March 9, 2004
U-M receives gifts to support public policy school and athletics department
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University of Michigan has received two gifts, totaling $4.5 million from J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Foundation to support the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the Athletics Department. Ira Harris, class of 1959, is a noted financier with a long history of philanthropy to the University.
The gift to the Ford School, totaling $2 million, is an endowment to create the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy. The first appointee to the chair is James A. Levinsohn, whose areas of interest include trade policy and the international impact of business competition.
"The Harris Family Professorship reflects Ira and Nicki Harris' commitment to the continued excellence of the University of Michigan in general and to the Ford School in particular," said Rebecca Blank, dean of the Ford School. "An endowed professorship is one of the most meaningful gifts a school can receive. It is a strong signal that the faculty are our greatest resource and that their contributions are of great value. We are sincerely grateful to Ira and Nicki for their generosity."
The University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy was established in 1914 as the Institute for Public Administration and was one of the first programs in the nation to train public managers. The school's curriculum emphasizes the value of social science techniques in understanding, developing, implementing and evaluating public policies. The school also brings many distinguished leaders to campus to participate in public lectures and conferences on public policy issues.
A $2.5 million gift to athletics helped build the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Football Locker Room, a newly renovated area on the east side of Michigan Stadium, adjacent to the tunnel. The new facility provides the U-M football team with improved medical facilities, a coaches' suite and a completely updated locker room where the full complement of 116 players can dress at the stadium. The previous locker room could accommodate only 80 players.
"The football locker room has been a wonderful addition for the football program," said U-M athletics director Bill Martin. "The gift to the Ford School for the endowment to create the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy is another one of the outstanding commitments Ira and Nicki have made to promote the programs and values of the University of Michigan."
"Nicki and I are very pleased to support two very important programs at the University of Michigan, where we have had close ties for almost 45 years," J. Ira Harris said. "Both of these gifts are to programs that we have care about and have watched grow over the years. We wanted to provide them with resources to become even more excellent."
J. Ira Harris is chairman of J.I. Harris and Associates, a financial consulting firm. He is also vice chairman of the Pritzker Organization. Harris, a New York City native, has had a distinguished career in banking and finance. After receiving his B.B.A. from U-M, he moved to Chicago and headed the mid-west operation of Blair and Co. He went on to become a general partner of Salomon Brothers and later moved to Lazard Freres and Co. as a senior partner. He started his own firm in 1998. Nicki S. Harris is active in cultural and charitable organizations throughout the United States. The Harris family includes three children and two grandchildren.
Harris is a long-time member of the University's Investment Advisory Committee, an alumni group of investment experts who provide guidance to the U-M investment staff. He was a significant donor and served as a volunteer co-chair of the fund-raising campaign that wrapped up in 1997, after raising more than $1.4 billion.
Contact: Nancy Connell