Celebratory Alumni Dinner Honors Esteemed Brooklyn Law School Graduates
From cheerful cocktail hour conversations to heartfelt honoree speeches, Brooklyn Law School’s Alumni Association dinner on March 15 was a remarkable event, with 355 alumni, faculty, trustees, and guests gathered to reconnect and celebrate at the elegant Cipriani 25 Broadway in Manhattan.
Alumni Association Board President Deborah Riegel ’93 led the program, welcoming the evening’s three honorees, including Alumni of the Year Bernard Nash ’66, Distinguished Service honoree Debbie Epstein Henry ’94, and Rising Star honoree Aubria Ralph ’19, and thanking everyone for attending.
“We are all here because of our common experience at Brooklyn Law School,” Riegel said. “I truly would not be where I am in my career were it not for the foundation that the Law School provided. It is my honor and privilege to give back to the Law School.”
The honorees shared stories about how their lives were changed while attending Brooklyn Law School.
Alumnus of the Year Bernard Nash ’66
Bernard Nash ’66 was introduced by his son, Paul Nash, as a beloved father with a “quintessential New York story.” Nash was born and raised in a Lower East Side tenement building, the son of first-generation Americans. His father was a World War II veteran. He went through New York City’s public school system, and graduated from the City College of New York, where he met his wife, Phyllis.
They lived in a small Brooklyn basement apartment where the landlord refused to turn on the heat, and Nash—who was awarded a Law School scholarship— studied in the kitchen by an open oven for warmth. With coaching and encouragement from Phyllis, a schoolteacher and the family breadwinner, Nash graduated near the top of his class.
After moving his family to Washington, D.C., after graduation, Nash thrived as an attorney, too, starting off at the Securities and Exchange Commission as Special Counsel. At age 30, he helped draft the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, which introduced him to the state attorney generals (AG) world, which in turn helped him launch his own firm, and develop a niche as an expert of the state AG practice area. He now is co-chair of the nationally acclaimed State AG Group at Cozen O’Connor (Read full bio).
Nash expressed gratitude to Brooklyn Law School’s former librarian, the late Lucy Jurow, “who took me under her wing as a student.” He and his wife endowed the Phyllis & Bernard Nash ’66 Reading Room as a thank you. He also emphasized the importance of having great family, friends, colleagues, and mentors, and acknowledged the many in the audience who had gathered to celebrate his honor.
“I would not be here tonight but for the many people who helped me in so many different ways over the past 50-plus years. Success is not a solo journey,” Nash said. “After receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018, I assumed, wrongly, that Brooklyn Law School had enough of me. I am so glad that I was wrong. Thank you so much for this honor.”
Distinguished Service Award Honoree Debbie Epstein Henry
For Debbie Epstein Henry ’94, female advocacy started early with a successful family campaign to convince a conservative temple to allow her to be the first girl to read from the Torah at her bat mitzvah, said her friend, attorney Claudia Trupp, who introduced her as a thought leader and community builder.
“Two words capture the essence of the Distinguished Service Award: relationships and impact,” Henry said. “But for me, these words go well beyond this award. They demonstrate my goals to build a meaningful life and a purposeful career.”
Henry’s goals crystallized after suffering a seizure at an Upper West Side diner as a 26-year-old newlywed and 3L at Brooklyn Law. Five days later, she underwent a brain surgery that revealed not a tumor but a rare parasite, which was treatable.
“I felt fortunate to be alive and promised myself that I was going to live a meaningful, full life,” Henry said. “And if life wasn't rewarding, I'd have the confidence to take smart risks and have the courage to make change.”
Fast forward to her decision to stop working as a litigation associate where her favorite tasks were “reading emails and lunch,” and to instead take on addressing work-life balance issues for working mom lawyers, like herself. Thanks to her email networking skills and coverage in the New York Times, NPR, and the National Law Journal, she built a 10,000-member network of lawyers nationwide by 2008 and co-founded Bliss Lawyers, which was later acquired by Axiom.
In addition to DEH Consulting, Henry devotes time and energy to the Law School, as co-founder of the Women’s Leadership Circle (WLC), which she chairs, and the broader Women’s Leadership Network (WLN), which celebrated its five-year anniversary. WLN has hosted 10 major events, run six mentoring circles, raised over $115,000 in scholarship money, and this year launched an endowed scholarship, seeking to raise an additional $100,000.
“This is all about relationships,” said Henry, who asked her family and WLC peers to stand. “The Law School is and will always be, a place where the opportunity to make an impact is there—as long as you're willing to try.”
Rising Star Honoree Aubria Ralph
Aubria Ralph ’19 took a winding road to the legal field, starting off in the Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where she was born. Professor Michael Gerber, who introduced Ralph, shared the story of his former student, whom he met when she was part of a group studying abroad in Beijing. Her grandmother, who had a third-grade education, cared for Ralph while her mom worked multiple jobs in the United States while getting recertified as a nurse. Several years later, the family reunited in a Long Island suburb known for its excellent high school.
Both matriarchs stressed education’s importance, and Ralph heeded the call—and then some—earning five degrees in disparate fields including literature, chemistry, and public organization management. She spent nearly 10 years as a literature professor. Yet her mother’s dream that Ralph would become an attorney was only realized when she entered Brooklyn Law School’s accelerated two-year J.D. program.
“I want to thank my mom for uprooting her life in 1989 and coming here,” Ralph said. “If anyone thinks that the American dream is not real, I am the American dream. I'm not 40 yet and I'm on my third career and it's because of the people in my life who just believed in me and allowed me to just be the one beating my own drum, dancing to my own song, and being who I am.”
Ralph, an associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP (full bio), is active in pro bono work, and has given back to the Law School by mentoring Brooklyn Law students and teaching debt financing at the Law School’s Business Boot Camp in January.
“Thank you to Brooklyn Law School for showing me that even though I tried to be invisible for a really long time, that people were noticing on the sidelines,” Ralph said. “I'm just grateful for the people who have propelled me this far and catalyzed me. And I hope to be a catalyst for others in the future.”
Stephen Popernik ’13, one of the newest members of the Executive Board of the Alumni Association, reminded attendees of Giving Day on Thursday, March 23, which this year includes a $50,000 match from an anonymous donor if 275 other donors contribute.
“The most important way the campaign supports our students is by giving a platform to the many terrific student organizations which are such a key part of student life at BLS,” Popernik said.
President, Joseph Crea Dean, and Professor of Law Michael T. Cahill, who will step down from the dean’s role June 30, congratulated the honorees, and thanked attendees, including members of the Board of Trustees, Alumni Association and Women’s Leadership Circle, for their support.
“It has been a pleasure to interact with all of you and I very much look forward to continuing to enjoy that pleasure in the years to come, because this is not a goodbye,” said Cahill, who will stay on as a professor, starting in July. “I fully hope and expect to remain fully connected and engaged with this community.”
Riegel, who surprised Cahill with an Alumni Association thank you-gift, said his “extraordinary service,” included guiding the Law School through the Covid-19 pandemic, bringing in 18-full-time professors, increasing the quality and size of the incoming student body, expanding student and faculty diversity, and giving back through an endowed scholarship named for Mary Johnson Lowe ’54, which is slated for diverse students.
The dinner was made possible by the following: Platinum Sponsors Frank Aquila ’83, Chairman of the Brooklyn Law School Board of Trustees, and Rosenberg & Estis; Diamond Sponsors Cozen O’Connor, DEH Consulting, and Bernard Nash ’66; Gold Sponsors Allegaert Berger & Vogel LLP, Valerie Fitch ’88 and Ed Flanders ’89, Leech Tishman Robinson Brog, Neil S. Goldstein ’67, Kramer Levin, Sasha L. Linney ’11, Ruskin Moscou Faltischek P.C., S&E Azriliant, P.C., Virginia & Ambinder LLP; Silver Sponsors Joseph Bondy ’94 and Meeka Bondy ’94, Sean Devine ’08, Douglas Elliman Real Estate; Dona Fraser ’01, Gair Gair Conason Rubinowitz Bloom Hershenhorn Steigman & MacKauf, Joel A. Glaser ’01, Gloria Greco ’98 and Elizabeth Crea ’98, Katten, The Minkowitz Charitable Foundation, Martin Minkowitz ’63 & Carol Zeigler, Hon. Stuart A. Minkowitz; and Hon. Louis R. Rosenthal ’67.