April 13, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 14

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    Ratner’s gift puts Chicago Initiative over $1.5 billion

    By William Harms
    News Office

    Saul Levmore (left), Dean of the Law School, chats with Gerald Ratner at last May’s Chicago Convenes event. Ratner’s recent gift, which has put the University closer to its campaign goal of raising $2 billion, will support a new Gerald Ratner faculty chair in the Law School.

    Thanks to a gift of $6 million from Chicago attorney and University alumnus Gerald Ratner, the Chicago Initiative capital campaign has passed the $1.5 billion mark toward its goal of raising $2 billion.

    The campaign, which provides funds for faculty support, community programs, graduate fellowships and College scholarships, earlier this week reached a total of $1,506,115, 813.

    The Ratner gift will be shared by the University’s Smart Museum of Art and the University’s Law School.

    “Gerry has been a close family friend for my entire life. I am both proud and thrilled to learn it was his most recent $6 million gift that catapulted the Chicago Initiative past the $1.5 billion mark,” said James Crown, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “Gerry’s extraordinary dedication to the University is an inspiration to all of us. With this gift to the Law School and the Smart Museum, Gerry continues to expand his exceptional legacy at the University.”

    President Randel said that Ratner’s gift exemplifies a vital tradition.

    “Great teaching and great discovery depend on the vision and the generosity of friends who understand why universities matter, and who continue to support them year after year. The University is fortunate to have many such friends, and over the decades few have been as wise or generous as Gerry Ratner. His many gifts, including our athletic center and now his gifts to the Law School and Smart Museum, help guarantee that the work of this University and its people will continue to matter for generations to come.”

    The Smart Museum will name a gallery in honor of Ratner’s late wife, Eunice Payton Ratner, who graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in fine arts and who maintained her interest in the arts throughout her lifetime.

    Ratner said the gift to the Smart Museum is an appropriate memorial to his wife. “It is a wonderful museum and an important resource for the campus. Not everyone is a scientist at the University and being able to enjoy the art in the museum is an important asset for people on campus and for members of the community,” he said.

    Ratner added that he is impressed by the way the memory of his friend and former classmate at the Law School, Harry Kalven, is carried on through the work of Geoffrey Stone, who holds the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professorship in the Law School.

    “I always wanted to be more than a downtown lawyer. This gift allows me to carry on my interest in the Law School through a professorship that could be used to attract a first- class star to the faculty,” Ratner said.

    Saul Levmore, Dean of the Law School and the William B. Graham Professor, said, “Gerry Ratner is among the best ambassadors our University has sent forth. He is one of the great pleasures of being Dean of the Law School. He cares about people, ideas, lectures, students, the practice of law and current events. He is, in short, a most-valuable player.

    “This gift will establish a Ratner chair at the Law School and eventually the Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professorship. It will enable us to attract and sustain the very best legal scholars and teachers; we are so fortunate that Gerry Ratner sees the importance of first-rate faculty so clearly,” Levmore added.

    Anthony Hirschel, the Dana Feitler Director of the Smart Museum, expressed his gratitude for Ratner’s gift: “Those of us at the Smart Museum of Art are deeply grateful to Gerry Ratner for his decision to give one of the largest gifts in the museum’s history. We are delighted to recognize his generosity by designating the museum’s entrance gallery as the Eunice Ratner Reception Gallery.

    “The Ratner Reception Gallery, with its cafe and bookshop, is also near the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center. This important gift from a remarkable donor will significantly enhance the museum and allow us to present the finest exhibitions and programs, to foster interdisciplinary research, and to support the training of students for many years to come. We could not be more pleased,” Hirschel said.

    Andrew Alper, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Chairman of the Chicago Initiative said: “Reaching $1.5 billion in the Chicago Initiative is a wonderful milestone on the path to $2 billion. This milestone is especially gratifying for two reasons. First, the depth and breadth of support for the campaign from the entire University community has been extraordinary, with more than 95,000 alumni and friends making gifts that range from small to large in support of the initiative.

    “Secondly, the generosity of these alumni and friends has made a tremendous impact on a wide array of programs on campus, from building the Center for Integrative Science, the first new interdisciplinary scientific facility on campus in over 50 years, to providing vital support for endowed undergraduate scholarships, to committing endowments to over 50 faculty positions,” he added.

    Ratner is a senior partner at the law firm of Gould & Ratner in Chicago. His previous gifts to the University include $15 million for the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, an athletic center that opened in 2003. In 2005, Ratner received the University of Chicago Medal, the highest honor the University bestows.

    A high school valedictorian from the Chicago’s Marshall High School, he attended the University on a full yearly scholarship of $300. He commuted to campus from the city’s Brighton Park neighborhood, where he helped his mother run a small store that sold candy, ice cream, tobacco and other items during the Depression.

    Ratner maintained his scholarship by earning straight A’s. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the College (Ph.B.,’35), and two years later, he graduated “Order of the Coif” from the Law School (J.D.,’37). He was a baseball player for the University while enrolled in the College and played intramural football while attending the Law School.

    Although he dreamed of entering the world of professional baseball, he chose the stability of a law career after graduation and practiced for several years before joining the U.S. Army during World War II, rising to the rank of captain. He returned to Chicago, where he married his late wife, Eunice, in 1948. In 1949, Ratner co-founded the law firm of Gould & Ratner.

    Ratner has maintained a close relationship with the University since he graduated.

    In 1961, he established a student loan fund at the Graduate School of Business in memory of his brother, J.E. Ratner, a former faculty member at the University and editor-in-chief of Better Homes & Gardens. Ratner’s law firm has represented the Crown family since World War II, and he worked closely with Lester Crown on the field house renovation in the mid-1970s.

    He also has been a generous contributor to endowment funds at the Law School and served on the Law School Visiting Committee.

    “This gift is a tribute to a friendship that has built up over time between Gerry and the University,” said Ronald Schiller, Vice-President for Development and Alumni Relations. “Gerry has made gifts to the University almost every year since 1961, and these investments have paid off substantially over time.”