Fall 2014


Eric Oesterle, ’73: Giving Where It's Needed Most

By Amy Spooner

Eric Oesterle, ’73
Eric Oesterle, ’73

With his training as a scientist, it’s only fitting that Eric Oesterle, ’73, uses osmosis as a metaphor to describe his time at Michigan Law. 

“I was like a sponge,” says Oesterle, who earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry at Michigan before trading in test tubes and labs for the human interface of law school. “Michigan Law offers the complete package, and I did my best to soak it all in.”

Throughout his career, Oesterle’s generous support has made various elements of that complete package even stronger. He gave a $250,000 gift to the South Hall building project, for which the Carolyn and Eric Oesterle Room was named in gratitude. 

Last fall, in honor of his 40th reunion, he gave $150,000 to endow the Eric A. Oesterle Scholarship Fund and to support the Law School Fund. 

Since graduation, Oesterle has given more than $200,000 to the Law School Fund because he understands the importance of discretionary funds. 

“I’ve always felt it was imperative to help the Law School address issues as they arise—issues that might not be on anyone’s radar when a new campaign or a new fiscal year begins. That’s where the Law School Fund can make a tremendous impact.”

Endowing a scholarship had long been a desire of Oesterle’s because of the reverence his family held for education. His mother leveraged scholarships and income from part-time jobs to earn a master’s degree at the age of 21, while the G.I. Bill enabled his father to earn his degree and become a professor at Purdue University. 

“When we were being raised, it was understood that my siblings and I weren’t just going to college, we were going to get graduate degrees,” Oesterle says. “Law school is so expensive these days, and I think it’s important to keep Michigan on an equal footing with its peer schools in terms of the scholarships we offer.”

To Michigan Law’s recent graduates, however, Oesterle stresses that his philanthropy started small. 

His first gift to the Law School Fund, in 1976, was $20, and he says his gift toward the underground expansion of the library a few years later didn’t exactly warrant having a room named after him. 

“The first time I took my family to see the completed library, I pointed to one leg of one chair and said, ‘That’s mine.’”

But for Oesterle, the motivation has been to do what he can, no matter the amount. “I always had a sense that regardless of how small my contribution might be, it was important to the Law School.” 

He says that belief was reinforced by the way the Law School stewarded his contribution to the library expansion, sending him brochures and updates about the project. 

“They treated me like I was a significant donor,” Oesterle says, “and I appreciated that.”

Oesterle has been equally generous with giving his time on behalf of the Law School. 

After graduation, he joined the Chicago office of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP and spent many years as the Law School’s firm captain there, assisting with the recruiting of Michigan Law graduates and encouraging those at Sonnenschein to give back. He also was a member of the Law School’s steering committee for the Michigan Difference campaign and several Class of 1973 reunion committees. 

Currently, Oesterle is a member of the Law School’s Development and Alumni Relations Committee, which serves as the leadership council for the Victors for Michigan campaign. 

“I do everything I do because I love the Law School,” says Oesterle, who now practices commercial, real estate, and construction litigation with Miller Shakman and Beem LLP in Chicago. “It really boils down to that.”