IU Maurer School of Law alumnus endows professorship with $1 million gift

  • March 3, 2017


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A $1 million gift from Stephen F. Burns will endow a professorship in his name and allow the Indiana University Maurer School of Law to continue its innovative curricular focus on ethics and professionalism.

The Stephen F. Burns Professorship will be held by William D. Henderson, long considered one of the nation’s pioneers in the field of legal education, and will be used to support programming such as the school’s Wintersession program.

Burns, a 1968 graduate of the law school, announced his gift this week. As CEO of Wheaton Van Lines, Burns helped transform it from a small van line to one of the nation’s biggest moving companies. Throughout an award-winning career that saw the company’s growth accelerate beyond expectations, Burns said he would often interact with people who didn’t possess the kind of traits he admired.

“When I went into business, I met a lot of good leaders. And I met some who were, shall we say, a bit unscrupulous,” Burns said. “Ethics seemed to be a void in them. And in talking with others, it wasn’t necessarily how smart they were, it was whether or not you could trust them.”

When he began to see the work the Maurer School of Law was doing to prepare its students to become not only good lawyers but good people, Burns recognized an opportunity to ensure that training would persist over time. He said he was particularly inspired by Henderson’s work.

“He’s the reason for this gift,” Burns said. “When I was in law school, we hardly had any courses like the Legal Profession course or Wintersession. Bill Henderson has the same passion that I do: that there needs to be a greater curricular experience in terms of ethics and professional responsibilities.”

The Legal Profession course, which the law school launched in 2009, teaches first-year students the skills of lawyering in context by examining practice settings, law firm norms and nondoctrinal skills that all successful lawyers need: judgment, project management, client relations and teamwork.

Students work in teams on real-life, practice-related problems, developing their interpersonal skills in a team setting. The course was developed with the help of Henderson; former dean Lauren K. Robel, now IU Bloomington provost and executive vice president; and professors Charles Geyh and Carwina Weng. In addition to teaching the Legal Profession course, Weng was instrumental in the school’s Career Choices series, which invites alumni to Baier Hall to relay their professional experiences to current students.

“After hearing what Bill and others were doing and then after sitting down with Bill, it was clear that his passion for students and for the profession is unique,” Burns said. “Teaching ethics and professionalism is difficult to do in many respects, and I think that’s the reason so many other schools have shied away from it. I’m pleased to see my school taking a lead here.”

Austen Parrish, dean and the James H. Rudy Professor of Law at the Maurer School of Law, said Burns' gift will have a lasting impact.

“We’re so grateful that Steve Burns has made a tremendous contribution to support the school’s innovative programming,” Parrish said. “From the school’s Wintersession program to the first-year Legal Profession course, to new service-learning projects, to a number of capstone courses, as well as a wide range of clinical and pro bono programs, the law school has created opportunities where doctrinal knowledge, lawyering skills and the ethical dimensions of lawyering come together to help students bridge the gap from law school to practice.”

“It is very rewarding to be a part of a gift process where a lawyer can identify a key theme of their success and happiness and help translate it into part of forward-looking law school curriculum,” Henderson said. “In the case of Steve Burns, the theme is ethics and integrity.”

Lisa Hosey, the executive director of development at the law school, echoed Henderson’s thoughts, noting that Burns is a man of generosity and, more importantly, integrity.

“This endowed professorship funding will enable the law school to build upon a foundation that Steve Burns helped us lay starting nearly a decade ago," Hosey said. "Steve Burns is like so many of the members of our Board of Visitors who have shown their deep commitment to the law school through transformative gifts."

Burns has received numerous honors for his industry achievements, including Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2006 (Indiana, Midwest and U.S. finalist); 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Moving and Storage Association (the industry's highest award); and Wheaton's highest honor, the Extra Mile Award, in 2010. He has also been an active volunteer, with a special emphasis on Give Kids the World, which helps children with life-threatening illnesses realize their dream of visiting Disney World.

Burns stepped down as Wheaton's CEO in September 2008, but he remains the company's chairman, focusing on acquisitions and diversification. He is a member of the law school’s Academy of Law Alumni Fellows, the highest honor the school bestows on its alumni.

Founded in 1842, the Indiana University Maurer School of Law is the oldest public law school in the Midwest. The law school is ranked 25th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. It is the highest-ranked public law school in Indiana and among the top 10 public law schools nationally. In addition to its top-25 overall ranking, the school also has highly ranked programs in international law, at 18th; tax, at 20th; and intellectual property, at 23rd.

An executive portrait of Stephen F. Burns

Stephen F. Burns

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Ken Turchi

Assistant dean for finance and administration

  • Maurer School of Law
  • Office 812-856-4044
  • kturchi@indiana.edu

James Boyd

  • IU Maurer School of Law
  • Office 812-855-0156
  • joboyd@indiana.edu