Winter 2022


Longtime Legal History Professor Establishes Fund for LGBTQ Students

By Chelsea Liddy Pivtorak

Bruce Frier in group photo with law students
Professor Bruce Frier (far right) with Michigan Law students

Capping off a five-decade career at the University of Michigan, Bruce Frier, the John and Teresa D’Arms Distinguished University Professor of Classics and Roman Law, has established a scholarship fund that will support LGBTQ students at Michigan Law. Frier has long been an engaged member of the University community and has previously supported many inclusivity initiatives at the Law School, including the Outlaws LGBTQ student organization as well as the Spectrum Fund, which provides financial support to students looking to pursue research, impact litigation, and policy work that advances LGBTQ equality. 

“Going back 20 years to the beginning of the millennium, the LGBTQ community was rather small at the Law School, but it’s gradually developed in recent years to become quite a large component of the student body,” says Frier. “That was always something that I wanted to encourage.”

In the early 2000s, Frier led a provostial committee dedicated to studying the climate for LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff at the University. The committee produced a report that was adopted by University administration and for the first time laid out a comprehensive policy to improve conditions for transgender individuals, an accomplishment of which he remains “quite proud.” 

By establishing this new scholarship, he hopes to make legal education more accessible for LGBTQ students, as well as those who have been previously employed in roles that further queer initiatives. 

Frier’s well-established tenure at the University of Michigan began in 1969 after obtaining his PhD in classics from Princeton University. He initially taught within the Department of Classical Studies—where he ultimately served as interim chair—and began a joint appointment with the Law School in 1981, teaching Legal History and Contracts. 

Frier is an accomplished scholar and has published many books and articles about economic and social history, focusing especially on Roman law. “I had always been interested in law and started to cultivate that interest after I came to Michigan,” he says. “It’s a complicated area and sometimes seems rather remote from that which is normally thought of as law, but I’ve been able to successfully marry two of my greatest passions.”

With plans to retire this year, Frier remains optimistic about the trajectory of the institution that he has been a part of for so long. He hopes that this scholarship will help students be the changemakers who will work to advance civil liberties for all. 

“I would like to see some of our students work on the law in the state of Michigan itself, and I think that lawyers who are more progressive in their views on LGBTQ issues will play a crucial role in bringing about change,” he says. “The Law School has always been a leader, and I am certain it will continue to be.”