About a week after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, Dillard University alum and Shreveport, La., native Michael Jones knew he had to do something to help.
The school, which backs up to a Lake Pontchartrain levee, was under 10 to 12 feet of water, and while the full magnitude of the damage was not yet known, it was obvious the rebuilding effort would be substantial.
So Jones, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, stepped up. “The first thing I got interested in was helping with the fund-raising effort,” he says. He heard that the university was launching an effort to get 1,000 alumni to give $1,000 each, every year for the next few years. “I was happy to be a charter member,” he says, “so I wrote a check for $10,000.”
Then, last December, Jones and his wife endowed a $100,000 scholarship that will help the “brave students” who are returning to campus. He says the specifics of the scholarship program have not been finalized, but it will offer about $5,000 a year. It is up to the school, he says, to decide how many students will receive money and how much each scholarship will be worth.
In addition, Jones persuaded Kirkland & Ellis to establish a separate scholarship for prelaw students.
But Jones’ altruism did not end there. Next he volunteered the firm’s pro bono services to help the university deal with any insurance coverage issues that may arise. “So far they haven’t run into any obstacles or roadblocks,” he says, “but if and when they need us, we will be there.”
And at the end of the month, Jones and his wife will host a Mardi Gras benefit at their house, which he hopes will bring in another $75,000 to $100,000 for the university. Jones says he would like to use this event as a launching pad for similar benefits hosted by other alums across the country.
Raising money is one aspect of his involvement, Jones says, but he has also gotten involved in the school’s branding effort, developing a recruiting tool that tells the story of Dillard alums who became lawyers.
The first black judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, the first black lawyer elected to the state supreme court, and the first black lawyer in Louisiana were all Dillard alumni, Jones says. “The pitch is that Dillard is an excellent springboard to join the legal profession.”
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