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Big Gift Makes Northeast Ohio Home To A New Environmental Law Center

Case Western Reserve University’s law school Tuesday celebrated with a reception the biggest gift in the school’s history: $10 million to establish the Coleman P. Burke Center for Environmental Law.

Burke is the founder of major East Coast commercial real estate companies, and a donor to a number of environmental causes.

He’s also an alumnus of the school, who’s already endowed to it a professorship.

“It’s a very big deal,” says Jonathan Adler, a law professor and the Burke Center’s inaugural director. “It means that somewhere just shy of $500,000 a year will ultimately be available to spend on programs ranging from things for students, various types of scholarship and research, programs with other parts of the university. It provides a very significant foundation for a wide-range of work at the law school.”

Adler says the gift will be used for a lot of different items, including further scholarship on emerging environmental law issues—like whether Lake Erie should have a Bill of Rights—and better integration with other institutions outside and within CWRU, like the Great Lakes Energy Institute.

“This is a part of the country where environmental issues are incredibly important, where the economic and environmental interface and sometimes tension or conflict is certainly important,” Adler says. “We want to be seen as a place where folks that are looking for honest, thoughtful analysis and discussion of important environmental law questions, that this is a place where that happens.”  

Adler says he hopes the Center will allow for discussions of issues that get somewhere, and aren’t bogged down by conflict as seen in so many policy debates.

The Center will host a major symposium this Fall tied to the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

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