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2016 List of Honorees

On November 10, the Law School honored six University of Pennsylvania Law School graduates and one former Penn Law Vice Dean for their career achievements, pro bono work, service to the legal profession, and service to the school.

Included in the group were the co-founder and Co-Director of the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project; a Staff Attorney in the New York Office of Lambda Legal; the Litigation Director and Managing Attorney for Public Benefits and Employment at Community Legal Services; a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge and former litigation partner of Archer & Greiner, PC with an extensive history of pro bono service; the former Vice Dean for Business Affairs at Penn Law; and the Vice President of Environment, Health & Safety, and GE’s Boston Development and Operations.

The ceremony was held in Penn Law’s Michael A. Fitts Auditorium and was followed by a reception in the Haaga Lounge.

Earlier in the day, the Law Alumni Society also honored the Penn Law South Florida Alumni Club with its Club of the Year Award.

The 2016 Penn Law Alumni Society Award Honorees were:

  • James Wilson Award Honoring a lifetime of service to the profession, The Honorable Michael Baylson W’61, L’64
  • Distinguished Service Award Honoring service to the Law School, Ernie Gonsalves C’72
  • Alumni Award of Merit Honoring professional achievement and service to the Law School, Ann R. Klee L’86
  • Howard Lesnick Pro Bono Award Honoring a sustained commitment to pro bono and/or public service throughout a private sector career, The Honorable Stella Tsai L’88
  • Louis H. Pollak Public Service Award Honoring justice through service to others, Sharon M. Dietrich L’85
  • Young Alumni Award Honoring the professional achievement of an alumnus/a who has graduated within the past 10 years, Joanna Visser Adjoian C’04, L’10
  •  Young Alumni Award Honoring the professional achievement of an alumnus/a who has graduated within the past 10 years, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan LPS’10, L’10

The Young Alumni Award, honoring the professional achievement of an alumnus/a who has graduated within the past 10 years, was awarded to Omar Gonzalez-Pagan LPS’10, L’10

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan is a Staff Attorney in the New York Office of Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and individuals living with HIV. His work spans all aspects of Lambda Legal’s impact litigation, policy advocacy, and public education efforts.

As a member of the legal team in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges, Gonzalez-Pagan helped secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples and their families across the United States.  He also played an active role in the successful challenges to the marriage bans in Guam, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico. Among his current cases are: Smith v. Avanti, where he represents a same-sex couple, one of whom is transgender, and their children in a federal housing discrimination case; Hamm v. City of New York, seeking to address the violation of the constitutional rights of a gay man brutally attacked while visiting his incarcerated partner at Rikers Island; and Evancho v. Pine-Richland School District, challenging a school’s discriminatory restroom policy on behalf of three transgender high school students.

Prior to joining Lambda Legal, Gonzalez-Pagan worked for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as an Assistant Attorney General, a Special Assistant District Attorney, and an Associate General Counsel to the Massachusetts Inspector General. As an Assistant Attorney General, Gonzalez-Pagan was part of the team that successfully challenged the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in Massachusetts v. HHS

He has been recognized as one of 2016’s Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association and a Public Interest Leader by the Boston Bar Association. In 2012, he was selected as a Fellow by the New Leaders Council in recognition for his commitment to the public interest and progressive values. 

Gonzalez-Pagan graduated from Cornell University in 2007, and is a 2010 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he served as an editor of the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law.  He also an M.E.S. in Environmental Policy from the University of Pennsylvania.

 

The Young Alumni Award, honoring the professional achievement of  an alumnus/a who has graduated within the past 10 years, was awarded to Joanna Visser Adjoian C’04, L’10

Joanna Visser Adjoian is co-founder and Co-Director of the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP). YSRP uses direct service and policy advocacy to transform the experiences of children prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system, and to ensure fair and thoughtful resentencing and reentry for individuals who were sentenced to life without parole as children (“juvenile lifers”).

Prior to co-founding YSRP, Joanna served as Associate Director and Staff Attorney of the Toll Public Interest Center at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Penn Law Postgraduate Fellow at Juvenile Law Center, federal law clerk for Judge Joel Schneider in the United States District Court of the District of New Jersey, and family law paralegal at Philadelphia Legal Assistance. At Juvenile Law Center, Joanna coordinated the Pennsylvania Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, and co-authored Amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and state supreme courts on juvenile life without parole sentences. At the Toll Center, she oversaw the Center’s 26 student pro bono projects, offered guidance to more than 100 student leaders and directly supervised students in new and existing pro bono initiatives.

Joanna is a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow, 2016 Claneil Emerging Leader Fellow, and a finalist for a 2016 Excellence in Advocacy Award from the Professional Women in Advocacy Conference. She chairs the Philadelphia Bar Association Public Interest Section’s Legal Rights of Children Committee, and serves as a member of the Toll Public Interest Center Advisory Board. Joanna received both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.

 

The Louis H. Pollak Public Service Award, honoring justice through service to others, was awarded to Sharon M. Dietrich L’85

Sharon Dietrich has been an attorney with the Employment Law Project of Community Legal Services, Philadelphia, since 1987. She became CLS’ Managing Attorney for Public Benefits and Employment in 1997, and its Litigation Director in 2014. She specializes in employment issues faced by people with criminal records. She also represents low income persons in employment matters such as wage claims, family and medical leave, and the like. Ms. Dietrich’s work features systemic advocacy, such as legislative and policy advocacy, class action litigation, and communications, primarily on criminal record and unemployment insurance issues.

From 1994 through 2004, she also worked as a contract attorney with the National Employment Law Project. NELP provides assistance to legal services programs, unions and community based organizations nationwide and promotes a national advocacy agenda on issues such as minimum wage, unemployment insurance and criminal records.

Ms. Dietrich is a summa cum laude graduate of Albright College in 1982 and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1985. Prior to her employment with CLS, Ms. Dietrich served as law clerk for Ann Aldrich, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, from 1985-87.

Ms. Dietrich has been presented numerous awards for her work, including the inaugural Pioneer Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (2011), the Kutak-Dodds Prize from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (2006), the Civil Legal Aid Attorney of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Bar Association (2006), the Andrew Hamilton Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association (2005), the Meritorious Service Award from the Pennsylvania Prison Society (2002), and the Striving Towards Excellence Award from Pennsylvania Legal Services (1999).

 

The Howard Lesnick Pro Bono Award, honoring a sustained commitment to pro bono and/or public service throughout a private sector career, was awarded to The Honorable Stella Tsai L’88

Hon. Stella M. Tsai was recently appointed to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas by Governor Thomas Wolf. Prior to her appointment, Judge Tsai was a distinguished business litigation partner in the Philadelphia office of Archer & Greiner, PC concentrating in regulatory compliance, land use, and ethics. Ms. Tsai re-entered private practice after serving as Chair of Administrative Law at the City of Philadelphia Law Department from 2000-2003 where she managed the attorneys who represent the child welfare and social service agencies.

Throughout her career in private practice, Judge Tsai remained actively involved in pro bono and public service through numerous organizations and public policy initiatives. She was an inaugural member of the reconstituted City of Philadelphia Board of Ethics, which is charged with enforcing the City’s campaign finance and ethics laws. In 2011, the Hon. Michael A. Nutter appointed Judge Tsai to the City’s Zoning Code Commission (“ZCC”) to help rewrite the Zoning Code and help modernize how future development, and facilitate sustainable growth would be managed. After the ZCC concluded its work, Mayor Nutter appointed Judge Tsai to the Board of Trustees of the Community College of Philadelphia, the largest public institution of higher education in Philadelphia. Judge Tsai has also chaired or held other leadership positions on numerous non-profit boards including the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, the Women’s Law Project, Volunteers for the Indigent in Philadelphia (“VIP”), Philadelphia Diversity Law Group, and Legacy Youth & Tennis Education.

While in private practice, Judge Tsai provided countless hours of pro bono representation and advocacy for low income individuals in a wide range of matters including custody and support disputes, voting rights cases, civil rights cases, political asylum and other immigration issues.

Judge Tsai earned her B.A. in political science with honors and distinction from the Pennsylvania State University in 1985 and her J.D. from the Law School in 1988.

 

The Distinguished Service Award, Honoring service to the Law School, was awarded to Ernie Gonsalves C’72

Ernie Gonsalves was the Vice Dean for Business Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. His career at Penn Law began in 1971 as a work-study student in the Registrar’s Office, eventually becoming the Law School Registrar in 1979.  In 1982, he was appointed Systems Planning Coordinator, responsible for the supervision of Law School information processing systems and the development of office automated support systems for the Admissions, Career Planning, Registrar, and Alumni Offices. He assumed responsibility for the Business Affairs Office in 1984. Ernie retired in 2015 with over 43 years of service to the Law School.

 

The Alumni Award of Merit, honoring professional achievement and service to the Law School, was awarded to Ann R. Klee L’86

Ann Klee is the Vice President of Environment, Health & Safety, and GE’s Boston Development and Operations. Ann also serves as President of the GE Foundation.

Before coming to GE, Ann was a partner and co-chair of the Environmental and Natural Resources Group of Crowell & Moring LLP, based in Washington, DC. Prior to that, Ann held several positions in the Bush Administration including General Counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2004-2006) and Counselor and Special Assistant to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (2001 to 2004). She also spent time on Capitol Hill as Chief Counsel to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

She has served on the Board of Trustees of the National Park Foundation, Center for Climate and Energy Strategies, the Environmental Law Institute, Yale Center for Business and Environment, and University of Pennsylvania Law Alumni Association.

Ann received her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and her B.A. in Classics with High Honors from Swarthmore College. She and her husband divide their time between Boston and their farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

 

The James Wilson Award, Honoring a lifetime of service to the profession, The Honorable Michael Baylson W’61, L’64

Michael M. Baylson was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by President George W. Bush and took office on July 12, 2002. He was born in Philadelphia in 1939, and graduated from Cheltenham High School (1957), the Wharton School of Finance & Commerce (B.S. Econ., 1961) and the Law School (LL.B.,1964) of the University of Pennsylvania.

After clerking for Judge Joseph Sloane of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and volunteering with the Defender Association, Judge Baylson began serving as an Assistant District Attorney under District Attorney Arlen Specter in January 1966, and became Chief of the Homicide Division in 1969. In January 1970, Judge Baylson joined Duane Morris and became a partner in 1974. He handled complex civil litigation matters and tried numerous cases, specializing in class actions, antitrust and securities issues. After serving as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania from October 1988 through January 1993, Judge Baylson returned to Duane Morris and resumed an active law practice. He served as Chair of the Trial Department and as a member of the firm’s Executive Committee.

Judge Baylson was a founder, and later counsel, to Gaudenzia, Inc., the largest non-profit provider of drug, alcohol and mental health rehabilitation services in Pennsylvania.

Judge Baylson served as a member of the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 2005 - 2010. He currently serves on the Third Circuit Committee on Model Criminal Jury Instructions. He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he leads a seminar in Commercial Litigation Strategy. He has previously taught at the Temple University Beasley School of Law program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. He served as moderator at the Aspen Institute Justice and Society seminar in Aspen, Colorado and as a speaker on Cross Border Data Protection issues for the Sedona Conference. Judge Baylson is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education programs and seminars.

He is married to Frances Ruth Batzer Baylson, M.D, and resides in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia. Over many years, Judge Baylson and his wife built a complete collection of books and periodicals illustrated by Henri Matisse, which they recently donated to The Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. Over the 2015-16 winter, their collection was on exhibit at The Morgan, which published a catalogue of the collection, including their essay on building the collection, entitled Graphic Passion.