More than 300 people filled the main exhibit room of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on Saturday to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Widener Law’s first graduating class.
Those in attendance included Widener University President James T. Harris, Senior Vice President and Provost Jo Allen, former Widener University President Robert Bruce, Law Dean Linda L. Ammons
and former Law Deans Douglas E. Ray and Anthony Santoro. In addition to dinner, dancing and reminiscing, the evening included distribution of the 2010 alumni awards.
Harris spoke about the ways the law school inspires him – from the improved bar pass rate to the number of alumni judges to the thousands of hours of community service done by students, faculty and staff.
“Tonight, when we look forward to our future, it has never been brighter,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a graduate of the Harrisburg campus, introduced Ammons. In the process he talked about the dean’s commitment to public service and harkened back to his days working in the Pennsylvania Civil Clinic
and in a Harrisburg-area soup kitchen, providing food to homeless people.
“That’s what my classmates and I did on the Harrisburg campus,” he said. “It was just something stamped in my heart.”
Ammons said it is rare to find people who will put their money, time and careers on the line for the chance to pursue a legal education – particularly at a brand new, unaccredited law school.
“At today’s Widener Law, we admire members of the class of 1975 for their willingness to take this calculated risk,” she said to extended applause. “Tonight we celebrate the past, and honor those who laid the foundation for what is now Widener Law. However, we are also keeping our eye on the future, in training the new lawyers for the 21st century.”
Today, more than 13,000 alumni are spread out across the world, and the law school moves on toward continued progress and success.
Awards were handed out to several alumni or their family members:
The Alumnus of the Year Award
was given to CAPT. Robert P. Taishoff ’89. The award is presented to an alumna or alumnus who, through service to her or his community or profession, or by honors received, service rendered or other accomplishments, has brought honor, recognition and distinction to the Widener University School of Law. Taishoff graduated from Widener’s Delaware campus. The retired Naval officer oversees the Taishoff Family Foundation, which committed a $1.2 million gift – the largest in the school’s history – to Widener Law in 2009. Taishoff is a member of the Dean’s National Advisory Council and annually speaks to Military Law Society
students. He is also a strong supporter of the school’s Veterans Law Clinic
The Outstanding Service Award
was presented to Damian S. Jackson, Esq. ’96. The service award is given for outstanding alumni service to the law school as a whole, to a particular concentration within the school, or to the legal profession. Jackson graduated from Widener’s Delaware campus and he is secretary to the school’s alumni association, serves on the Dean’s Minority Alumni Advisory Committee and mentors a first-year law student. Jackson is a resident of Philadelphia.
The Lifetime Service Award
was given to Judge Charles P. Mirarchi Jr. Mirarchi was a founding member of the law school’s early parents’ association and helped to launch a decades-long effort to offer students more than their money’s worth by supplementing the law school’s resources with the philanthropic support needed to buy library books, renovate facilities and hire distinguished faculty. He has been a strident financial supporter, including his work to establish and fund the Charles P. Mirarchi Sr. Memorial Scholarship, given annually in honor of his father. He is a member of the school’s Board of Overseers and taught Pennsylvania practice as an adjunct professor from 1974 to 1999. He founded and continues to actively participate in Widener Law’s Pennsylvania Bar Induction Ceremony, helping to usher hundreds, if not thousands, of alumni into the ranks of proud legal professionals in the Commonwealth.
The school awarded four Widener Law Legacy Awards
, including two given posthumously. The awards went to:
A. Charles Peruto Sr., Esq., who worked tirelessly to help the school secure American Bar Association accreditation and has been a continued generous supporter. He is the patriarch of a family that now includes six Widener Law graduates in two generations. Peruto taught as an adjunct faculty member on the Delaware campus from 1980 to 1994.
Alexander V. Sarcione Sr., Esq., who also provided great leadership in the school’s efforts to gain accreditation and raise funds. He is the father of one Widener Law graduate and he continues to memorialize a second son, whose tragic death in 1976 while enrolled at the law school, galvanized the family’s commitment to Widener and led to the Alexander V. Sarcione Jr. Memorial Award and Scholarship, given annually.
The late Judge G. Fred DiBona, provided leadership, counsel and personal advocacy on behalf of the law school during its founding, establishment and accreditation. A founder of the school’s early parents’ association, he traveled to Hawaii in 1974 to speak in favor of the school gaining accreditation. He remained active in the life of the law school, including serving as a judge in competitions – including one that now bears his name.
The late Thomas S. Lodge, Esq. who also traveled on the law school’s behalf to an ABA accreditation meeting in Chicago as a representative of the Delaware bar demonstrating support for the school. He went on to serve as a Widener University trustee and as chairman of the law school Board of Overseers. He has been memorialized through the Thomas Lodge Memorial Scholarship, which is given annually to students demonstrating commitment to public interest legal services.
Finally, the school has given its Outstanding Recent Alumna Award
to Corinne M. Foley Esq. ’06 of Naples, Fla.. Foley was unable to attend the gala in Philadelphia. Her award recognizes work by a recent graduate who shows energy and dedication as a community leader or provides invaluable service to the Widener University School of Law. Foley, a Delaware campus graduate, held various leadership positions in the Student Bar Association
while at the law school and was founder and president of the school’s Military Law Society.