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Law school receives $5 million bequest from Netsch Estate

Commitment funds scholarships, loan repayment for those pursuing careers in public interest law

  • Netsch was a beloved Northwestern alumna, long-serving professor
  • Gift will provide support for the next generation of public servants
  • The iconic Illinois politician was the law school’s first female faculty member 

CHICAGO --- Northwestern University School of Law has received a $5 million bequest from the Estate of Dawn Clark Netsch to endow the Walter and Dawn Clark Netsch Scholarship Fund, which will provide financial aid for law students who are interested in pursuing careers in public interest law. The gift also will fund loan repayment assistance to graduates working in the public interest law field.  

Netsch, who died in 2013, was a beloved Northwestern alumna and long-serving professor who had a storied career in Illinois politics. The gift in Netsch’s honor will fittingly provide support for the next generation of public servants.

The iconic Illinois politician was the law school’s first female faculty member, and she focused her unique skills on the study of state and local government law.

“Dawn was a mentor to many generations of Northwestern Law students,” said Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez. “It was very important to her that students with a passion for public service be able to pursue those types of careers. 

“This bequest helps do that in two ways. It provides scholarship support for students who know, coming into law school, that they want to work in the public interest following graduation. It also provides post-graduate loan repayment support for students who discover that path while they are here.”

Netsch was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1970. She served for 18 years -- representing the 13th and then the 14th districts. In 1990, she became the first woman to hold statewide office when she was elected to the position of Illinois Comptroller. An expert on constitutional law, she was one of the authors of the Constitution of the State of Illinois and a co-author of “State and Local Government in a Federal System,” the definitive text. 

In 1963, she married internationally acclaimed architect Walter Netsch, best known for his design of the Cadet Chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They were prolific collectors, together creating an important collection of modern art.

The gift from the estate also included three significant artworks, notably “Wallpaper With Blue Floor Interior” by Roy Lichtenstein.

“Dawn often hosted her students at her home,” Rodriguez said. “She liked the idea of that tradition living on at the Law School. So do we.”

The gift counts toward Motion to Lead: The Campaign for Northwestern Law, a $150 million fundraising initiative that has so far raised $93 million to support students, faculty and programs at the Law School. The Motion to Lead campaign is part of Northwestern University’s We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, a $3.75 billion fundraising initiative, the largest campaign in the University’s history.