Curtis Mack, LLM ’73, was presented with a 2023 David B. Hermelin Award for Fundraising Volunteer Leadership from University of Michigan President Santa Ono at an event earlier this month. The Hermelin Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the University through philanthropy.
“Curtis, who is known for his warm spirit and for always wearing a Michigan Law hat, has been a passionate volunteer, fundraiser, and advocate for diversity and inclusion,” said President Ono in his remarks. ”He has impacted numerous young alumni, encouraging them to give both time and money in support of the University and the Law School.”
Taking others over the bridge
A generous mentor dedicated to lifting the next generation, Mack cites his childhood in Valdosta, Georgia, as instilling in him the commitment to give back to others. He has counseled generations of young people and provided resources and connections to help them throughout their education and careers.
“My family taught me growing up that you ought to be involved in more than helping yourself. My mother and my grandmother always said it’s not just about you. ‘What are you doing for others, and when you look around, who else are you taking over the bridge with you?’”
“My family taught me growing up that you ought to be involved in more than helping yourself. My mother and my grandmother always said it’s not just about you. ‘What are you doing for others, and when you look around, who else are you taking over the bridge with you?’” Mack explained. “They pushed me to keep moving ahead and to get excited about bringing other young men and women to a place like Michigan.”
Mack was instrumental in founding Michigan Law’s Black Alumni Reunion in 2014 and also is a founding father of the U-M Alumni Association's Gabriel Hargo Scholarship Fund, a recruiting scholarship that aims to increase racial diversity in U-M’s graduate programs. The fund is named after the first Black graduate of Michigan Law, who also is the first known Black alumnus of U-M.
“This critical work was built on the understanding that when recruiting and retaining a diverse and talented student body, prospective students must see successful individuals that look like them,” said President Ono in reference to the Black Alumni Reunion and the Hargo Scholarship. “Thank you, Curtis, for your contributions as a fundraiser, a volunteer, and a champion for diversity and the University of Michigan.”
Blazing trails in practice and the classroom
Mack, a labor and employment attorney, began his education in a church schoolhouse founded in 1850 by his then-enslaved ancestors. He went on to earn degrees from Michigan State University, the University of Akron School of Law, and Michigan Law and became nationally renowned for his work in the private and public sectors.
He was the first Black attorney to join the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Cleveland and later became regional director of the NLRB's Atlanta region—the second Black person to hold such a position and the youngest person ever. Mack later entered private practice and founded Mack and Bernstein, which later merged with McGuireWoods LLP.
Mack has negotiated or tried more than 250 individual termination actions and sexual and racial harassment cases, has represented 30 of the nation's Fortune 100 companies, and passed the bar in five states—Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio.
He also taught generations of students along the way. He was the first Black tenure-track professor at the University of Florida Law School, and has taught as an adjunct professor at Michigan Law, Michigan State Business School in Dubai, and Emory University. Though retired from practice, he continues to teach a collective bargaining and arbitration course at Michigan Law.
In 2020, he received Michigan Law’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the Law School’s highest honor. Mack, who resides in Atlanta but returns regularly to teach at the Law School and watch the Wolverines at Michigan Stadium, never misses an opportunity to sing the praises of the University of Michigan.
“I don’t think there is any place I could have done any better than being at Michigan. It was much more than an education. I think back to that life as a child in a little South Georgia town, and then one day getting recognition by the president of this great University,” said Mack. “I always tell my friends that when I go up to Michigan, it is like going to heaven. It’s a heavenly place.”
Banner photo: Curtis Mack, LLM ’73, received the University of Michigan’s top award for fundraising leadership from President Santa J. Ono at a ceremony in Ann Arbor in early November.