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$4 Million Gift Funds New Newton N. Minow Professorship

Friends, fellow alumni, Sidley Austin colleagues fund Minow professorship at School of Law

CHICAGO, Ill. --- Northwestern University has received gifts totaling $4 million to establish an endowment for a new named professorship at Northwestern University School of Law in honor of Newton N. Minow, a Northwestern alumnus, life trustee and professor emeritus. The gifts will also be used to establish the Newton N. Minow Debates at the School of Law.

The endowment is funded by a consortium of Minow’s personal friends, fellow Northwestern alumni and colleagues at Sidley Austin LLP -- an international legal services firm headquartered in Chicago, where Minow is senior counsel.  

The Minow Debates likely will be held at the School of Law every other year and will engage outside experts, law school faculty and/or students in debate on important and timely legal topics. Minow is the originator of the televised U.S. presidential debates, which inspired the idea to honor his legacy with a permanent debate program at his alma mater.

“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,” Northwestern Law Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez said.

“He is also a friend and mentor to many generations of lawyers,” he said. “I am delighted that his friends, fellow alumni and Sidley colleagues have chosen to honor him with a named professorship here at Northwestern Law, and that we are able to recognize Newt’s legacy by hosting the Minow Debates for years to come.”

In 1961, while serving as Federal Communications Commission chairman, Minow referred to television as a “vast wasteland” in a landmark speech still remembered today.

“Newt has been an integral part of the Northwestern family since his undergraduate days here, and since then has had extraordinary influence in the world,” said Northwestern President Morton Schapiro.

“We are thrilled that his friends and colleagues from Sidley have made it possible for Northwestern to recognize Newt with an endowed professorship that will ensure that his name lives on at the law school in perpetuity,” he said.

Appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1960s, Minow drafted legislation that expanded the broadcast spectrum and promoted the implementation of communication satellite technology.

He also served as law clerk to the Honorable 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. He also co-chaired the 1976 and 1980 U.S. presidential debates. He was a partner at Sidley Austin from 1965 to 1991.

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

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