James and Nancy Waters Give to Law School Fund and Butch Carpenter Scholarship
U-M Regent Emeritus James L. Waters, '70, and his wife, Nancy, of Muskegon, Michigan, have given $100,000 to establish a charitable gift annuity benefiting the Law School Fund, $25,000 outright to the Law School Fund, and $25,000 to the Alden J. (Butch) Carpenter Memorial Fund. The Waters philanthropy reflects James Waters longtime relationship with the Law School and the couples concern for equality for all people.
Waters is president and senior director of Waters & Cook, P.C., in Muskegon. Since graduating from the Law School he has specialized in personal injury litigation and labor law, while always active in pro bono work.
The first in his family to finish high school, Waters earned an undergraduate degree in economics and considered a career in academia. In college he served on the state board of the NAACP. Urged to visit the Law School by NAACP President Albert Wheeler, late U-M professor emeritus and Ann Arbors first African American mayor, Waters decided a law degree would empower him to be a more effective activist. While studying law, he chaired the Black Law Student Alliance (BLSA) and was a member of the Law Student Board of Directors.
Six months after graduation Waters sought and won a seat on U-Mâ€™s Board of Regents, on which he served from 1971 through 1994. In 1996 he received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, the highest accolade given by the Universityâ€™s Alumni Association. According to the citation, â€œDuring his three terms ending in 1994, James Waters consistently sensitized the board to issues of gender and minority equality on campus.
Of his gifts to the Law School, Waters says, "It's a way of saying thanks in a public way for what I obtained there. The educational experience was very satisfying, one of the most exciting times of my life." He believes in the importance of giving discretionary contributions as a means of strengthening the School: "We have a top school that has always had good deans they can figure out what to do with (discretionary gifts)."
Waters is also a longtime supporter of the Carpenter Memorial Fund, established in 1978 by the BLSA to honor Carpenter, a promising African American U-M Law student who died before completing his legal education. The fund is used for scholarships, awarded annually at the annual Alden J. (Butch) Carpenter Scholarship Banquet, a well-attended and well-supported event that celebrated its 27th year in 2006. Scholarship recipients are students who exemplify the dedication to social commitment demonstrated by Carpenter before his death.
That sense of commitment is a value shared by Waters, his wife, and his son, Mark, also a U-M alumnus. Besides civil rights, the family has also given extensive time and finances to state and local politics, Third World missionary work, and charities. Recently Waters was appointed to the Michigan Board of State Canvassers. "This has always been my life," he says, "trying to give back to the University and the community, to do what I can to help other people."