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Courtney and Chris Combe give $1 million to Northwestern Law

Gift will expand international public service initiatives

CHICAGO --- Long-time benefactors Chris Combe, a Northwestern University Trustee, and Courtney Combe have made a $1 million gift to support global initiatives at Northwestern University School of Law.

The gift provides programmatic support for the Access to Health Project, a unique interdisciplinary initiative in which students and faculty from the Law School, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Kellogg School of Management work collaboratively to conduct needs assessments and implement sustainable, capacity-building interventions with communities around the world. This year, Access to Health students worked on five projects globally, including public health projects in Douentza, Mali.

The Combes’ gift also establishes two new fellowships, one for a Northwestern Law graduate to pursue international field work, and one that will bring a clinical fellow to the Access to Health program. The fellowships are named in honor of the Combes’ friends Mary Schuette and the late J. Michael Schuette.

The Michael and Mary Schuette Global Fellowship in Health and Human Rights will make it possible for Northwestern Law graduates to provide in-country support and advocacy for individuals and communities on issues related to health and human rights and development.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for young attorneys interested in pursuing careers in health and human rights law,” said Juliet Sorensen, clinical associate professor of law with Northwestern’s Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center for International Human Rights, who oversees the Access to Health Project. “There just aren’t that many post-graduate fellowships that support international public service work. I’m delighted we are able to offer this opportunity to our students.”

The 2015-2016 Schuette Fellow will work with the Near East Foundation, the oldest non-sectarian non-governmental organization in the United States.

The Michael and Mary Schuette Clinical Fellow in Health and Human Rights will assume a leadership role within the Access to Health program to expand the number of clinical opportunities available to students and to enhance the impact of the clinic’s work in the communities it serves.

Chris Combe is chairman of Combe Incorporated, a White Plains, New York-based private, family-held company that manufactures and markets health and personal care products. He earned a B.A. in economics from Northwestern in 1970. He has been a member of the University’s Board of Trustees since 1997 and of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors since 1981.

Courtney Combe has been a member of the Women’s Board of Northwestern since 1987. A number of other members of the Combe family are also Northwestern graduates, including Ivan D. Combe, Chris Combe’s father and the founder of Combe Incorporated, who earned his undergraduate degree from Northwestern and studied at the Law School before pursuing his business career.

The Combes have made gifts to Northwestern every fiscal year for the past 21 years, including support for athletics and initiatives focused on social entrepreneurship and sustainable solutions to global issues. They are platinum-level members of NU Loyal, a giving society that recognizes the more than 30,000 supporters who have made gifts to Northwestern for three or more consecutive years.

The Combes have served as co-chairs for We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, the University’s $3.75 billion fundraising initiative. Their latest gift brings their total support to the “We Will” Campaign to $18.1 million.

“This generous gift is another wonderful illustration of their commitment to international justice, as well as their extraordinary commitment to Northwestern University,” said Law School Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez. “The Access to Health program is an impactful program, and this gift will help expand its reach. That’s a tremendous benefit for Northwestern students and for communities around the world.”

Mary Schuette earned her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern in 1960 and is an active University volunteer. The late J. Michael Schuette earned his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern in 1959 and his J.D. from the Law School in 1962. He worked for many years as outside general counsel for Combe Incorporated.

The gift honors Michael Schuette’s memory as well as the Combe’s lifelong friendship with both Michael and Mary Schuette.

“We wanted to honor Mike’s memory, as well as our long friendship with both of them,” Chris Combe said. “Even though my father didn’t finish his law degree, he always said that it was the best education he ever could have had for a business career. Our family’s business success has definitely been aided by Northwestern Law, and memorializing Mike is a way for us to honor that.”

More information on We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern is available at

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