Charles and Cerise Jacobs Give Students the Gift of Opportunity in Human Rights Work

Meredith Heagney
Law School Office of Communications
March 28, 2012

Students at the University of Chicago Law School will have new opportunities to do human rights work around the globe, thanks to the newly created Charles M. Jacobs Fund for Human Rights and Social Engagement.

The fund is made possible because of a $2 million gift from the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation, split evenly between the Law School and the College.

Mr. Jacobs, who died in November of 2010, graduated from the College in 1953 and the Law School in 1956. He invented a quality-control methodology that made evidence-based health care widely available. To that end, he founded two health care firms that developed methods for measuring and improving health care quality. He was also an avid theater lover and patron of the performing arts. In 2010, the Jacobses worked together to mount a production of an original opera entitled, “Madame White Snake.”  This opera, whose libretto was authored by Mrs. Jacobs, went on to win the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Already, law students are learning and serving because of the generosity of the Jacobses. Last summer, Jacobs Fellows traveled to Israel, India, Australia, Tanzania, and South Africa through the International Human Rights Summer Program. They worked for groups serving populations in great need, from minorities and women to victims of violence and HIV patients. 

Catherine Matloub, ’13, completed her fellowship with the Lawyers Collective Women’s Rights Initiative in New Delhi, India. The group’s mission is the empowerment of women through law. One of Matloub’s tasks was to edit and update a book on sexual harassment in the workplace that Indian lawyers use to advocate for victims.

Jennifer Chemel, ’13, worked at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, updating an in-depth paper on the international humanitarian law regarding the targeted killings of terrorists through drone attacks. She also researched the persecution of Christians in the West Bank.

“It was a very interesting summer and gave me some real insight into international legal doctrines,” Chemel said. The experience “provided me with good background for some of the work I will be doing this year in my classes and on The Chicago Journal of International Law.

Four students from the College also completed summer human rights fellowships, helping refugees, torture survivors, immigrants, and Chicago’s low-income children.

In a few months, another batch of students will get this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The work done by students around the world is an appropriate testament to the man behind the fund, Dean Michael Schill said.

“Charles Jacobs was an exceptional man with an amazing mind who was committed to social justice,” Schill said. “And because of his generosity and that of his wife, an accomplished attorney in her own right, law students at Chicago will have a chance to put their legal educations to work for those who need them most: the underserved and underrepresented throughout the world.”   

Mrs. Jacobs said her husband loved the Law School and the College.

“He felt so grateful to them for equipping him with what he needed to launch his career,” she said. “After he died, I couldn’t think of any better way to honor him than to make him part of the places he loved so much.”

He would be happy to hear about Chicago students serving in far-flung locales, she added.

“Whatever they may do in their careers, this experience can only make them more likely to recognize and respond to human needs.”  

Michael H. Schill