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    02.15.19 Brooklyn Law School Honors Distinguished Graduates at Annual Alumni Association Luncheon
    Alumni Honorees_121x131

    More than 350 Brooklyn Law School alumni, faculty, trustees, and guests gathered at the Mandarin Oriental, New York, on Feb. 8 for the annual Alumni Association Luncheon. Honored as Alumni of the Year were Hon. Rosalyn Richter ’79, Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department; and Professor Linda Feldman '83, founder and past director of Brooklyn Law School’s Academic Success Program. Leslie (Lee) Wellington '13, executive director at Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA), was 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, Chairman 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."

    Fullerton, who will be succeeded as dean by Michael T. Cahill July 1, reflected on her experiences this year, particularly getting to know alumni. “I have truly enjoyed learning more about our world-class law school. And I have loved coming to know alumni more—your personal and professional successes and the impact you have on the world,” she said. Fullerton also previewed the Law School’s new curriculum initiative that will launch this fall and offers opportunities for alumni to further engage with students as mentors.

    At the awards ceremony, Professor Elizabeth Schneider introduced Wellington, who has dedicated her career to community economic development. As Executive Director of UMA, a national non-profit that works to build robust, environmentally sustainable and inclusive manufacturing sectors in more than 200 cities across the United States, Wellington recently led a six-city study on small-scale manufacturing involving multiple Federal Reserve Banks, research universities, and hundreds of local manufacturing practitioners. Because of her work, she has been invited to present at events such as MIT’s iEcosystem Symposium, The White House’s National Week of Making, Etsy’s Maker Cities Summit, and the National League of Cities’ City Summit.

    “To be honored by Brooklyn Law School is the ultimate honor for me,” said Wellington, crediting the Law School and mentors such as Fullerton for her success. “Professor Fullerton said, ‘I want you to do well on the final exam, but what is more important than any grade is knowing that I am a resource to you.’ She took time to make sure we all understood that—that people are your best resource,” she said, stressing that this advice had served her well in her work. “It is a dream to do this work, and my time at Brooklyn Law has prepared me for this work.”

    Fullerton introduced Feldman, who founded the Academic Success Program and directed the program for three decades until her retirement last year. In 2015, Feldman was named an Icon of Brooklyn Law School. She currently serves on the nominating committee of the Association of American Law Schools Academic Support Section, which she formerly chaired, and continues to be a member of the Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program.

    “Linda is lauded by thousands of students as a teacher, an ally, a mentor and a friend,” said Fullerton. “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 careers.”

    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 Law 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.”

    Schneider also introduced Judge Richter, a trailblazing member of the bench who was one of the first “out” LGBT appellate judges in the country. Her state court judicial career began in 1990 when she was appointed to the New York City Criminal Court. She presided over criminal cases in both Manhattan and the Bronx and was Supervising Judge of Bronx Criminal Court, where she started the first drug and integrated domestic violence court parts in that borough. Following her election to the Supreme Court in 2002, she served in the Civil Term. She currently co-chairs the Committee to Enhance Diversity in the Profession of the NYC Bar Association. Richter was previously Executive Director and the first staff lawyer at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a supervisor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, and an Administrative Law Judge for the NYC Office of Administrative Trials & Hearings. She has served on numerous non-profit boards and is actively engaged in a volunteer partnership she created with the MLK High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice.

    Amidst 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. “But it is 2019, and…I don’t see much of a difference from what I saw a number of years ago,” she said. “We have to ask ourselves what we can do differently. 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!”

    Alumni Association President Michael Grohman ’83, a partner at Duane Morris LLP, 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.”

     

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