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UHF staff
  • Camille Nelson and Jay Shidler

The William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai‘i (UH) at Mānoa today announced that UH alumnus Jay H. Shidler has donated $1 million in cash to start the Dean’s Innovation Fund. The Fund 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,” said Nelson. “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. Whenever there are vanguard-type questions, lawyers ought to be involved in the problem-solving. While we don’t think of law schools as hubs or labs for innovation, lawyers have to be creative, increasingly entrepreneurial, and innovative to meet the challenges of the future.”

“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,” said Shidler. “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 UH Law School is uniquely positioned to lead and participate in these important conversations and to shape leaders for the legal profession and beyond.

“We are delighted by this gift,” said Nelson. “It allows us to initiate some conversations and seed some possibilities that frankly, we didn’t have the resources to do. This is a really catalytic and exciting opportunity for us. Mr. Shidler has allowed us that span to think about where we should be more engaged and how we ought to be more present.”

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 in cash and ground leases to the Shidler College of Business. 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. I trust her,” said Shidler.
That trust is reciprocated by Nelson. “Mr. Shidler has been incredibly generous, and I think that a person of his caliber to take the time to invest in the law school sends a signal about the future,” said Nelson. “The notion of a Dean’s Innovation Fund in itself is innovative and underscores the reality that wherever there are future-oriented problems in need of solutions and collaboration, lawyers are there, too.”

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The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations.

Jay Shidler is a 1968 alumnus (BBA) of the University of Hawai‘i business school, which was renamed the Shidler College of Business at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 2006 in recognition of Shidler’s first gift of $25 million. He credits the college with preparing him for a successful career in business and his lifelong love of the Islands, where he has resided since 1964. Following graduation, Shidler was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Upon leaving the service in 1971, he formed what would become The Shidler Group, which today invests equity and debt capital in U.S. commercial properties and portfolios and creates and capitalizes new real estate-related companies. Shidler also has been the founder and chairman of five NYSE-listed public corporations, which collectively have issued more than $14.5 billion of debt and equity securities. In 2015, AACSB International (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) named Shidler one of the world’s 100 most influential leaders in making an impact on business education, and also recognized him as one of the 50 most generous alumni donors. Shidler and Wallette, his wife of 52 years, have a daughter, Summer, and five grandchildren. He is an active trustee of several charitable organizations including The Shidler Family Foundation.

The Shidler Group invests equity and debt capital in U.S. commercial properties and portfolios and creates and capitalizes new real estate-related companies. Since its founding by Jay Shidler in 1971, The Shidler Group has become one of the nation’s most innovative commercial real estate investment organizations. Through its affiliates, The Shidler Group has made debt and/or equity investments in over 2,000 properties located across the country comprising over 150 million leasable square feet. A unique specialization of The Shidler Group is its long history in the creation and financing of leasehold estates on 99-year ground leases and the resulting leased fee estates on the underlying land. The Shidler Group has completed the equity and debt capitalization of more than 140 leasehold and leased fee estates.

Camille Nelson is the dean at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Previously, she served as dean of American University Washington College of Law and at Suffolk University Law School in Boston and as a professor of law. Prior to entering academia, Nelson was a litigator at McCarthy Tétrault (a large Canadian law firm) and clerked for Justice Frank Iacobucci of the Supreme Court of Canada. Her scholarship focuses on the intersection of critical race theory and cultural studies, with particular emphasis on health law, criminal law and procedure, and comparative law. She was recently named among the Top 35 Women in Higher Education by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine and was listed as one of the “Most Influential People in Legal Education” by the National Jurist. She has also previously been appointed to the Senator Warren and Senator Markey Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Judicial Nominations. She holds a B.A. with high distinction from the University of Toronto in Administration, a magna cum laude law degree from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, and an LL.M. from Columbia Law School.

The William S. Richardson School of Law embraces Hawaiʻi’s diversity and values as part of its collaborative, multicultural community which prepares students for excellence in the practice of law and related careers that advance justice and the rule of law. In 2023, the law school will mark its 50th anniversary. Its part-time program is rated #21 and its full-time program #91 in the 2023 U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of law schools.