Winter 2020

Beauty image of Windows on the Law School

A Lifetime of Giving Back to Michigan Law

Kent Whittaker
Kent Whittaker, ’60, and his wife, Judith.

Kent Whittaker has given to Michigan Law every year since graduating in 1960—that’s 59 years of making a difference in the Quad. 

His most recent gift—a $200,000 bequest to establish the Kent E. and Judith C. Whittaker Fund for Student Support—topped off decades of supporting the Law School Fund. 

“It’s a gesture I’ve been meaning to make,” says Whittaker, who designated the Law School as the beneficiary of a portion of the funds built up in his retirement accounts. “It’s a rather simple way to say thank you, and I owe Michigan that for many reasons.”

One of those reasons is that Whittaker met his wife, Judy, at the Law School. While working as a 3L case judge helping with 1L orientation, he noticed Judy enter the Reading Room. It was, as Whittaker recalls, love at first sight. She joined a group that he wasn’t teaching, but he acted quickly and talked one of his cohorts into trading tables with him. 

“I didn’t realize until it was too late that his subject was the court system in England for the last 300 years, including Ecclesiastes, which I knew very little about,” says Whittaker. “But I bumbled my way through and won a date.” They were married four months later. “I’m very fond of Michigan but—I have to admit—meeting my wife there adds to my regard,” he says.

Whittaker’s gratitude to Michigan extends to his professional career as well. “It changed my life,” he says. “My father was a lawyer, so I had somewhat of a hereditary interest in it. But the Law School gave me direction; the faculty helped me fall in love with the study.” 

After graduation, Whittaker moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he spent 45 years in private practice. Judy finished her law degree in Missouri and spent years in private practice before assuming her role as general counsel and executive vice president of Hallmark Cards Inc.

“Coming to Michigan was everything I hoped it would be,” he says. “They took a chance on me so that I might someday make something of myself. It’s because of the Law School that I was able to achieve all that I have.” 

With his bequest, Whittaker hopes to spark an interest in legacy giving among his fellow alumni. “I’d be pleased if someone saw my gift and thought, ‘maybe I can do the same,’” says Whittaker.—JP