University of Minnesota

Eftekhari Fast Start scholarship supports law students studying human rights

March 19, 2014

A fellowship for University of Minnesota Law School students studying human rights has been fully funded to honor prominent Iranian lawyer Mehdi Eftekhari, who died in 2013 at age 93. His daughter, Nazie Eftekhari, and his son, Amir Homayoun Eftekhari, established the fellowship to honor their father, who helped build modern-day Iran and possessed a profound commitment to education and equality.

Mehdi Eftekhari provided expert counsel for Iran’s first telephone service, first electrical grid and first system of dams from the 1940s through the 1970s. In 2000, he and his wife, Homa, moved to Minnesota to be with their children. Here, they helped the Foundation for the Children of Iran to provide critically needed medical care.

"My father had a strong commitment to the rule of law, a commitment he hoped to inspire in future jurists," said Nazie Eftekhari. "He knew that the way to a better life was through education, and he fought to ensure that his son and daughters were afforded the same quality and access to education."

The first recipient of the fellowship is Sanam Ghandehari, who graduated from the University of Tehran, passed the Iranian bar exam and practiced law for six years in Iran before immigrating to the United States. She started at the University of Minnesota Law School’s LL.M. program for international lawyers in 2012, then transferred to the J.D. program.

"I was proud to receive a fellowship from someone from my own country, especially one that’s in the name of someone who went to the same law school I did in Iran," said Ghandehari. "Iranians like me who are trying to make a legal career in the United States have very few examples to follow to find out we can be successful here. This fellowship shows me there are opportunities for us here."

The Mehdi Eftekhari Fellowship in Law is a Fast Start 4 Impact gift, which means it will receive an additional $10,000 award over four years for student support.

With Fast Start 4 Impact, each gift or pledge of $50,000 or more results in four years of funding—of at least $2,500 per year—for a U of M student. It can take new endowments years to generate awards of that size. Fast Start 4 Impact is a unique opportunity for donors to increase the power of their gifts, because the earnings on the new endowment fund are reinvested for growth during the first four years. Award amounts increase with the size of the endowment created.

Since the Fast Start program began, donors have committed $11.2 million to create 104 Fast Start scholarships and fellowships, which are supporting 115 students.

"The University of Minnesota Law School has a long history of excellence in human rights law," said Dean David Wippman. "We are grateful to have a fellowship that will support our students in carrying on this tradition. Through the Human Rights Center, the newly established Center for New Americans, numerous clinics, scholarship, advocacy and pro bono work, the Law School offers a multitude of ways for students to involve themselves deeply and meaningfully in human rights law."

The Fast Start program is funded by the University of Minnesota Foundation, and gift commitments must be made by Dec. 31, 2014. The University of Minnesota Foundation advances the University’s mission of teaching, research and outreach to the community by raising and managing private dollars for scholarships, world-class faculty, leading-edge research, new facilities and academic programs on all five campuses of the University of Minnesota.

The Mehdi Eftekhari Fellowship in Law supports students studying human rights, with a preference for Iranian students who have an interest in doing pro bono work.

The University of Minnesota and the Eftekhari family gratefully acknowledge the many gifts made to honor Mehdi Eftekhari by his friends and family from around the world. To make a gift to enable students to receive continued support, please go to:

Twin Cities Campus: