Michael Tierney, '79: A Gift to Assist 'Most Fundamental of All Human Needs'

Appeared in Record issue: 
Spring 2010

With a substantial gift in honor of his father, the late Paul J. Tierney, Michael Tierney, '79, has expanded the capabilities of the Law School's Housing Initiative, one of the legal clinics within the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Clinic.

Jeff Leslie, who is the Paul J. Tierney Director of the Housing Initiative, says the gift will have immediate and long-term impacts: "Michael Tierney's generosity provides invaluable assistance to our efforts to develop and preserve affordable housing in Chicago, where such housing is disappearing at an alarming rate. His gift solidifies the Housing Initiative's standing as a key provider of legal services and technical assistance to help achieve affordable housing goals. Just as important, it will enable us to expand our activities into new policy and advocacy areas, such as building code reform and property tax reform, which in the long run could go even farther in making a positive impact on how affordable housing is financed and built."

Paul Tierney, who held a law degree from Georgetown, served as an FBI Special Agent in Washington, D.C., and, during World War II, in South America. In the 1950s, he was an investigator with the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, working closely with its general counsel, Robert F. Kennedy. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Tierney to the Interstate Commerce Commission, where he subsequently became chairman.

Michael Tierney says, "I am of course quite proud of my father-as well as of my mother, still hale and hearty at 91. Not only was my dad a great believer in the value of a legal education-which he said would benefit me no matter what career I decided to pursue-he was a selfless man always looking for ways to help the disadvantaged. I can think of no better way to honor my father than by helping support

Jeff Leslie and the Housing Initiative, which leverages the skills and energy of the Law School for one of the most fundamental of all human needs-shelter. In doing so, it provides students with valuable exposure to policy making, legislative processes, negotiation, and achieving effective outcomes from the private/public sector interface. I only wish I had such experiences during Law School."

Tierney has proven the prescience of his father's assessment of legal training as a path to diverse opportunities. Today he is a director and principal shareholder of the Russian bank Kubanbank (located near Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics); he is the cofounder and managing director of Dramatic Health, Inc., a leading producer of healthcare films; and for several years he has served on the board of directors of the publicly traded software company Taleo Corporation.

After graduating from the Law School, Tierney joined the international law firm Coudert Brothers, working in their New York and Hong Kong offices. He then joined Lehman Brothers in Hong Kong as an investment banker, returning after a few years to New York to work in Lehman's mergers and acquisitions department. More recently, Tierney was a senior executive at the advertising and marketing giant Omnicom Group, including several years as CEO of their large private-equity affiliate Seneca Investments.

"I can't say my professional path has been a particularly straight one," says Tierney, "but I have enjoyed every step thoroughly. It has certainly vindicated my father's belief in the flexibility and power of a law degree." Tierney says that his Chicago legal education has allowed him to confidently handle a wide range of professional situations: "Regardless of whether it is law, business, or finance; regardless of whether it is Asia, Russia, Europe, Latin America, or the U.S.; and regardless of the educational background of the people one is dealing with, the education and training I received at the Law School have been critically valuable. I am fortunate indeed to have the opportunity to honor my father, and thank the Law School, by helping support the Housing Initiative and its highly worthy efforts."