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SMU Public Affairs
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July 16, 2001


DALLAS (SMU) -- A gift of $2 million from Southern Methodist University law school alumnus and university trustee Helmut Sohmen of Hong Kong will establish an endowed scholarship program for Chinese lawyers to engage in post-graduate study at SMU's Dedman School of Law.

The Sohmen Chinese Scholars Program each year will fund four full-time scholarships, including tuition, fees and living stipends, for the one-year LL.M. in Comparative and International Law at Dedman School of Law. John B. Attanasio, dean of Dedman School of Law, said these highly competitive scholarships will be awarded to outstanding graduates of China's top law schools.

Sohmen's $2 million gift provides a permanent endowment for a program that began in 1998 with one Chinese student. The SMU law school enrolled four Sohmen Chinese Scholars in 1999 and four more in 2000. Sohmen previously contributed more than $250,000 to begin the scholarship program.

"Half a century ago, the SMU law school pioneered the development of programs to promote understanding of legal systems and cultures around the world," SMU President R. Gerald Turner said. "Today, more than ever, SMU is committed to educating leadership for a global society. This generous gift from Helmut Sohmen will extend the influence of SMU's Dedman School of Law in an increasingly global environment."

The master's degree program in comparative and international law established in 1952 by the SMU law school was among the first in the country and served as a model for other law schools nationwide. The program, designed for alumni of law schools outside the United States, has graduated more than 1,200 international lawyers from more than 65 countries. They include justices of the Supreme Courts of Taiwan, Japan and Korea. Approximately one-third of the program's graduates, nearly 400, are lawyers in Asia.

"Helmut Sohmen is an outstanding example of SMU law alumni who are influential leaders in Asia," Attanasio said. "We are very proud of him and other law school graduates who hold key positions in their countries. Through the Sohmen Chinese Scholars Program, the Dedman School of Law will prepare professional leaders in one of the most important areas of the world."

Sohmen is chair of World-Wide Shipping Group, Ltd., one of the world's largest bulk shipping organizations. He has served as chair of the Pacific Basin Economic Council in Honolulu, the Baltic and International Maritime Council in Copenhagen, the Hong Kong Shipowners Association, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and as a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council. His current corporate and civic positions include the deputy chairmanship of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and the honorary chairmanship of the Austro-Chinese Friendship Society in Vienna. He was a co-founder of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre.

"In the 1960s I was fortunate to participate in SMU's international law program, which was well ahead of its time, and I am pleased to extend the same opportunity to others," Sohmen said. "Also, I was inspired by the Dedman family's recent ($20 million) pledge, which includes a challenge grant that matches other new gifts to the law school."

Sohmen added, "China has made remarkable progress in a short time, and I believe the country will overcome the formidable challenges it still faces. The rule of law plays an important part in the reform process in both economic and political spheres. Sohmen Chinese Scholars returning to their homeland will not change the course of Chinese history, but they will help in the process of modernizing China. In doing so, they will contribute toward global progress."

A native of Austria, Sohmen received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Vienna, Master of Comparative Law degree from the SMU School of Law and Master of Laws degree from Northwestern University. He holds honorary degrees from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

In 1999 Sohmen became the first international member of the SMU Board of Trustees. He received the Robert G. Storey Award for Distinguished Achievement from the Dedman School of Law at its Distinguished Law Alumni Award ceremony in February 2001.

The new $2 million Sohmen gift counts toward SMU's $400 million capital campaign launched in 1997. This five-year campaign is the most ambitious fund-raising effort in the university's history, with the largest goal ever sought by an institution in North Texas. The campaign seeks endowment and other support to continue strengthening the quality of students, faculty, academic programs and selected facilities at SMU.