Northwestern receives $4 million to honor Newton Minow, creates law school professorship

Olivia Exstrum, Reporter

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Northwestern received $4 million earlier this month to honor Newton Minow, a Northwestern alumnus, trustee and senior counsel at the Chicago law firm Sidley Austin LLP.

Minow’s friends, colleagues and fellow alumni donated the funds to create an endowed professorship at the School of Law and a biennial Newton N. Minow Debates program.

“Newt literally is a legend in this law firm, in the legal profession and in the city of Chicago,” said Charles Douglas, chairman of the management committee at Sidley Austin. “He’s had a very distinguished career and has been honored in many ways. The one thing that hadn’t been done yet was to endow a professorship.”

Jaci Thiede, associate dean for alumni relations and development at the Law School, said she and Law Dean Daniel Rodriguez had been discussing obtaining more permanent recognition for Minow for a long time.

“The first thing (Daniel) asked me was why there wasn’t a name for Newt Minow at the law school,” Thiede said. “I told him I didn’t know and he said we have to change that.”

She said Minow’s professorship is important, not only because it helps the school he cares about, but also because it permanently acknowledges his name and impact.

“The professorship is among the highest honors an academic can receive,” Thiede said. “It is the epitome of an academic career, and it will be an incredible honor to have his name to that chair.”

Minow’s colleagues at the firm, fellow trustees, friends and other alumni all made pledges to endow the chair. The $4 million contribution is significantly more than is required to endow a chair in the law school, so the school is contributing the additional funds to the new debate program, Douglas said. The program will feature debates with outside experts, law school faculty and students surrounding different legal topics. Douglas said the debates are significant because of Minow’s background serving as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and co-chair of the 1976 and 1980 U.S. presidential debates.

Rodriguez said in a statement that Minow is a “friend and mentor to many generations of lawyers.”

“I am delighted that his friends, fellow alumni and Sidley colleagues have chosen to honor him with a named professorship here at NU Law, and that we are able to recognize Newt’s legacy by hosting the Minow Debates for years to come.”

Minow was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1960s.

In addition to co-chairing the presidential debates, Minow drafted legislation that expanded the scope of broadcast media and is widely known as the “originator of televised presidential debates.” He also served as law clerk to Fred M. Vinson, chief justice of the United States; assistant counsel to Ill. Gov. Adlai Stevenson; and chairman and director of the Public Broadcasting Service.

Minow received both his bachelor’s degree in 1949 and his J.D. in 1950 from NU. He joined the Board of Trustees in 1975, became a Life Trustee in 1987 and is currently the Walter Annenberg Professor Emeritus.

Twitter: @OliviaExstrum