Sam Zell, '66, has known the value of business strategy since his days as a twentysomething manager of residential real estate in Ann Arbor. Little wonder he’s now choosing to support strategy at his law school alma mater. Zell, of Chicago, recently made a $1 million commitment to the Law School that will be added to the Sam Zell Dean’s Tactical Fund. He created the fully expendable fund in 1997 with a previous $1 million gift to the Law School.
The Zell Fund is a significant discretionary resource for Dean Evan Caminker, who uses it to finance important projects that might otherwise be difficult or impossible to undertake, and/or are tactical in nature.
“We are deeply grateful for Sam Zell’s visionary support, which has both challenged us and allowed us to develop exciting, innovative programs,” says Caminker. “The rewards are tremendous and will have a positive effect on the Law School for many years to come. We simply could not do these things with Sam’s generosity.”
Zell’s new commitment is helping to support the creation of the Branch Rickey Collegiate Professorship at the Law School, honoring another of the Law School’s most influential alumni. Rickey, a 1911 Michigan Law graduate, was the Brooklyn Dodgers manager whose recruitment of Jackie Robinson in 1947 brought racial integration to major league baseball.
Previously the Zell Fund supported an important survey of prospective students that has helped inform the Law School’s strategies on pricing tuition and positioning the school in student markets. The fund also made possible a survey of alumni that sought to find how the Law School could best serve and engage them.
Thanks to Zell’s gift, the Law School a decade ago was able to introduce new technology into venerable Hutchins Hall, including kiosks and wireless technology. Additionally, a classroom was transformed into a state-of-the-art videoconferencing center.
Zell got his start in business in Ann Arbor, building and managing apartments that were rented to students. Today he is chairman of Equity International, a private equity firm that invests in international real estate, and co-founder and chair of Equity Group Investments, a private investment firm.
Zell is also a generous benefactor of the Ross School of Business, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and the College of Engineering.