Winter 2019


An Alumnus’s Gift Celebrates the Life of His Father and Former Michigan Law Professor

Robert B. Knauss and father
The Knausses: Robert B., ’79 (left), and Robert L., ’57.

In his youth, Robert B. Knauss, ’79, didn’t have a clear idea of what his father and namesake, Robert L. Knauss, ’57, did for a living. It wasn’t until he became a student at the Law School that he gained a true appreciation for his father’s work as a law professor. “By the time I arrived, my dad had been gone from Michigan for about five years, becoming dean of Vanderbilt Law School and later the University of Houston Law Center,” he says. “And although I knew many of my professors from growing up in town—the faculty was quite collegial and my parents were close socially with several of them—seeing them in action gave me added respect for my dad, his expertise, and what he did in the classroom every day.” Now, in celebration of his father’s life and accomplishments, as well as the institution that greatly influenced both, Knauss has made a $100,000 gift to establish the Professor Robert L. Knauss Scholarship Fund.

A Detroit native, Professor Knauss began his academic career teaching Contracts and Corporations at Michigan Law from 1960 to 1972. “He had a sense a humor that he wove into his work,” says the younger Knauss, recalling an exam question his father was particularly proud of for its several references to the popular 1960s TV series, Batman. “He was a creative problem solver, which was one of the many reasons he was so respected by the University community.” At a young age, Professor Knauss became president of the U-M Faculty Senate and was named vice president of student services by U-M President Robben Fleming, during which he oversaw student activism on campus. After leaving Michigan, he not only went on to lead two law schools but served in leadership roles with a variety of corporations, including Baltic International USA Inc., Seitel Inc., Equus II Inc., The Mexico Fund Inc., XO Holdings Inc., Philip Services Corp., and WestPoint International Inc.

Like his father, Knauss pursued law school for its intellectual rigor and Michigan Law for its prestige. “It was the best place to hone my thinking and logical analysis, which I knew I needed even before I had settled on a career path,” says Knauss, now general counsel in the New York office of Warburg Pincus LLC, a global private equity firm. Practicing in a field reminiscent of his father’s own career, Knauss also spent more than 30 years as a corporate partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP in Los Angeles, where he focused primarily on mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance and securities, and private equity. Prior to that, he clerked for Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court. “My Michigan training has held me in good stead, as it did for my dad. I find it meaningful to do anything I can to help provide scholarships for others to experience what we’ve had the opportunity to do.”—JP