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UH business alumnus donates $1 million to start innovation fund for law school

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UH Law School Dean Camille Nelson and UH alumnus Jay H. Shidler. Screen Shot: UH

University of Hawaiʻi alumnus Jay H. Shidler has donated $1 million to start the Dean’s Innovation Fund that will allow UH Law School Dean Camille Nelson to bring into legal education the type of innovative approach that drives business.

“Lawyers, businesspeople, philanthropists, advocates and community are all looking at challenging moments and opportunities presently,” Nelson said in a press release. “When we consider things we never thought about 10, 20 years ago – nonfungible tokens, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence, big data, privacy, cyber security, health care, constitutional discord, you name it – we weren’t talking about that in law school and we’re still trying to figure out the legal role and impact.”

Nelson said while law schools are not thought of as hubs or labs for innovation, lawyers have to be creative, increasingly entrepreneurial and innovative to meet the challenges of the future.


Shidler graduated from UH business school in 1968, and in 2006 the business school was named after him following a $25 million gift.

After serving as an officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers, he started The Shidler Group, which today invests equity and debt capital in US commercial properties and portfolios, and creates and capitalizes new real estate-related companies. Shidler also has been the founder and chairman of five New York Stock Exchange-listed public corporations, which collectively have issued more than $14.5 billion of debt and equity securities.

Shidler said about the new innovation fund: “The customers of law firms are businesses and other types of organizations. These organizations are always innovating and changing, and lawyers have to keep up with it. Since the law school is what gives birth to those, it’s appropriate that they reflect the innovations that are happening in the real world and can use some of that to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of their instruction.”


Recognizing that the law affects nearly every aspect of life, and that society continues to evolve, the Dean’s Innovation Fund will help address how legal education can mirror and anticipate those changes with visionary leaders, professors and students who can meet them.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary next year and building on its accomplishments since its inception, the William S. Richardson UH Law School is uniquely positioned to lead and participate in these important conversations and to shape leaders for the legal profession and beyond.

Under the dean’s direction, the new fund may be used to help the law school reach potential students and faculty, including those who may come from nontraditional backgrounds or who may believe that the door to a legal education is not open to them.


Some of the conversations made possible by the gift will consider ongoing societal change, social justice and equity issues and help to refocus the discussion about who we are as Americans, the disparities between us, the laws that govern us, and who writes them as communities continue to confront these issues around the country.

Shidler’s gift to the UH Law School follows his 2017 landmark gift of $117 million and ground leases to the Shidler College of Business, which could yield at least $7.2 billion during the life of the leases. His history of philanthropic efforts with the University of Hawai‘i total $228 million since 2006. The gift to create the Dean’s Innovation Fund stems from his hopes for even greater relevance of the law school through Nelson’s vision and leadership.

“I’m just betting that we’ll get a lot of bang for buck out of this donation that will manifest itself in innovation that will have multiple financial and educational impacts,” Shidler said. “I trust her.”


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