Family ties make graduation day extra special
Public Relations - Published: May 21, 2013
A child’s graduation day is an exceptional occasion in any parent’s life, but it was doubly special this year for the parents of one Delaware graduate.

Russell Uliase had the pleasure of being handed his degree and congratulated by both of his parents, Thomas and Carolyn Uliase, on the ceremony platform. The couple met when they were students at Widener Law. They graduated in May 1982 and began dating about four months later.

“It means so much to us personally, having met here,” Carolyn Uliase said of the graduation day, moments after she helped her son straighten his cap in preparation for the event processional.

Thomas and Carolyn met in the New Jersey Practice class taught by the late New Jersey Superior Court Judge Robert E. Gladden. Today, they operate Uliase & Uliase in Haddon Heights, N.J. The firm focuses on federal workers’ compensation claims, representing clients from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New York. Carolyn graduated from Widener cum laude; Thomas was editor of the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law and a member of Moot Court Honor Society during his time as a student.

Russell Uliase said his parents absolutely rooted for Widener when he was deciding where to attend law school. But he would have come to the Delaware campus even if they hadn’t been so keen on the idea.

“I wanted to come here,” he said, explaining the school was the right fit for him. “I’ve made relationships I’ll have for the rest of my life.” He plans to take the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bar exams and has secured a clerkship with Judge Eugene J. McCaffrey Jr., presiding judge in the civil part of the New Jersey Superior Court for the Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem Vicinage. Eventually, he said, he’ll join the family firm.

The Uliase family includes several other attorneys, including one more Widener alum. Thomas Uliase’s father and grandfather were both attorneys – attending law school before Widener had opened. The couple also “adopted” 2004 Delaware-campus graduate Korab Sejdiu, a Kosovo national who came to Widener for his J.D. They served as his host family while he was in law school and developed the strongest of bonds.

Carolyn and Thomas Uliase call Sejdiu their son, and to Russell, he is a brother. Carolyn Uliase showed off pictures of Sejdiu’s toddler and infant children on her cell phone on commencement day and the Uliases refer to them as their grandchildren. Sejdiu, who works in private practice in Kosovo, and once served as legal adviser to the country’s president, surprised them by showing up at Russell’s graduation party the following day.

“Going here was a turning point,” Carolyn Uliase said before her son’s commencement.

“For all of us, for sure,” Thomas added.

“Professionally, personally. On every level,” Carolyn smiled.

Another 13 class of 2013 graduates who were considered Widener Law “legacies” received special congratulations from relatives on the Delaware ceremony platform or Harrisburg stage. They included:

Delaware graduation
  • Bryna Batten, joined by her father Judge Raymond Batten ’79.
  • Ernest DiSandro Jr., joined by his father Ernest DiSandro, Sr. ’81. 
  • Peter Tsoflias, joined by his uncle Gary Efstration ’91.
  • William Kassab, joined by family friend Dr. Brenda Gilio, acting dean of Widener University’s School of Education, Innovation, and Continuing Studies.
  • Kelsey Gvozdich, joined by her brother Christopher Gvozdich ’10.
  • Kathleen Hubbert, joined by her father John Hubbert ’83.
  • Blair Kaplan, joined by her father Randy Kaplan ’82.
  • Eve Ledyard, joined by her father Michael Ledyard ’82.
  • Ryan Watson, joined by his father J. Scott Watson ’84.

Harrisburg graduation
  • Rachel Dodson, joined by her husband John Hamme ’05.
  • Joanne Hoffman, joined by her aunt Kathryn Peifer ’02, who is also a member of the law school Board of Overseers.
  • Kathleen A. Marzzacco, joined by her brother Christopher Marzzacco ’96.
  • Meghan McNaughton, joined by her father Mark McNaughton ’03.
  • In addition, Harrisburg valedictorian Tricia Lontz received congratulations on stage from her mentor, Widener Law class of 1995 alumnus Judge P. Kevin Brobson, a member of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.