New Law scholarship honors ‘Michigan Miracle’ attorney

Daniel J. Wright

The late Daniel J. Wright ’73 was a talented attorney, Michigan Supreme Court Commissioner and a lover of Irish poetry who could quote W. B. Yeats from memory.

He was also known as the “Michigan Miracle” lawyer because in 2003 he saved the state $178 million in federal fines when he led the state’s efforts to upgrade Michigan’s outdated child support system by federally mandated guidelines.

To honor’s Wright’s memory and support future child welfare leaders, a group of Wright’s friends established the Daniel J. Wright Memorial Endowed Scholarship in Child Welfare at University of Detroit Mercy.

Maura D. Corrigan ’73 is leading the effort to create the fund. She was chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court when, in 2002, she tapped law school classmate Wright to pull off a “miracle.”

“At the time, it seemed impossible that all the state’s counties could meet the federal deadline,” said Corrigan, who later served as director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. “But Dan was a tremendous diplomat and a man of his word. He persuaded the counties to come on board despite all the difficulties involved.”

Federal officials acknowledged at the time that it took a “miracle” for the state to meet the deadlines, Corrigan added.

“I am not surprised that Dan pulled off ‘The Michigan Miracle,’ said J. Patrick Wright, about his brother. “Dan had tremendous drive but very little ego. He never talked about himself. So, it is comforting to know his memory and bountiful legacy of helping children in need will continue in the education of children’s advocates at the University of Detroit Mercy.”

As head of the Michigan Supreme Court’s Friend of the Court Bureau, and later as director of the Court’s Child Welfare Services Division, Wright continued to work for Michigan’s children and families. He launched “adoption forums” to make it easier for children in foster care to find permanent homes and advocated for legislation giving children more power in the legal decisions affecting their futures.

To honor his work in child welfare, the state created the Daniel J. Wright Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, recognizing outstanding advocates for Michigan children and families.

But Wright’s friends, many of them former colleagues, wanted to do more, said Kelly Wagner, who succeeded Wright as director of the Child Welfare Services Division.

“We started thinking about the best way to honor Dan’s legacy,” Wagner said. “And what better way of doing that than to support the next generation of child welfare advocates?”

Julie A. Hein, director of development for Detroit Mercy Law, said financial need is a serious barrier to students who want to pursue a career in child welfare, advocacy and policy.

“The Wright Fund scholarship can have a tremendous impact for these students and, by extension, the field of child welfare,” she said.

The Wright scholarship will be offered to students at Detroit Mercy Law, the College of Business Administration and the College of Liberal Arts and Education at Detroit Mercy. The Wright scholarship fund committee hopes to raise $50,000 over three years to endow the scholarship.

Donations may be made online at https://lawschool.udmercy.edu/alumni-giving/gift-giving/current-campaign-giving-opportunities.php.

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