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The ball’s in your court: New scholarship combines athletic, law aspirations

January 18, 2019 | Alumni

When Michael J. Segal ’80,’83 began law school, he wanted to be an entrepreneur. As an undergrad at Ohio State, he was already running his own successful business. A law degree, he thought, would be the perfect complement to a thriving career. Although he was prepared to take on the rigorous curriculum of law school, Segal did not expect to have a transformative experience that would reveal his true professional calling and inspire the spirit of giving. “It’s impossible for me to forget Ohio State because it’s a significant part of my life,” Segal said. “I will always feel close to Ohio State due to the exceptional education and experiences that helped develop both my career and character.”

Segal is formerly the senior partner, and currently Of Counsel, in the Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits Group of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, based in New York City and one of the most prominent law firms in the United States. In 2007, he became the third person in the firm’s 54-year history to lateral-in as a partner, previously having been co-chair of the Employee Benefits Department in the New York City firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. As one of the nation’s leading attorneys in the field of executive compensation, Segal counsels clients with respect to their compensation and benefit programs, particularly in connection with corporate mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and other private and public business combinations.

As an undergrad, Segal received a partial scholarship to play tennis at Ohio State while pursuing a BS in accounting. His entrepreneurial efforts started as a student, when he founded and managed a business that provided pinball machines and foosball tables to Ohio State residence halls. He maintains a strong affinity for the sport of tennis and chairs the Pension Committee of the Women’s Tennis Benefit Association, which administers the pension plan for professional women tennis players worldwide as part of the WTA Tour.

While in law school, Segal began to reevaluate his career path. “I enjoyed law school very much and decided I wanted to be a practicing lawyer with entrepreneurial tendencies,” he said. “From the faculty to the curriculum, Ohio State’s law school kept me engaged and helped me to find my calling.”

Segal also attributes his success to his background in athletics. “Law school prepared me to be a lawyer, and athletics taught me how to work hard, be resilient, and welcome new challenges—I’m grateful to have had such rewarding experiences,” he said.

1979 OSU Tennis Team

Segal (front row, kneeling, second from left) with the 1979 Ohio State Tennis Team

Last summer, Segal created a giving opportunity to express his gratitude and to serve as a nod to his love of  Moritz and tennis. “When I was in college, I worked hard in my own business, and in law school, I waited tables and bartended because I had to help support my education. I know what it’s like to have to balance academics with real world demands,” he said. “I have been very fortunate in my legal career, and I want to do more for others.”

He went on to establish the Michael J. Segal Leadership Scholarship. Leadership scholarships provide a donor with the opportunity to help at least one student in each graduating class for five years, each of whom carries the scholarship’s name. The $20,000 scholarship, renewable for each of the three years of law school, will be given annually to a first-year student. Preference for the scholarship will be given to a law student who played professional tennis and attained an ATP or WTA raking of 500 or higher. The scholarship will also consider students who played college tennis or participated in other college athletics and earned a varsity letter for at least one year, and have a business background or bachelor’s degree in a business field.

“When I come back to the university, I connect with friends and family in Columbus, buy a Buckeye souvenir to decorate my office and explore the campus,” Segal said. “I give to Ohio State because I believe in my alma mater and I want to be the kind of alumnus who creates opportunities that can change someone’s life.”