Archive for ‘Alumni’

November 16, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Ted Jones

Judge Theodore T. Jones, Jr. ’72, ‘07HON was laid to rest today after a funeral service at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Brooklyn.  New York State lost a public servant of intense intellect, impeccable integrity, and deep compassion.  St. John’s lost a dear friend. I was privileged to speak at his wake last night. Here is what I said.

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When I think about Ted Jones, four words come to mind.  The first is achievement.  His was a life of remarkable achievement.  Starting with his military achievement in Vietnam, and continuing on through a stellar legal career: as a Legal Aid lawyer, as a private criminal defense attorney, as an elected judge, as an administrative judge, and then as a Judge of the Court of Appeals and a leader in the bar.  He was – by any measure – a great lawyer and a great judge.

But the other three words that come to mind when I think about Ted Jones have nothing to do with great achievements.  Those words are humility, compassion, and service.

When you met Ted Jones, you wouldn’t have known that he was a great lawyer or a great judge.  And that’s because he carried himself with such genuine humility – a humility that I believe grew out of his understanding of other people.  It is impossible to be a criminal defense lawyer and not have a deep understanding of – and compassion for – the struggles that affect others’ lives.  And Ted Jones’ compassion for others led him to a lifetime of service.

In 2007, we had the privilege of giving Judge Jones an honorary degree and having him as our commencement speaker at the Law School’s graduation.  We first read the citation, which detailed all of his professional accomplishments.  But when he took the podium, he didn’t talk to our graduating students about his great achievements; nor did he urge them on to great achievements themselves.  Instead, he urged them on to a life of service.  In particular, he urged them to serve the poor.  He told them a story about an experience he had as a young lawyer.  There was a brutal murder, and Ted Jones took on the defense pro bono, without a fee.  He was convinced that his client was innocent; the authorities were just as convinced that his client was guilty.  He worked on the case for two years, and after a grueling trial he won an acquittal for his client.  And then he told our students – who were sitting in awe of the many accomplishments that had led him to the pinnacle of our profession – that helping that man was “the most memorable and gratifying experience” of his career.

That kind of compassionate service defined his work.  You saw it in his work as a judge: in his opinions protecting the rights of individuals, particularly individuals accused of crimes.  (Now that doesn’t mean he was a pushover – he knew how to be tough when the situation demanded it. Just look at how he stopped the 2005 transit strike.)  You could also see that compassion in his work as a bar leader: whether it was tacking the issue of wrongful convictions or promoting the diversity that is so important to our profession.

For me, I could see his compassion most clearly in his service to St. John’s.  At the Law School, he was instrumental – along with his good friend Judge Phil Roach – in founding the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development, which has done such great work promoting diversity in the legal profession.  (I can only image what diversity initiatives Judge Jones and Judge Roach are planning together now.)  And at the University, he served with dedication on our Board of Trustees, I used to remind him that he was my boss, because the governing authority for the University, the power to run the institution, resides with the Board of Trustees.  And Judge Jones was happy to have that responsibility, but not because he wanted to be “the boss,” not because he wanted power, but because he loved St. John’s.  And he loved St. John’s because he loved our students.  His concern was always for our students.

In all his work, as a lawyer, as a judge, as a trustee – he devoted himself to serving others, with humility and compassion.  And that’s why he’s not just a great lawyer and a great judge, but a great man.

I’ll end with a quote from the Bible that I think is particularly appropriate.  In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is talking to the scribes and the Pharisees – the lawyers and judges of his community – and he tells them:  “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” And then he gives them an instruction: “The greatest among you must be your servant.”

In his life, Ted Jones followed that instruction.  In our lives, we have been blessed to have such a great man as our servant.  And today in our sorrow, we can take comfort in our confidence that this humble man is now exalted in the presence of the Lord.  Amen.

November 15, 2012

The Law School’s Response to the Storm (and more volunteer opportunities)

Below is the text of a message that I sent to our alumni yesterday:

Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy upended our lives, I write to update you on the Law School’s response to the storm.

Here on campus, both our building and our educational program have emerged intact. Like almost all schools in the area, St. John’s University was closed for the entire week following the storm. Throughout that week, the University’s Emergency Operations Team and many Law school employees worked tirelessly to restore power to our building and to get our students back in the classroom. Running on a generator, we were able to open for classes on Monday, November 5, 2012. (You can read my message to our students announcing the opening and explaining our recovery efforts.) Our faculty, students, and employees have responded to the disruptions caused by the storm with patience, flexibility, and perseverance. We have crafted a make-up schedule – using weekends and other open dates on the calendar – that will enable us to make up all the missed classes.

Everyone in our community was affected by the storm in one way or another. Most of the temporary inconveniences – power outages and gasoline shortages – are easing. But for some members of the Law School family, especially those who have lost their homes and cars, the storm has been life altering. Many students, employees, and alumni live in Long Beach, the Rockaways, Howard Beach, Staten Island, and other severely affected neighborhoods. The University community will be gathering on Thursday, November 15, at 12:15 p.m. for a Mass of Remembrance and Thanksgiving to pray together for all victims of the storm.

In the spirit of St. Vincent, we now turn our attention to helping those most in need. The Law School has formed two separate committees of students, faculty, staff and alumni to begin work on assistance projects. The Pro Bono Hurricane Committee, under the leadership of Professor Jennifer Baum, is organizing pro bono and other volunteer efforts to help victims of the storm. This past Sunday, Professor Baum, herself a Staten Island resident, led a group of law students to the Midland Beach section of Staten Island to assist with clean-up efforts. (You can read about and see a video of that trip on my blog.) Another Staten Island service trip is planned for this coming Sunday. The Pro Bono Committee is also organizing efforts to help storm victims with their legal problems. One of our first projects will be to provide disaster-related information sessions to senior citizens in Queens through our Elder Law Clinic (now known as the Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic). We are also establishing a network to link student volunteers with attorney volunteers who are assisting storm victims. Alumni who are interested in helping with this project should contact the Pro Bono Hurricane Committee at SandyProBono@stjohns.edu.

We have also established a Hurricane Assistance Committee to provide financial assistance to law students and their families who are experiencing financial burdens as a result of the storm. Under the leadership of Vice Dean Emeritus Andrew Simons, this Committee will oversee a Hurricane Assistance Fund, which is already growing with gifts from generous alumni and faculty. We invite you to contribute to the Fund by contacting Associate Director of Development Philip Maroney at maroneyp@stjohns.edu or (718) 990-7991.

In many ways, this storm has exposed the fragility of our local civic infrastructure. But in other ways, the storm has revealed the strength of our civic bonds and the resiliency of our community spirit. I am proud of how the Law School family has unified to respond to the storm with compassion, with fortitude, and with determination. I look forward to working together as we continue our recovery.

UPDATE: Our Pro Bono Hurricane Committee is organizing two additional volunteer opportunities this weekend —

  • Broad Channel, Saturday, Nov. 17 (legal work):  Please join students, alumni, faculty, and friends this Saturday, November 17th, at the American Legion Hall in Queens (a FEMA distribution center), to provide legal assistance to Hurricane Sandy victims.  Volunteers must certify that they have watched a one-hour long training video, which will be screened at the Law School Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. (and can also be accessed remotely at any time online; email SandyProBono@stjohns.edu for the link). Transportation to and from the American Legion Hall will be provided – a van is leaving the law school at 11:00 AM and returning at 4:00 PM. Please email SandyProBono@stjohns.edu ASAP (but no later than Friday 12:00 noon) to reserve an outreach spot.  This opportunity qualifies for pro bono hours toward NYS bar admission requirements.
  • Midland Beach (Staten Island), Sunday, Nov. 18 (humanitarian work): A Staten Island humanitarian service trip has been scheduled for this coming Sunday, 11/18. Transportation will be provided: the van will leave the law school at 8:00 am and return to campus by 1:00 pm. Shovels, gloves, water, cliff bars provided – you just need to show up, sign the waiver, and wear hard-soled shoes. Email SandyProBono@stjohns.edu to reserve your seat or get meet-up time/location.
October 28, 2012

Frozen Conflicts, Emerging Markets: Moldova and St. John’s

President Timofti

Last month, I was part of a small group that dined with H.E. Nicolae Timofti, the President of Moldova, while he was here for the United Nations General Assembly.  (Press coverage of President Timotfi’s address to the General Assembly is here.)  St. John’s Law already has a significant relationship with Moldova — a landlocked European country nestled between Romania and Ukraine.  The relationship goes back to 2004, when Adjunct Professor Mark Meyer ’71, ’07HON led a City Bar mission to Moldova that resulted in an influential report drafted by Prof. Christopher Borgen.  The report examined a still on-going separatist conflict in the Transnistria region of Moldova.  Since then, both Mark Meyer and Chris Borgen have become important experts on the international law aspects of the Transnistrian conflict.  As a result of their work, each has been awarded Moldova’s highest civilian honor.

At the recent lunch, one of the topics was the upcoming visit to Moldova by Prof. Meyer’s class Transactions in Emerging Markets. Two years ago, that class visited Romania, meeting with business and government leaders during a week-long excursion.  Next semester, the class will visit Moldova, for a similar week of meetings with business leaders and government officials, including President Timofti.  Those visits will provide students with an invaluable opportunity to take their classroom learning directly into the field.  Such travel courses (another will go to Scotland next semester) are just one component of our rapidly growing transnational programs at St. John’s.

May 15, 2012

Carey Center Inaugurates Mangano Grant Program

Judge Mangano, sporting his Belson Medal along with Jerry Belson ’48, ’80HON

Last month, the Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution launched the Mangano Grant Program.  Endowed through the generosity of Hon. Guy J. Mangano ’55, ’83HON, the Mangano Grant Program provides grants to St. John’s students and alumni to pursue opportunities and to conduct research in the field of alternative dispute resolution. Mangano Grants support students in their development as dispute resolution practitioners and support alumni who undertake projects that further the Carey Center’s mission of promoting conflict resolution as a value and a practice.

The Mangano Grants are funded by $200,000 endowment given to the Law School by Judge Mangano, the former Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division Second Department and a current neutral mediator and arbitrator.  The Law School was less than thirty years old when a young Guy Mangano arrived as a first-year student in 1952.  For the ensuing sixty years, while Judge Mangano excelled as a public servant, he also remained an integral part of the Law School — as president of our Alumni Association, as an adjunct professor, and as a friend and advisor to many deans (including me).  Judge Mangano has been part of the Law School for more than half of its existence — indeed, he is nearing the 30th anniversay of receiving his honorary degree.  Now, this endowment will ensure that Judge Mangano’s generosity will bless the Law School in perpetuity.

Congratulations to Daniel Merker ’11, Nk Udogwu ’12, Ravin Shah ’13, and Emily Gornell ’13, who are the inaugural Mangano Grant recipients.  The full description of their projects is here.

May 14, 2012

Honoring Nicholas Cannella ’75

One of the wonderful things about being dean is that I get to know many of the Law School’s loyal and successful alumni.  Among the relationships I have developed in the past three years, one of the most cherished is with Nick Cannella ’75.  And so it was a special pleasure for me that the Law Review Alumni Association honored Nick at its annual reception last month.

Nick’s success is a typical St. John’s story.  In Law School, he was a St. Thomas More Scholar and the Managing Editor of the Law Review (and also met his wife Joanne Welty ’76).  Nick began his career clerking on the New York State Court of Appeals, and then joined Simpson Thacher, where he was mentored by Roy Reardon ’54.  In 1984, he joined Fitzpatrick Cella, then a small intellectual property firm.  In the ensuing 28 years (many of which he spent as managing partner), Nick has helped build Fitzpatrick Cella into an IP powerhouse with over 175 attorneys.  Along the way, he has become one of the top patent litigators in the country.

Nick and Joanne have both been wonderful supporters of the Law School.  They both serve on my Dean’s Advisory Council.  They generously participated in the Law School’s first capital campaign and were among the first inductees into the Belson Circle.  Nick has also served as an adjunct professor and is currently on the Executive Board of the Alumni Association.  They’ve even given us their first-born child — Meghan Cannella ’07, one of my former students who is now an adjunct professor herself.  We are blessed that the Cannella family is part of the St. John’s family.

February 24, 2012

Helping First Year Law Students Navigate the Path to Employment

Last week, eight alumni came back to campus to present a panel program for first-year law students titled How to Get Hired: Perspectives from Alumni Employers. The brainchild of the alumni participants, the program offered invaluable guidance on what employers are looking for in hiring associates, summer associates, interns and law clerks. The program represents a continuation of the partnership between our alumni and our Career Development Office that began with Career Day last semester.  Special thanks to Andrea Alonso ’81, Meghan Cannella ’07, Nicholas Cannella ’75, Kathryn Cole ’02, Richard F. Hans ’93, Patrick MacMurray ’95, Rachel Paras ’04 and Sarah Zimmer ’10.  The full story (including a photo of Katy Cole, Rich Hans, and Patrick MacMurray) is here.

February 24, 2012

Core Strengths

The latest print issue of the Dean’s Docket, our alumni newsletter, is now available here.  In my introductory message, I note that the Law School’s ability to thrive during these challenging times is a testament to our core strengths: “a University that is large and supportive; students who are smart, hard-working, eager to learn and filled with entrepreneurial spirit; a faculty that is dedicated to teaching excellence and committed to preparing our students for the profession; and an alumni network that stays connected to the school and loyally gives back to support our students.”

The pages of the newsletter provide ample evidence of the strength of our alumni network.  I encourage you to give it a look.  My full message appears after the jump.

read more »

February 5, 2012

Annual Alumni Luncheon: Celebrating our Strength

At the end of January, almost 400 members of the St. John’s community gathered for the Alumni Association Annual Luncheon.  The event gave us an opportunity to celebrate our alumni, as we gave the St. Thomas More Award to Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick  and the Recent Graduate Service Award to Kathryn Carney Cole.  We also inducted twelve new members into the Belson Circle, recognizing their lifetime generosity to the Law School.

In my remarks that day, I noted that the state of the Law School is “strong and getting stronger.”  I also noted, though, that as the post-recession job market enters its fourth year, fewer and fewer students are choosing the legal profession as a career.  That means tough times are ahead for law schools.  But I am confident in our ability to thrive during these times because of the core strengths of the Law School: a University that is large and supportive; students who are smart, hard-working, eager to learn and filled with entrepreneurial spirit; a faculty that is dedicated to teaching excellence and committed to preparing our students for the profession; and an alumni network that stays connected to the school and loyally gives back to support our students.  More details about the Annual Luncheon are available here.

January 24, 2012

The Dean’s Report: Alumni Support 2010-2011

In December, our alumni received the annual Dean’s Report, summarizing the generous financial support that the Law School received during the 2010-2011 academic year.  Titled “Partners on the Path to Success,” the report chronicles the enduring partnership we have with our alumni and friends, a partnership that is vital to the Law School’s continuing success.

At St. John’s, our large network of loyal alumni has always been one of our great strengths. Our alumni generously serve our students as mentors, employers and benefactors. And that partnership is more important now than ever — because the generosity of our donors has enabled us to provide our students with essential scholarship support and to create and maintain innovative programs that prepare our students to practice law in a changing environment.

Our supporters were particularly generous last year. Despite lingering economic uncertainty, gifts increased across the board. Almost 2,000 alumni and friends donated more than $2 million. This support came from donors in the Founder’s Society (lifetime commitment of over $1 million), the Belson Circle (lifetime giving over $100,000) and the Loughlin Society (annual giving over $1,000), as well as from hundreds of other supporters who gave from the heart to help the Law School.

The full report is available here.  I encourage you to review it.  Not only does it list all of our generous donors, but it also brings to life the fruits of that generosity.  The students, recent alums, and donors profiled in the report continue to inspire me.

January 19, 2012

Happy Lunar New Year

Monday marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.  At St. John’s, our celebration of the Lunar New Year began last week with the annual alumni dinner hosted by the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA).  Over one hundred students, faculty, and alumni gathered at Chef Yu in Manhattan for an evening of food, drink, fellowship, and networking.  The honoree was Daniel D. Chu ’97, current Chair of New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, the independent agency charged with investigating allegations of police misconduct.  A Queens native, Daniel began his legal career as an assistant district attorney in the Queens County District Attorney’s Office.  He later served as an Administrative Law Judge with the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission and a senior associate at Stern & Montana before opening his own midtown solo practice.  Daniel received the Thomas H. Lee Award, named for the 1936 graduate of St. John’s who became the first Asian American lawyer licensed in New York State.

The many students and alumni in attendance provided a vivid illustration of the vibrancy of the Asian American community at St. John’s — and the willingness of our alumni to return to help our current students.  Many thanks to APALSA President Peter Yi ’12 and the entire Executive Board for putting together a wonderful celebration.

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