DETROIT – Real estate developers, professional sports team owners and alumni Stephen M. Ross and Dan Gilbert today announced their intentions to donate $5 million each to Wayne State University Law School, for a joint gift of $10 million.
Both gifts represent the largest donations in the law school’s history.
Ross and Gilbert’s gifts will create the Benson Legacy Fund for Wayne Law and the Benson Endowed Enhancement Fund for Wayne Law. Ross and Gilbert named the funds in recognition of Wayne Law Dean Jocelyn Benson and her successful efforts as dean to elevate the law school’s national reputation and prestige.
The funds, which can continue to grow through additional donations from others, will support the law school’s ongoing efforts to elevate its national reputation and attract talented students from across the country to study at Wayne Law and live in Detroit. Funds will be expended at the discretion of the law school dean.
“I am thrilled to have two of Wayne Law’s most successful and influential alumni unite to make this historic investment in the future of our law school,” Benson said. “It is an honor to count them both as members of the Wayne Law family; their accomplishments and leadership are an inspiration for our entire community.”
The gifts were announced this morning, Monday, Sept. 12, the same day Ross and Gilbert will be inducted, along with 11 others, as part of the inaugural class of the Miller Family Wayne Law Alumni Wall of Fame. The wall of fame – the highest award presented by Wayne Law – is awarded to alumni who have distinguished themselves by contributions they have made in their fields, or in the betterment of humanity, or to former faculty and staff who have had a significant impact on the law school. The wall of fame was made possible through a gift from E. Powell Miller, class of 1986, last year.
Ross, class of 1965, and Gilbert, class of 1987, are among the numerous alumni Benson has engaged while dean to come back to the law school to network with students and the broader Wayne Law and campus community.
Ross, who has built a legacy of world-class real estate development, philanthropy and NFL sports team ownership, participated in a special public conversation with Benson at the law school in April 2015 – his first visit to Wayne Law since his graduation – discussing his career and accomplishments of the past five decades. He also was the special guest at the Wayne Law Reunion in October, marking the 50th anniversary of his graduating class.
“Wayne State not only played an important role in my success, but also in the rebirth of Detroit,” Ross said. “I am pleased to be able to give back to the school and also help ensure that this great educational institution continues to attract the best and the brightest students from across the country.”
Gilbert began moving his family of companies to Detroit’s central business district in 2010 to help lead Detroit’s transformation. He has invested more than $2.2 billion to buy and renovate more than 95 commercial properties in the city’s urban core. Thousands of jobs have been created, and today more than 15,000 Rock Ventures team members work in downtown Detroit.
“Wayne Law is a premier legal education institution, and the leadership across the university is impressive,” Gilbert said. “I am proud to support the law school’s efforts to continue attracting top students from around the world and shape our brightest and best lawyers right here in the heart of Detroit.”
Ross is chairman and founder of Related Companies, through which he developed the Time Warner Center in New York City. His latest project, Hudson Yards, is described as building a new city within Midtown Manhattan. Formed in 1972, Related includes more than 3,000 professionals. It has developed more than $22 billion in real estate and owns real estate assets valued at more than $30 billion.
Ross, whose total donations to higher education rank behind only those of fellow American billionaire Michael Bloomberg, also is owner of the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium.
In 2015, he founded the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, a venture led by professional sports organizations and networks, including the NFL, NBA and ESPN, to improve race relations in America.
Last week, it was announced that Benson would step down this month after nearly four years as dean of the law school to serve as CEO of RISE and as a special advisor on philanthropic investments to Ross. Benson will continue her affiliation with Wayne Law as director of the Levin Center at Wayne Law and co-teaching a course on Legislative Oversight with former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin.
Gilbert is chairman and founder of Quicken Loans Inc., the nation’s second-largest mortgage lender; founder and chairman of Rock Ventures LLC, the umbrella entity for his portfolio of business and real estate investment; and majority owner of the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Rock Ventures and its more than 100 affiliated companies across the country employ more than 25,000 team members.
“Both Mr. Ross and Mr. Gilbert have worked to revitalize development in urban cities and build a sense of community through numerous projects,” WSU President M. Roy Wilson said. “Their generous gifts will help Wayne Law continue to play a significant part in the renaissance of Detroit.”
The gifts from Ross and Gilbert are part of Wayne State University’s $750 million Pivotal Moments fundraising campaign. Including their gifts, the campaign has raised more than $590 million. With their gifts, the law school has raised nearly $24 million of its $30 million goal for the campaign.