May 28, 2013
Morgan Chu, one of the nation’s preeminent intellectual property lawyers, and his wife, Helen Chu, have given $5 million to Harvard Law School to establish in perpetuity the dean’s chair held by the Dean of the Faculty at Harvard Law School. The inaugural Morgan and Helen Chu Dean’s Professorship, which will be held by Dean Martha Minow, “will demonstrate a commitment to excellence, innovation, and public service honoring some the most brilliant legal minds of our time,” said Mr. Chu, a 1976 graduate of the Law School.
“We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Morgan and Helen Chu for their visionary leadership and generosity, and for a professorship that will so aptly reflect Morgan Chu’s academic and professional journeys in law, public service, leadership and creative advocacy,” said Dean Minow. “I am deeply honored to accept this wonderful gift on behalf of Harvard Law School, knowing how much it will help ensure unrivaled excellence in teaching, learning, scholarship and distinguished service here at HLS, far into the future.”
A philanthropic leader in his hometown of Los Angeles and beyond, Mr. Chu is well known for making extraordinary gifts in support of numerous causes. He and Mrs. Chu have donated time, energy and resources to a wide variety of deserving organizations. A zealous advocate for pro bono legal representation, Mr. Chu is the longest-serving member of the Board of Directors of the Public Counsel Law Center, the nation’s largest not-for-profit public interest law firm. In one of his own pro bono cases, he spent six years securing the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of a conviction of a death row inmate—the first such reversal in the 20 years since California had reinstated the death penalty.
“Helen and I believe strongly that the strength of the American legal system will depend critically on our ability to innovate and excel through education, research, and the practice of law," Mr. Chu said. “Dean Minow’s practicality, passion and lifelong dedication to justice and the legal system will build a foundation for generations to come. Her legacy as a superb scholar with an expansive and creative vision for the future of legal education and the profession exemplifies all we could hope for in the inaugural Morgan and Helen Chu Dean’s Professorship at HLS. This gift is an effort to ensure that one of America’s great legal institutions retains the quality of leadership it has enjoyed for close to two centuries."
Helen Chu, a public school teacher for decades, said: “Nothing is more important than education at all levels, and we are pleased to make an investment for the long term future that will outlive both of us.”
A partner at Irell & Manella LLP in Los Angeles, Mr. Chu has been widely honored and recognized as one of the most outstanding Intellectual Property Lawyers in the United States. In April of this year, the National Law Journal named him to its list of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States. The NLJ has also recognized him as one of the top 10 trial lawyers in the country.
Despite never finishing high school, Mr. Chu gained admission to the University of California at the age of 16. By the time he was 25 he had earned three degrees at UCLA, a Master’s degree from Yale and a J.D. from Harvard. He met Helen while they were both in college at UCLA, and they married before he attended Harvard Law School. “We ‘enjoyed’ the cold Cambridge winters together,” he said. While at HLS, he served on the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, a leading legal journal founded to promote personal freedoms and human dignity.
After law school, Mr. Chu clerked for the Hon. Charles M. Merrill of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and then joined Irell & Manella in 1977. During his career he has also been a frequent lecturer and teacher. He has participated in symposia at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School, and he was a Harvard Law School Traphagen Distinguished Speaker in 2003.
Mr. Chu has served on Harvard University’s Board of Overseers since 2009, and he also serves on Harvard’s Committee on University Resources (COUR). He is a member of the Harvard Business School Visiting Committee, the HLS Dean’s Advisory Board, and the HLS Leadership Council of Southern California.
"Harvard Law School students have within their grasp the ability to change the world and to address persistent and accumulating issues of injustice," Mr. Chu said. "Most importantly, with a degree from HLS they have a key catalyst for success."
Read "A conversation with Morgan Chu '76: Dealing at sunrise" in the Summer 2013 issue of the Harvard Law Bulletin