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Article - Alumnus pays tribute to former professor supports renowned law psychology program

Alumnus pays tribute to former professor, supports renowned law-psychology program

Alumnus pays tribute to former professor, supports renowned law-psychology program

Posted: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

About this photo: Professor Bruce Sales has been honored with a named tribute fund to support the UNL law-psychology program.

In appreciation to a former professor and the education he received at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Central City native Richard Blunk of Dallas has established a tribute fund with a gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Students and faculty with UNL's renowned law-psychology program will benefit for years to come because of the gift, which Blunk named in honor of Bruce Sales, his former professor and mentor who founded the law-psychology program.

Blunk created the Bruce Sales Law-Psychology Program Excellence Fund with a $5,000 gift to provide outright support to the program and a $25,000 planned estate gift to provide permanently endowed support in the future. Once fully funded, annual income from the fund will perpetually support the law-psychology program.

"This gift provides an expression of thanks to Bruce Sales for his investment in me and others so many years go," Blunk said. "He's an example of a professor and mentor at the university who went above and beyond in caring for students and their goals. I'm pleased this gift helps to recognize his many contributions to the university while providing ongoing support to a program that has meant a great deal to me and others and helped me discover a career path I've enjoyed." 

Blunk said he encourages others who would like to donate to the fund.

The gift was recently announced at an event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the program, which was the first federally funded academic program of its kind in the country and remains highly regarded nationally. Blunk attended the celebration, where he announced the gift and presented it as a tribute to Sales, who also attended.

"Richard Blunk exemplified the best in UNL students," Sales said after learning about the fund established in his honor. "He was motivated to achieve at the highest level, with integrity and passion. I am honored that he considers me one of his mentors."

Eve Brank, associate chair of the UNL Department of Psychology and associate professor, said, "We are so grateful for Richard's generous gift and support of the law-psychology program. This gift reminds me of the impact a professor can have on the life of a student, and it humbles me to think how long-term that impact can be."

The gift from Blunk also supports the University of Nebraska's current fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska, which ends Dec. 31, and its priority to increase support for academic programs.

Sales launched UNL's law-psychology program in 1974 and served as its first director. He received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to help train scholars to do research in the areas between psychology and law. Some of the first notable studies made significant impact on bettering jury instructions. Sales served as director of the UNL program from 1974 to 1981 and is currently the Virginia L. Roberts Professor of Criminal Justice at Indiana University.

UNL's law-psychology program is one of the leading centers for education and research in the interdisciplinary study of law and psychology. It trains scholars who are engaged in basic and applied research and writing on psychosocial issues and problems related to the law.

The program is sponsored jointly by the College of Arts and Science's Department of Psychology and the College of Law and is the world's oldest, ongoing integrated program in psycholegal studies. It remains unusual in the breadth of training, with students specializing in virtually any area of psycholegal studies.

Richard Blunk, a 1971 graduate of Central City High School, worked with Sales in the publication of his senior honors thesis, "Persuasion During the Voir Dire," in 1976 and prior to graduating summa cum laude with majors in psychology, philosophy and English. Blunk also served as president of the Innocents Society during his senior year.

After graduating from UNL, Blunk received a juris doctor degree with honors from the University of Texas at Austin in 1979 and an MBA in finance in 1981. After 13 years in legal practice and 20 years as general counsel for a variety of public and private companies, all in the Dallas area, he recently organized Thermopylae Ventures, LLC, a privately-held alternative investment holding company.

His career accomplishments were recognized in 2014 by the Dallas publication D CEO Magazine and the American Association of Corporate Counsel, which named him one of the best corporate lawyers in north Texas for his role as managing director and general counsel of Thermopylae Ventures, LLC.

Blunk has been actively involved in local government, having served with the Cultural Affairs and Public Television Access Committees of the City of Dallas, local business organizations, North Dallas Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, as well as various charitable organizations, including Folds of Honor, a national nonprofit organization that raises college scholarships for the children of U.S. service personnel who died in Iraq or Afghanistan.

About the University of Nebraska Foundation

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for more than 78 years. Last year, donors provided the university with $258.1 million for scholarships, academic programs, medical and other research, faculty support and facilities. The foundation's comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska, has raised more than $1.8 billion for the university and ends on Dec. 31. For more information, visit campaignfornebraska.org.

Media contact: Robb Crouch, 402-458-1142, rcrouch@nufoundation.org

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