law and business program.”

Ainsworth graduated from the St. Paul law school in 1977 and was the senior vice president and general counsel of water treatment equipment manufacturer Pentair Ltd. He serves as a law school trustee and heads its Center for Law and Business.

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