Students recognized for public service work
April 22, 2013
Faculty, staff, and family members gathered in the Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick Student Lounge at the Law Center on April 11 to recognize and celebrate the public service work of several dozen Toledo Law students over the course of this past school year.
During the Public Service Recognition Program, the College of Law honored recipients of Summer Public Interest Fellowships; handed out Public Service Commendation Certificates; and recognized the Outstanding Pro Bono Volunteer and Patrick M. Burns Memorial Outstanding Clinical Student.
Michael J. Todak ’82, president of the Toledo Bar Association, delivered the keynote address.
“As lawyers we are called to make sure all citizens have access to justice in our legal system,” he said. “Your service is needed and in demand,” Todak continued, calling for those students present to continue and grow their community involvement.
Outstanding Pro Bono Volunteer Award
During the evening’s program, Michelle Tussing ’13 was recognized as the College of Law’s Outstanding Pro Bono Volunteer.
Tussing, the president of the Public Interest Law Association (PILA), has worked closely with the Toledo Bar Association (TBA) during her career at Toledo Law by assisting in pro se divorce clinics, juvenile clinics, and expungement clinics. She has also been responsible for coordinating student volunteers for pro bono clinics and charitable giving projects at Toledo Law.
“Michelle exemplifies what pro bono means,” said Patricia Intagliata ’79, the director of the TBA Pro Bono Legal Services Program. “If all attorneys had Michelle’s attitude toward pro bono work the world would be a better place. The clients she helped were extremely lucky to have someone as caring and competent as Michelle to help them through the judicial system.”
Patrick M. Burns Memorial Outstanding Clinical Student Award
Rockwell Gust IV ’13 was named the Patrick M. Burns Memorial Outstanding Clinical Student. Clinical Professor Robert S. Salem and Patrick Burns’s brother, Lawrence J. Burns, the University’s vice president for external affairs, presented the award.
Salem said that he is repeatedly impressed by Gust’s ability and professionalism in handling diverse matters in the Legal Clinic and the Advanced Legal Clinic, including saving a client’s home from foreclosure, finalizing a divorce for a woman who had been abused by her husband, and assisting a Japanese student at The University of Toledo as she pursued American citizenship.
“Rocky gets what it means to be a lawyer,” said Salem. “He’s committed to helping people. He’s compassionate, ethical. He’s a hard worker, and he’s a skilled problem solver.”
Most recently, Gust and Allison Thomas ’13, his colleague in the clinic, traveled to Chicago to argue for political asylum for a Syrian client and his family – individuals who, according to Salem, would very likely face kidnapping, torture, and even death should they be forced to return to Syria. A decision in that case is still pending.
Summer Public Interest Fellowships
Summer fellowships provide stipends for Toledo Law students to spend the upcoming months pursuing public interest work, and several fellowship recipients were recognized during the program.
Molly Albertson ’14 received the Joel A. and Shirley A. Levine Public Interest Fellowship in Alternative Dispute Resolution and the Levison Alternative Dispute Resolution Award. She will participate in the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute, the federal government's primary training institution for officers and support personnel of the U.S. foreign affairs community, in Arlington, Virginia.
Nathan Bishop ’15 was awarded the Cooper & Kowalski Public Interest Fellowship and will work with the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund in Kentucky this summer.
Stephanie Gurgol ’15 is the recipient of the Bruce Comly French Public Interest Fellowship and the Ohio State Bar Association Litigation Section’s Public Interest Initiative Award. She has accepted a summer position with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
Steven Vandercook ’14 received a Public Interest Law Fellowship. He has been hired for the summer by the Institute for Justice in Miami, Florida. The Public Interest Law Association raises the bulk of the funding to support the Public Interest Law Fellowship Fund at the group’s annual auction. The fellowships are also supported through additional contributions by the College of Law.
Public Service Commendation
Toledo Law recognized the following 28 students with a Public Service Commendation for providing unpaid law-related public service with organizations across the country, from Rhode Island to California, during the past school year.
A student may earn a commendation for each semester in which the student performs thirty or more documented hours of unpaid law-related public service work. Several students earned a commendation during both the fall and spring semesters.
Since the program started in 2007, 200 students have earned the Public Service Commendation, with many of those students earning a commendation in multiple semesters. Toledo Law students have documented over 18,000 hours of pro bono work through the commendation program since its inception.