Gift from Audrey M. Irmas supports new law professorship at USC Gould

Founder of Immigration Clinic to be installed as the Sydney M. and Audrey M. Irmas Endowed Clinical Professor

March 28, 2017 Gilien Silsby

The USC Gould School of Law is establishing its first named clinical law professorship at USC with a $1.5 million gift from longtime supporter Audrey M. Irmas, whose philanthropic commitment to women and children is well-known throughout California.

Niels Frenzen
Niels Frenzen established the USC Gould Immigration Clinic 17 years ago. (Photo/Courtesy of USC Gould School of Law)

Professor Niels Frenzen, founding director of the USC Gould Immigration Clinic, will be installed as the first Sydney M. and Audrey M. Irmas Endowed Clinical Professor. The gift will expand the clinic’s work and student participation in advocacy and representation of immigration clients.

“Audrey Irmas has been a steadfast supporter of USC and the Gould School of Law for many decades,” said Dean Andrew Guzman. “We are deeply grateful to have such a committed member of the Trojan Family supporting a critical need for our clinics at the law school.”

Four generations of Irmas’ family attended USC, including her husband, Sydney ’55 and grandson Jared Irmas ’13, who both graduated from the law school. Daughter Deborah Irmas ’72 graduated with a degree in fine arts and later taught art history.

“I am thrilled to support the work of USC Gould’s Immigration Clinic,” said Audrey Irmas. “The clinic has helped many women and children successfully gain freedom and asylum after enduring unimaginable harms, while training some of USC Gould’s best and brightest future lawyers.”

From Tanzania to Ojai

The clinic’s recent representation of two Tanzanian sisters, who were born with albinism and targeted for “magical” body parts in their small African village, recently grabbed the national spotlight. Under the direction of Frenzen, USC law students logged hundreds of hours to help the teens win asylum. Today the girls are safe in Ojai, living with guardians and attending high school.

“This is one of hundreds of cases we are working on,” Frenzen said. “It’s cases like these that we are committed to. Our students are actively practicing immigration law while our clients benefit from representation that can literally save their lives.”

Frenzen, who launched the Immigration Clinic in 2000, said he is honored to hold the inaugural Sydney M. and Audrey and Sydney Irmas Audrey M. Irmas Endowed Clinical Professorship.

The Immigration Clinic is aligned with Audrey Irmas’ mission of helping vulnerable populations. Her passion is truly inspirational.

Niels Frenzen

“The Immigration Clinic is aligned with Audrey Irmas’ mission of helping vulnerable populations. Her passion is truly inspirational,” he said.

High success rate

In the past 17 years, nearly 200 USC Gould students representing more than 1,000 clients participated in the clinic. The clinic boasts an impressive 95 percent success rate.

It is currently working on more than 200 open cases, representing clients from 25 different countries. More than half of the clients are women and transgender women, and a third are children, with the youngest being a 4-year-old boy from El Salvador.

The Irmases have been loyal supporters of USC and its law school. In 1997, the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Charitable Foundation endowed the Sydney M. Irmas Chair in Public Interest Law and Legal Ethics and funded the Irmas Fellowship in Public Interest Law and Legal Ethics. In 2012, Irmas funded the Audrey Irmas Clinical Teaching Fellow. They have also supported the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“The Irmas family’s long-standing engagement with USC Gould has specifically supported our public interest and service efforts,” Guzman said. “Their support has made a significant impact for those students interested in pursuing careers in public interest law. This latest gift is truly a game changer for our clinical education.”