Academics and Research / Magazine

Gift expands international programs in Sturm College of Law

Robert Roche

Alumnus Robert Roche made one of the largest gifts in the law school's history. Photo: Courtesy of Acorn International

A $3 million gift from the Roche Family Foundation and Robert Roche will establish the Roche Family International Business Transactions Program at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

The new program will increase the school’s capacity to provide comprehensive, internationally relevant business transaction skills training for master’s of law and JD students. The flexible nature of the gift allows the school to provide financial aid to top students, to hire faculty and to underwrite international business law programming such as national conferences and colloquia.

“I feel very lucky and honored to be able to help students at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law prepare for careers in a field I have found to be challenging and rewarding,” says Roche (JD ’88). “I have spent my professional life involved in international business transactions. Helping the college of law create a program in that very area is indeed fulfilling. After all, this is where I received all my training for my professional career.

“The Roche family has been associated with the University of Denver for nearly 30 years,” he continues. “My wife, Ritsuko Hattori-Roche, spent a year studying at the University, so this new association is even more meaningful as the University has become like family.”

The gift is among the largest of its kind in the law school’s history and includes outright and future cash commitments.

This is the second donation Roche (pictured) has made to further an academic institution’s mission. He also donated $1 million to establish the Roche Chair at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan. Roche studied Japanese language and culture as an undergraduate at Nanzan and returned for a year of legal studies there while studying law at DU.

“The Roche Family Foundation and Robert Roche’s generosity to the DU Sturm College of Law is unprecedented,” says Sturm College Dean Martin Katz. “Their support has enabled the Sturm College of Law to leverage two areas critical to our strategic vision — international law and business law — and to build degree sequences and programming that will set the standard for international business law in the 21st century. We are honored by their vision and humbled by their generosity.”

Roche is an entrepreneur and investor working in China, Japan and the U.S. He is co-founder and chair of Acorn International, one of China’s largest TV shopping companies, and co-founder and chair of Oak Lawn Marketing Inc., the largest infomercial company in Japan, which is now part of NTT Docomo Group.

Roche also founded URBN Hotels, China’s first carbon-neutral hotel. He currently serves as vice chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce/Shanghai. Recently, Roche was named by President Obama to serve on the United States Trade Representative’s advisory committee for trade policy and negotiations.

“This is an extraordinarily important and pleasing gift for both the Sturm College of Law and the University,” says Chancellor Robert Coombe. “It’s important because it will support one of our major strategic directions: an interdisciplinary approach to internationalization of our programs and curriculum. It’s pleasing because it is given by a true DU family and it sets a fine example for many others.”

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