The University of Houston has received a $1 million gift from alumnus Danny M. Sheena, founder of the Sheena Law Firm, to support construction of the new John M. O’Quinn Law Building, scheduled to be completed in 2022. In recognition of the gift, the planned moot courtroom and dividable classroom space within it will be named the Danny M. Sheena Courtroom; Danny M. Sheena Classroom; and Megan D. Sheena Classroom, named for Sheena’s middle daughter who is a current student at the UH Law Center.
Construction of the $93 million ultramodern John M. O’Quinn Law Building will start this fall. The new building will support a learning environment that expands student resources, enhances faculty recruitment, increases engagement with industry and the community, and affirms that the school is investing in the future of its most significant asset – law students.
“The existing UH Law Center building was built over 50 years ago at a time where no computers or cell phones existed. I remember studying for my final exams in the underground study areas and thinking of the structural components that went into designing the Law Center,” said Sheena. “As a UH engineering and Law Center graduate, I am happy that I can be a part of the new UH Law Center state-of-the-art building that will continue to provide students with an excellent legal education.”
Sheena graduated from the University of Houston Honors College in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering but was drawn back to campus years later to study law, earning a Juris Doctor degree from the UH Law Center in 1995. He served as associate editor of the Houston Law Review, a scholarly legal journal published by Law Center students. Sheena founded the Sheena Law Firm in 2003, offering clients legal expertise in a wide range of practice areas including business litigation, construction law and personal injury.
The Danny M. Sheena Courtroom will have 6,200 square feet of floor space with a seating capacity of 220 people and will provide a key forum where academic peers, prominent judges, lawyers and practitioners from across the country can convene for legal and policy symposia, conferences and social events. The courtroom and dividable classroom space will include state-of-the-art technology and audio-visual systems for courtroom proceedings, lectures, broadcast, and recording.
“We are very proud of the accomplishments of alumni like Danny Sheena who have gone on to have successful careers in law and business. We are also grateful for his vision, belief and support of the Law Center and its future. His gift is transformational and will enhance our efforts to complete an iconic new Law Center building for which we can all be proud,” said Leonard M. Baynes, dean of the UH Law Center.
Sheena’s connection to the University of Houston is a family tradition. His wife, Shannon, received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from UH while his oldest daughter, Lauren, is a 2020 graduate of the UH College of Optometry. Megan just started her second year at the UH Law Center, and his youngest daughter, Hailey, plans to follow in the family's UH footsteps. Danny Sheena credits his parents for instilling in him the importance of education and family values.
“The University of Houston provided my family and me with valuable education, which shaped our lives. We are very proud and blessed to be a part of the Cougar family,” said Sheena. “The combination of a UH engineering degree and a UH law degree created countless opportunities in a place that I always considered America's best city. My legal career led me to interact with thousands of diverse clients, each with unique issues that I wanted to help resolve. This interaction led me to better understand the types of businesses that succeed and fail, the types of arguments that win and lose, and the issues that make a difference.”
Nearly $25 million has been raised through private philanthropy to help fund the new building which will be located in the northeast corner of campus between University Lofts and the current law buildings. Funds raised for the building are a part of the “Here, We Go” Campaign, the University of Houston’s first major system-wide fundraising campaign in more than 25 years. More than $1.2 billion has been raised by the System to address key priorities, including scholarships, faculty support and strengthening UH’s partnership with Houston. The Campaign will end on August 31, 2020.
“The Sheenas are a true Cougar family and we are very glad to claim them! Their gift will be a lasting investment in the future of the UH Law Center and of Houston,” said Eloise Brice, vice president for university advancement. “The support and generosity of successful alumni, like Mr. Sheena, was critical to making the John M. O’Quinn Law Building a reality.”