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A. Alfred Taubman issues $200,000 challenge grant, creates endowed chair in Keith Center

October 04, 2010

DETROIT (Oct. 4, 2010) — Industrialist and philanthropist A. Alfred Taubman has issued a $200,000 challenge grant to complete the funding required for the construction of Wayne State University Law School’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. Taubman will match each new gift received by July 2011 for the construction of the Keith Center, up to a total of $200,000.

This challenge grant brings Taubman’s total contributions to the Keith Center to $3.2 million – the largest in the Law School’s history. In 2006, Taubman committed $1.5 million for the construction of the Keith Center and bequeathed an additional $1.5 million to provide continued support. As a result of the revised agreement involving the challenge grant, the $1.5 million planned gift officially has been earmarked to establish the A. Alfred Taubman Endowed Chair in Civil Rights in the Keith Center.

According to Keith Center Director Peter Hammer, just $400,000 of the $5.7 million budget is still needed to complete the building, which honors the life and legacy of Judge Damon J. Keith, LL.M. ’56, by carrying out his vision for civil rights.

“We are excited that Mr. Taubman again has given his support in the form of a challenge grant,” Hammer said. “The challenge grant will, no doubt, inspire the community to continue its support of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.”

He added, “The creation of the A. Alfred Taubman Endowed Chair reflects a permanent commitment to ensure that the Keith Center will always benefit from strong and effective leadership.” 

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 more than three decades, and have collaborated on several previous projects, including the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.

"I have been lucky enough to call Judge Keith my friend for more than 25 years," Taubman said. "He is one of the finest individuals I have ever known, and the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights will be a fitting tribute to his extraordinary legal career. I am especially pleased that generations of Wayne Law students will be strengthened by his legacy of wisdom, justice and humanity."

Keith said, “I am honored that this new center of learning at Wayne State University Law School will bear my name. At the Supreme Court Building in the nation’s capital are the words ‘equal justice under law.’ Those words symbolize what lawyers, judges and all Americans should strive for always, and they are principles that have guided my life. I am deeply appreciative to Mr. Taubman for the way he continues to step forward to give impetus to this important project at Wayne Law.”

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 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.

Wayne Law broke ground on the Keith Center on May 17, 2010. The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by more than 600 guests, including Judge Damon J. Keith, LL.M. ’56, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Congressman John Conyers, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Edsel B. Ford II, A. Alfred Taubman, WSU Board of Governors members, former WSU President Jay Noren and Wayne Law Dean Robert M. Ackerman, among many others. Judge Keith chose to have the ceremony on May 17 as the date coincided with the 56th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling that declared separate schools for blacks and whites unconstitutional. The project is expected to be completed in fall 2011.

“Partly through curriculum and partly through special programs and lectures, [the Center] will heighten awareness of civil rights in both the Law School and in the broader community and, of course, honor the legacy of Judge Damon Keith,” said Dean Robert M. Ackerman in a Model D article. “Civil rights is a major portion of the legal training of our students.”

Visit keithcenter.wayne.edu to view Keith Center renderings and event photos, as well as learn more about Judge Keith’s legacy. Contact the Wayne Law Development and Alumni Relations Office at (313) 577-3113 or am2674@wayne.edu for information on how to give to the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.

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