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Posted on Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr described as 'loyal Wolverine' and University of Michigan law school grad

By Kellie Woodhouse

Before Kevyn Orr was a successful corporate lawyer or Detroit's newly appointed emergency manager, he was a University of Michigan student.

In fact, Orr's seven years at U-M provide some of his strongest ties to the state whose largest city he's tasked with saving.


Kevyn Orr in 1980, the year he enrolled in U-M's law school.

Photo courtesy of U-M's law school.

Orr enrolled in U-M in 1976 as an out-of-state undergraduate from Florida. By 1983, he had obtained his law and bachelor's degrees from the school.

In a video introducing himself, he said his mother received her master's degree from U-M and that, prior to attending, he never visited the campus because his family didn't have the money.

"I came to University of Michigan sight unseen," he said in the video, recalling when his plane first landed in 1976.

"My uncle picked me up from the airport and he took me around Detroit, I stayed with him that night and then he brought me to school. For the years I was here in school, from 1976 to 1983, we would regularly go into Detroit," he said.

Michigan Gov. Rick Synder, who appointed Orr as emergency manager Thursday, was acquainted with Orr while at U-M. Snyder, who graduated with a law degree and MBA in 1982, reportedly met Orr during a snowball fight on campus.

“They participated in a snowball fight, as the story goes, that they were both in as part of their quads on the U-M campus when they were in law school," Snyder's press secretary Sara Wurfel told MLive on Thursday.

Orr has visited campus many times since graduating with a law degree in 1983 because he represented his law firm, Jones Day, as a recruiter at the law school. He has hired several U-M law students as associates and clerks for his firm over the years, says Susan Guindi, assistant dean of the office of career planning at the law school.


Kevyn Orr

AP Photo/Courtesy Jones Day

He is scheduled to attend a weekend event for newly admitted law students at U-M's Law School later this month.

"He’s a loyal wolverine. He really valued the education he got here and he really valued the students that we produced," Guindi said.

"From my perspective, he's a big draw for why students become interested in and accepted offers at his firm. He's just amazing to talk to, he's such an interesting man," she continued. "He's the one I call when I want to learn about a law firm's perspective about something. He is always willing to take my call."

A bankruptcy expert, Orr also represented automaker Chrysler LLC during its successful restructuring.

Now this U-M graduate has returned to the mitten state, tasked with turning around a city that has lost a quarter-million people during the last decade and remains saddled with a $327 million budget deficit and more than $14 billion in long-term debt.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 1:43 a.m.

The tax lien issue is embarrassing, but it's largely overblown and likely to be forgotten in a short period of time. It won't stop him from being the EM or attempting to right the city's finances. The amount he owes is relatively small compared to the wealth he's accrued over the last 30 years. It was paid off as soon as it was brought to his attention. Great, now that that's settled...

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

Thanks to the Freep: 'It's on me': Kevyn Orr says liens on Maryland home are paid up

Audion Man

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

Rah! Rah! Rah!


Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 5:17 a.m.

Ann Arbor journalists have a habit of trying to "take credit" for everyone, even if they passed by one day on their way to Chicago. It's embarassing.

Michigan Man

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 12:46 a.m.

Not really sure anybody cares about loyal Michigan crap! This man has an important job, one where millions are depending upon him and his skill, wisdom and chops to get positive things moving ahead for the fine residents of Detroit, Michigan and the Nation. May God bless the hard work of this man.

Dirty Mouth

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

What's this I hear about Mr. Orr and a massive tax lien? Could someone, like a journalist, provide more information?

Basic Bob

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 2:41 a.m.

Heard of a search engine? My favorite: lmgtfy

Jack Gladney

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 8:01 p.m.

WJR News describes him as someone who has trouble with tax liens. Darn it. Why they always go after the tough angles when reporting the news?


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

Loyal Wolverine? What's that got to do with the context of fixing Detroit?


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

Nice. I didn't catch that.

Dirty Mouth

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

I would love to know the answer?

ms 2013

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 6:26 p.m.

good luck with the d

zip the cat

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

Its about time someone stood up and got this state going. Let see granholm did absolutely nothing for 8 years but run the state in the ground Engler was all for the rich and the hell with the workers. At least Snyder has the smarts to make drastic changes that all the whiners seem to harp about. I hope this efm appointed by the gov CLEANS house in d-town. But I must say they,the state did a p-poor job of checking him,the efm out A hand full of tax leins filed against him and nobody new anything about is That's bull


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

The EFM is the only way to manage Detroit. But holy cow... how in the heck during the vetting process did Snyder miss his delinquent property tax payments and the liens put on his property.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 1:54 a.m.

A minor pittance in his accounts. He obviously had the money to cover it. He probably spent the weekend going over his finances with a fine toothed comb to make sure he doesn't have any other delinquencies. Either way you look at it, the EM's financial woes are a distraction. Surely, we don't expect Detroit to resolve their challenges the same way Mr. Orr simply corrected his?


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

Just like how they vet everyone else! They don't!!!!

Basic Bob

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

No, not delinquent property taxes. It was unpaid unemployment insurance for childcare. The court attached a lien to his home to ensure payment. And he paid, unlike Kwame Kilpatrick and Conan Smith.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

So in other words Synder put in place this man as his guard dog just because he's black in order to soften the sting of his disregard for the voters of Detroit. Election day can't come soon enough so that Snyder can be voted out and his Emergency Managers can go right along with him and then the laws can be changed in such away that this can never happen again.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 1:41 a.m.

Or, perhaps instead of whining and mounting futile legal challenges at every turn, the opposition could provide a tangible alternative to the EM law. Perhaps the outrage lies not within the governor, but within ourselves for letting Detroit decay for so long.

Angry Moderate

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 4:14 a.m.

Uh, you're aware that the old law was overturned after the last election?


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 10:23 p.m.

It's not really clear that you fully understand the situation, or the players involved.

An Arborigine

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

Dictator Snyder and his band of cronies greatly increased the power of the old EM law.

Basic Bob

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

"just because he's black" Sorry, that's pathetic, I felt dirty even copying it.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

and this law wasn't illegal 10 years ago when Granholm was hiring E.M's? then what your saying bankruptcy is the better option Also way to be color blind to his hiring someone

Angry Moderate

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

You realize that this law has been around much longer than Snyder, right?


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

I hope he can do a better job than he does with his own finances by making sure he pays taxes on time, or is this just an oversight on his part. See Detroit Press news, Im paid up on my taxes now?

David Briegel

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

Maybe some banker could explain the benefits and consequences of Red Lining?

Basic Bob

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

They can learn from the insurance companies. Live in Detroit, the rate goes up.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

He'll need more than snow balls to take care of this problem. He better have a real pair.

Rick Stevens

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 1:05 p.m.

Seems to have trouble with liens - how is it he didn't know about them?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 11:50 a.m.

"Now this U-M graduate has returned to the mitten state, tasked with turning around a city that has lost a quarter-million people during the last decade..." This actually grossly understates the context of the problem. Since 1950 when the city's population peaked, Detroit has lost over 1,150,000 residents. In 1950 the population was 1,849,568 and today it's under 700,000! Hopefully, he'll start with eliminating the salaries of all elected officials in Detroit. I wish him the best of luck in cleaning out these Augean stables. He'll need it!

Basic Bob

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 : 2:43 a.m.

Do you think Rog has Sue's back? I'm thinking she might be excess baggage.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 6:05 p.m.

Bob - not likely since the person who hired those water department employees when they were in Ann Arbor is now the EFM's boss - Roger Fraser.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.

@Basic Bob: LOL!! That would be another great place to start!

Basic Bob

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

I'd start with the crooked appointed officials in the water department.