The Ken Thompson Social Justice Fund at NYU Law

Ken Thompson

Headshot of Ken Thompson

Kenneth Paul Thompson '92 was a visionary leader, a trailblazing district attorney and a bold, courageous voice for civil rights and social and racial justice. Throughout his distinguished career as a federal prosecutor, gifted trial attorney, civil rights champion—and ultimately, in 2013—Brooklyn's first black district attorney, Ken committed himself to fighting for everyday people. Far more often than not, he won.

Ken made history as the first African American to be elected Brooklyn District Attorney. Immediately and unapologetically, he set out to disrupt our nation’s broken criminal justice system. Ken’s audacious work included freeing the wrongfully convicted, giving a second chance to nonviolent, low-level offenders, and prosecuting gunrunners who wrought carnage in our toughest neighborhoods. Indeed, the sweeping changes he implemented as the head of the nation’s third-largest prosecutor’s office, including the creation of a robust internal conviction review unit that exonerated more than 20 people found guilty of crimes they did not commit, helped transform that office into a national model—one with a mandate to do justice and to treat everyone and every case fairly and with the utmost integrity.

Two years after his passing, we hope to build upon Ken’s great legacy at our extraordinary institution—a place that was also very close to his heart. Ken understood and believed in the power of the law to bring about social change and to promote social justice, and he believed in the power of the Law School to shape great leaders and advance bold, thoughtful, and progressive ideas.

The Ken Thompson Social Justice Fund

The Ken Thompson Social Justice Fund at NYU School of Law is a tribute to Ken’s groundbreaking work on racial justice and his dedication to effectiveness, fairness and justice in the criminal justice system—and in society at large. Ken’s widow, Lu-Shawn Thompson, has generously partnered with the Law School, to “seed” the Ken Thompson Social Justice Fund at New York University School of Law, with a commitment of $250,000. We ask you to consider joining us in this immensely important effort to honor, memorialize, and perpetuate Ken’s remarkable legacy.

The Fund is a tribute to Ken’s groundbreaking work on racial equity and his dedication to effectiveness, fairness, and justice in the criminal justice system—and in society at large. Having your support in this endeavor would be incredibly meaningful.

The Fund will be used to support an annual lecture or panel series focused on prosecutors’ offices and racial justice—and criminal justice, more broadly—to be co-hosted by the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law and the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law. It is our aim to grow the Fund significantly to support additional initiatives in Ken’s honor, including a scholarship program for deserving students and a professorship in Ken’s name.

We hope that this initiative will be supported by all those who respected Ken’s important work and who want to honor his memory by contributing to the Fund. Please join us in celebrating his exceptional leadership, his passion for the law and social justice, and his love of NYU Law. Indeed, even as a law student, Ken was the recipient of the Law School’s highest honor, the Arthur T. Vanderbilt Medal, for his outstanding contributions to our law school community—an honor that both acknowledged his leadership on campus and gave him the confidence to grow as a leader in public service.

As Ken’s friends and colleagues, we would be honored and proud to have your support.

The Law School is fully committed to securing the necessary support for this fund. For more information on supporting the Ken Thompson Social Justice Fund at NYU Law, you can reach out to Nick Vagelatos, assistant dean for development and alumni relations at or by phone at (212) 998-6007.