Ratner gives $6 million for Law School, Smart

By Rachel Brumbaugh

The University recently announced the latest major success of the Chicago Initiative capital campaign, a $6 million gift from College and Law School alumnus Gerald Ratner.

The gift will be divided between the Law School and the Smart Museum, with $5 million going toward the Law School for a distinguished service professorship that will carry Ratner’s name.

Dean of the Law School Saul Levmore said he and Ratner, a longtime friend, have “been talking about a gift for quite awhile.” He described Ratner as an energetic and engaged man. Ratner, 92, graduated from the College in 1935.

The remaining $1 million of Ratner’s donation will go to the Smart Museum to honor his late wife Eunice who “had a lifelong interest in the fine arts,” said Anthony Hirschel, the director of the Smart Museum.

Hirschel said the museum will name its entrance gallery the Eunice Ratner Reception Area to commemorate the donation, which is “one of the largest single unrestricted gifts in the museum’s history.”

The funds will support the museum’s many exhibitions, programs, and research.

“A major gift like the one Gerry Ratner has just given makes a huge difference, increasing our capacity to serve scholars, students, and other visitors, as well as setting a superb example for all those who seek to support the work we do,” Hirschel said.

Ratner, a baseball player during his time at the U of C, also donated $15 million in 2003 toward the University’s new athletics facility, which was named in his honor.

“It is particularly satisfying that the Ratner Reception Gallery at the Smart Museum of Art is located only a few steps from the Ratner Athletic Center,” Hirschel said.

Ratner started life with a modest background. His mother owned a candy store and “he didn’t inherit any money,” Levmore said. However, Ratner went on to become a founding partner of a Chicago-based law firm.

“It is amazing how generous he is,” Levmore said.

The Chicago Initiative was inaugurated in 2002 with the goal of raising $2 billion. Ratner’s donation follows a $5 million gift by alumnus Bernard DelGiorno, which puts the Chicago Initiative past the $1.5 billion mark.