Sumner Redstone Gives $18 Million to School of Law

Addition to law building will bear media giant’s name

09.14.2012 By Susan Seligson and Leslie Friday

Sumner Redstone, Boston University School of Law 18 million dollar gift, CBS, Viacom International
Sumner M. Redstone (Hon.’94) has given $18 million to the School of Law, where he once served on the faculty. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

President Robert A. Brown announced yesterday afternoon that media giant and former School of Law faculty member Sumner M. Redstone has given the school $18 million, a gift that will kick-start the construction of an addition to LAW’s main tower at the center of the Charles River Campus.

“On behalf of all my colleagues at Boston University, I want to express my deepest appreciation for you, Sumner, and for everything you’ve done for the School of Law,” Brown said before a packed audience of LAW faculty and students in the Metcalf Trustee Ballroom.

“The Boston University School of Law is a hub of legal scholarship and academic achievement,” said Redstone, after whom the addition will be named. “The study that takes place within its walls is enormous. It’s my hope that this beautiful building, and I must say it’s got a pretty good name, will serve students for many years to come.”

Scott Nichols, BU vice president for development and alumni relations, said the new five-story building, designed by the Cambridge architectural firm Bruner Cott, will trigger large-scale improvements at the law school.

“I feel very good about having the building named after me,” said Redstone (Hon.’94) in an earlier interview. “I feel a very close relationship with Boston University.” A 1947 graduate of Harvard Law School, he recalled with fondness his three years on the faculty of the BU school, beginning in 1982, where he taught the school’s first course in entertainment law. “It’s a great law school,” he said. Tad Jankowski (LAW’82), his teaching assistant at the time, went on to become general counsel of National Amusements, the theatrical exhibition company privately owned by Redstone and his daughter, Shari Redstone (LAW’78,’81).

Redstone’s BU connection goes beyond his teaching stint. His daughter is a graduate, and this year marked the 32nd Redstone Film Festival, an annual high-profile College of Communication event he sponsors. And in 1994, he received an honorary degree from the University.

Boston University School of Law Dean Maureen O'Rourke, Sumner Redstone building naming announcement
LAW Dean Maureen O’Rourke said Sumner Redstone’s gift is “a tremendous vote of confidence in the future of legal education at Boston University School of Law.” Photo by Cydney Scott

 

“Mr. Redstone’s commitment to the law school began many years ago as a member of our faculty, so it is fitting that our new classroom building will bear his name,” said Maureen A. O’Rourke, dean of LAW. “At a time when legal education is facing many challenges, Mr. Redstone’s gift is a tremendous vote of confidence in the future of legal education at Boston University School of Law. Thanks to his generosity, we will now be able to build a first-rate facility to complement the superb educational experience that our students receive.”

The executive chairman of CBS and Viacom has spoken often about his commitment to excellence. His 2001 book, A Passion to Win, written with Peter Knobler, is the story of his humble beginnings as the child of Russian immigrants in Boston, and his lifelong work of building a media empire.

Sumner Redstone Boston University School of Law building, donation
Redstone with plans for the five-story addition to the LAW building that will bear his name. Photo by Cydney Scott

“I was born with nothing,” said Redstone, who grew up in Boston’s West End, the Jewish and Italian neighborhood that was demolished to make way for the Government Center complex and surrounding high rises. “It was a long journey from there to where I am today, with lots of difficulties along the way.”

Redstone graduated first in his class from Boston’s famously demanding Boston Latin School. He joined the family business, a chain of drive-in movie theaters, after working as a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division and a brief stint in private practice. What began as a modest enterprise now operates about 950 screens, including Showcase Cinemas, Multiplex Cinemas, and Cinema De Lux, as well as IMAX theaters in the United States and Argentina.

After a series of film industry investments and stock sales, in 1987 Redstone acquired Viacom International, which owned MTV, Nickelodeon, and major television network CBS. The network split from Viacom in 2005, but Redstone remains chairman of both companies. In 2005 he acquired Paramount Picturesand a year later bought DreamWorks Animation. With a net worth of more than $4 billion, he attributes his success to doing something he loves and to unrelenting hard work. “I work as hard today as I ever did in my life,” said the 89-year-old Redstone, who recently earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

These days, he works mostly out of his Beverly Hills home, in the company of his four dogs and surrounded by one of the world’s largest private saltwater aquariums. “Watching the fish when you’re working is very relaxing,” he said. “It lowers the blood pressure.”

Redstone’s succinct advice to today’s law students: “If you want to succeed you have to have great character, confidence, and commitment.”

A movie-lover all his life, his all-time favorite is Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. “It happened to be one of ours,” he said of the Paramount film. “But it would still be my favorite even if it was someone else’s.”

Recently Redstone embarked on a new book project. “It’s called How to Live Forever,” he said, “which is something I intend to do.”

This article originally appeared in BU Today on 9.14.12

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