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Wayne Law to break ground on Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights upon receiving significant gifts

March 30, 2010

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DETROIT (March 30, 2010) – The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States, will speak at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University Law School at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, May 17, 2010. The ceremony comes on the heels of two generous gifts made to the Law School, including a combined gift from the Henry Ford II Fund and the Edsel B. Ford II Fund and a gift from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The Hon. Damon J. Keith

In addition to his gift, Mr. Edsel Ford has commissioned a portrait of Judge Keith by local artist Nancy Mitter that will be displayed in the exhibit area of the Keith Center.

"I am grateful to the Henry Ford II Fund, the Edsel B. Ford II Fund, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and other university alumni and friends, for making the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights a priority,” said Wayne State University President Jay Noren. "The Keith Center will play a pivotal role in civil rights education and awareness nationwide through its various programs of legal studies and community outreach."

“Judge Keith’s life has been dedicated to fighting for justice and opportunity,” said Wayne Law Dean Robert M. Ackerman. “These gifts, combined with A. Alfred Taubman’s 2006 gift [the largest in the Law School’s history] and gifts from many other friends of Judge Keith and Wayne Law, will help continue that legacy and make the Keith Center possible.”

The May 17 groundbreaking ceremony will be attended by a number of dignitaries, including Governor Jennifer Granholm, A. Alfred Taubman, WSU President Jay Noren, Wayne Law Dean Robert M. Ackerman, Judge Damon J. Keith and Edsel B. Ford II. Wayne Law students, alumni, staff and friends are encouraged to attend the ceremonial groundbreaking – scheduled the same day as the Law School’s Commencement Ceremony – at the northwest end of the Law School complex. Parking is available in Structure #1 on Palmer Street in front of the Law School.

The Keith Center honors the life and legacy of Judge Keith by carrying out his vision for civil rights. The Keith Center will advance learning, attract talented faculty, students and lecturers, enhance programming, and promote civil rights in one of the most culturally rich and diverse cities in the United States. The Keith Center will have active programs of legal studies and will promote community engagement.

The 10,000-square-foot Keith Center building will feature an exhibit area, meeting space, conference space and a 60-person lecture hall. An exhibit area featuring Judge Keith’s life and work and focusing on civil rights will also serve as a reception area for the Law School’s clinics.

In 2009, the Law School moved forward on a number of Keith Center programming initiatives thanks to more than $2.5 million in endowments. The Law School announced the appointment of john a. powell as its first Damon J. Keith Distinguished Visiting Professor and Wayne Law Professor Peter Hammer as director of the Keith Center. As director, Professor Hammer is responsible for initiating and continuing an array of programs, including the Keith Biennial Lecture.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Established in 1930, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa. For further information, please visit www.wkkf.org.

Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Eric H. Holder, Jr. was sworn in as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States on February 3, 2009 by Vice President Joe Biden. President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Holder on December 1, 2008.

In 1997, Holder was named by President Clinton to be the Deputy Attorney General, the first African-American named to that post. Prior to that he served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1988, Holder was nominated by President Reagan to become an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Holder, a native of New York City, attended public schools there, graduating from Stuyvesant High School where he earned a Regents Scholarship. He attended Columbia College of Columbia University, majored in American history, and graduated in 1973. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1976.

While in law school, he clerked at the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund and the Department of Justice's Criminal Division. Upon graduating, he moved to Washington, D.C., and joined the Department of Justice as part of the Attorney General's Honors Program. He was assigned to the newly formed Public Integrity Section in 1976 and was tasked to investigate and prosecute official corruption on the local, state and federal levels.

Prior to becoming Attorney General, Holder was a litigation partner at Covington & Burling LLP in Washington.

A. Alfred Taubman
In 2006, real estate developer and philanthropist A. Alfred Taubman made a $3 million commitment (the largest in the Law School’s history) to Wayne Law in honor of Judge Keith. 

Taubman, a Detroit native whose philanthropy is well known in Southeast Michigan, is a member of the Wayne State University Foundation Board. He is a trustee of the College of Creative Studies, serves on the executive committee of Detroit Renaissance, chairs the Building Committee for the Detroit Institute of Arts and is president of the Detroit Arts Commission. He, along with industrialist/philanthropist Max Fisher, was instrumental in building the Riverfront Towers apartments, widely seen as a symbol of Detroit’s resurgence and a magnet for attracting new residents to the city.

Judge Keith and Alfred Taubman have been friends for over three decades, and have collaborated on several previous projects, including the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.

The Henry Ford II Fund and the Edsel B. Ford II Fund
The Henry Ford II Fund was established in 1953 by Henry Ford II. Until his death in 1987, Mr. Ford continued to support a wide variety of activities and programs benefiting many organizations in Southeast Michigan and the country. Carrying on his father's legacy, his son, Edsel B. Ford II thereafter assumed the management of The Henry Ford II Fund. Believing that charitable giving should be perpetuated at every generation, Edsel Ford formed The Edsel B. Ford II Fund in 1993.

About Wayne Law
Wayne Law has educated and served the Detroit metropolitan area since its inception as Detroit City Law School in 1927. Located at 471 West Palmer Street in Detroit’s re-energized historic cultural center, the Law School remains committed to student success and features modern lecture and court facilities, multi-media classrooms, a 250-seat auditorium, and the Arthur Neef Law Library, which houses one of the nation's 30 largest legal collections. Taught by an internationally recognized and expert faculty, Wayne Law students experience a high-quality legal education via a growing array of hands-on curricular offerings, client clinics, and access to well over 100 internships with local and non-profit entities each year. Its 11,000 living alumni, who work in every state of the nation and more than a dozen foreign countries, are experts in their disciplines and include leading members of the local, national and international legal communities. For more information, visit www.law.wayne.edu.


Wayne State University Board of Governors

Richard Bernstein, chair; Tina Abbott, vice-chair; Debbie Dingell,

Eugene Driker, Diane L. Dunaskiss, Paul E. Massaron,

Annetta Miller, Gary S. Pollard, Jay Noren, ex officio