In February, more than 350 alumni, faculty, trustees, and guests gathered at the Mandarin Oriental, New York, for the annual Alumni Association luncheon. Brooklyn Law School honored two Alumni of the Year: Hon. Rosalyn Richter ’79, associate justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, and Professor Linda Feldman ’83, founder and former director of Brooklyn Law School’s Academic Success Program. Leslie (Lee) Wellington ’13, executive director at Urban Manufacturing Alliance, was also recognized with the Rising Star award.
“We are incredibly proud to honor our distinguished graduates,” said Interim Dean Maryellen Fullerton, who was herself recognized at the event for her leadership this year by Stuart Subotnick ’68, chair of the Board of Trustees. “Their work has tremendous impact and influence on nearly every aspect of our modern world—and on our lives. They embody the very best of our Law School.”
At the awards ceremony, Professor Elizabeth Schneider introduced Judge Richter, a pioneering member of the bench who was one of the first “out” LGBT appellate judges in the country.
After a standing ovation, Richter dedicated her award to her spouse, Janet, who had recently passed away. “It will be 40 years this June since I graduated from law school,” she said. “No one then would have thought it possible that I would become a judge. There were no ‘out’ lesbian or gay judges anywhere in the United States. There were very few women judges then, and no woman on the Appellate Division, First Department, where I currently sit. And then there was the issue of my being visibly disabled. I’m glad to say that in many ways, times have changed. But in other ways, to my disappointment, things have not changed.”
Richter said that the legal profession still has a long way to go, noting that when big commercial cases come before her, the lack of diversity remains very noticeable. “We have to ask ourselves what we can do differently,” she said. “It has to start in law school, if not at the high school and college level. So, when the email comes asking you to sponsor or mentor a diverse student, including a high school or college student, please consider answering yes!”
Fullerton introduced Feldman, saying: “Linda is lauded by thousands of students as a teacher, an ally, a mentor, and a friend. Colleagues have praised her dedication to Brooklyn Law School, her generosity of spirit, her wise counsel, and her clear-eyed perspective, and former students often recall her as the faculty member who had the most influence on their law school career.”
Feldman recalled the moment when then Dean David Trager called her to discuss the problem of some students struggling academically, and asked that she “do something.” So Feldman returned to the school she had graduated from only five years earlier, founded the Academic Success Program, and ran it for the next 30 years. Of that decision, she said, “I had the privilege of seeing nervous 1Ls become confident 3Ls who passed the bar and went on to great professional lives. I have often said that I had the best job, at the best law school, in the best borough in New York City, and I am deeply grateful to Brooklyn Law School for that.”
Alumni Association President Michael Grohman ’83, a partner at Duane Morris, concluded the program with a nod to the Law School’s heritage: “It takes events like this to remind us that no one would be here without those who came before,” he said. “And we should think about what we’d like to do to give back.”