Alumni Spotlight

Marvin Nathan ’66

Longtime equal rights advocate to begin 3-year term as national chair of the ADL

As a student at the Law Center, John Unger knew what type of law he didn’t want to practice after graduation. 
“I knew I didn’t want to be a litigator,” says Unger ’77, who went on to a rewarding career writing contracts and negotiating deals. 
Now general counsel at NEXT Financial Group, Unger previously worked at several Houston-area firms, including as a founder of Snell & Smith PC and a corporate section partner at Thompson and Knight before moving to the corporate side as senior vice president and general counsel of Sanders Morris Harris Group (aka Edelman Financial Group) in the mid-2000s.
“If it were not for the University of Houston Law Center, I would not be where I am today,” says the active alumnus.
A longtime director of the Law Foundation, Unger is also a member of the Dean’s Society and provides funding for the annual Law Center Gala. Most recently, he became a Law Scholar Patron, pledging to fund $30,000 over three years to help attract the most qualified applicants to the Law Center. 
"It is very important for University of Houston Law Center alumni to contribute to the Law Fund so that the Law Center can compete with other law schools in the state for the top potential students," Unger said.
Sept. 21, 2015 – University of Houston Law Center alumnus and longtime equal rights advocate Marvin Nathan next month will take the reins as National Chair of the Anti-Defamation League at a time when he sees anti-Semitism increasing around the world and extremism in the U.S. played out almost daily in headlines.

With 27 regional offices in the U.S. and one in Israel, Nathan said the mission of the 102-year-old organization remains two-fold: To stop the defamation of Jewish people and to secure justice and equality for all people.

“Anti-Semitism worldwide is increasing,” Nathan said, referring to a global poll the organization conducted recently to document anti-Semitic incidents and sentiment. “Some of the numbers are alarming.”

“Issues change over time,” he said, “and continue to be a challenge for the ADL and other organizations.” He cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality as a recent success while noting racism and inequality, which, he said, were evident in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, remain a primary focus. “Extremism continues to ramp up on both the left and the right,” he said.

Nathan noted that in 1981 the ADL drafted the model hate crimes statute that has become law in 45 states, including Texas, and served as the model for current federal law. The organization is working for passage of similar statutes in the remaining five states.

Closer to home, Nathan said the Houston ADL is working in support of the November referendum on the so-called HERO ordinance. The controversial equal rights measure approved by City Council would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and other sectors based on a broad range of protected classes, including sexual preference and gender identity.

Nathan’s commitment to equal rights began in the mid-60s during the turbulent days of the civil rights movement. As a student in the UH law school class of 1966, he heard the U.S. Solicitor General Archibald Cox speak about the struggle in the south and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and was inspired to become a trial lawyer in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice after graduation.  He investigated and prosecuted several significant cases before returning to Houston.  In 1970, he and others founded the firm that would become Nathan Sommers Jacobs. He practices in the areas of real estate, general corporate, and business organization law.

Nathan is a longtime supporter of the University of Houston and the Law Center, which awarded him the Volunteer of the Year Award in 1994 and 1995, the Law Alumni Association President’s Award in 1991, the Dean’s Award in 1993 and 2004, and the Alumnus of the Year Award in 1997. The University of Houston awarded him the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2008.

Nathan summed up his decades-long advocacy of equal rights in a previous Law Center publication: “Helping others is one of the critical pillars of the legal profession.”