NFL owner gives $5 million to law school to train 'social change agents'


(Reuters) - The principal owner of the Minnesota Vikings has donated $5 million to New York Law School to support its social justice advocacy and defray the cost of law school for public interest-minded students.

The downtown Manhattan law school announced the gift Tuesday, saying it would “profoundly expand” the work it does in the public interest sphere and fund scholarships for students pursuing careers in that area.

The donation comes from the Wilf Family Foundations, the philanthropic venture of real estate billionaire Zygmunt (Zygi) Wilf, who received his Juris Doctor from New York Law School in 1974. He worked as an attorney before joining his family’s real estate business and purchased the Minnesota Vikings with a group of partners in 2005. His parents were Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the United States following World War Two and established the family’s real estate empire.

“As an alumnus of (New York Law School), I know the students are committed to creating a fairer, more just world, and we look forward to seeing what these scholars accomplish as part of this program,” Wilf said in an announcement of the donation. “It is also essential that we continue to diversify the legal field, and we hope this program will attract a diverse range of students who can bring new perspectives and insights to the legal profession."

The law school is consolidating its various social justice and public impact programs under the newly established Wilf Impact Center, including its Racial Justice Project, Diane Abbey Law Institute for Children and Families, Law School Pipeline Project and the Housing Justice Leadership Institute.

The Wilf donation will also establish a series of scholarships intended to help the law school recruit and retain diverse students who are committed to public interest law careers. Each year, 10 New York Law School students will be named Wilf Scholars and will receive renewable scholarships as well as funding for summer fellowships and post-graduate fellowships. The Wilf Scholars will work with New York Law School faculty on civil rights issues and will also have the chance to work with external civil rights organizations with ties to the school.

“This transformative gift will open doors and change lives,” said New York Law School dean Anthony Crowell in a prepared statement. “I am profoundly grateful to Zygi Wilf and his family for their exceptional vision, their commitment a more inclusive legal profession, and their belief in the power of change through the law.”

New York Law School professor Richard Marsico has been named the director of the Wilf Center, and said the gift will help to train the “next generation of social change agents.”