Fall 2016

Matthew E. Swaya ’81 Makes Gift to Inspire New Students

Matthew E. Swaya ’81 recently made a generous donation to the Law School with a unique provision. He requested that a portion of his gift be used to cover the expense of giving every entering student a copy of the book Judging Statutes, by the Hon. Robert Katzmann, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Swaya, chief ethics and compliance officer for Starbucks, shared the stage with Judge Katzmann as featured speakers at the 2016 Brooklyn Law School Convocation on August 22. 

“Dean Allard sent me the book and I was inspired by it,” said Swaya of Judge Katzmann’s book, which makes a compelling case for why judges must look at the legislative record behind a law—and not merely the statute itself.

Swaya’s own global view informs his work at Starbucks, the Seattle-based international coffee powerhouse. In addition to overseeing the company’s ethical business practices worldwide, he serves as the principal attorney for the Americas business unit and has served as the primary attorney for the company’s global labor and employment matters and the Starbucks partner resources leadership team.

Swaya credits his Brooklyn Law School internship with Judge Alvin Schlesinger in the Bronx Supreme Court as a pivotal experience in defining his core values. “Judge Schlesinger taught me to treat everyone with respect, regardless of their demeanor and the strengths and weaknesses of their positions or testimony,” he said. “This resonated then, and it still does today.”

Today, Swaya gives back to the Law School to imbue current students with those same values. “What I’ve learned through 38 years of practice is that civility, integrity, and professionalism are what differentiates the highest level of lawyers, and I aspire to be that kind of lawyer,” he said. “And if I can help others aspire to that as well, it matters to me.”