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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 on 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,” said President Robert A. Brown last September 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 (Hon.’94), 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.”
In an earlier interview, Redstone said, “I feel very good about having the building named after me. 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, teaching the school’s first course on 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. This year marks the 33rd Redstone Film Festival, an annual high-profile College of Communication event he sponsors. And in 1994, he received an honorary degree from the University.
“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.”
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. “I was born with nothing,” said Redstone, who grew up in Boston’s West End. “It was a long journey from there to where I am today, with lots of difficulties along the way.”
Redstone 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 the television network CBS. The network split from Viacom in 2005, but Redstone remains chair of both companies. In 2005 he acquired Paramount Pictures and a year later bought DreamWorks Animation.
With a net worth of more than $4 billion, the 89-year-old Redstone 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,” he said.