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Penn Law Honors Six Graduates with Alumni Achievement Awards

September 14, 2009

Six University of Pennsylvania Law School graduates – including a justice on the Delaware Supreme Court, one of the country’s preeminent trial attorneys and a leading investor – are being honored for their career achievements, pro bono work, service to the legal profession and service to the Law School.

They are:

  • Robert S. Blank L’65, a senior partner with the investment partnership Whitcom Partners.
  • Randy J. Holland L’72, a justice on the Delaware Supreme Court.
  • David Richman L’69, a partner with Pepper Hamilton.
  • Richard Sprague L’53, a dominant presence in Philadelphia courts for decades.
  • Leba Tolpin L’06, an attorney representing at-risk youth in Delaware.
  • Stella Ming Tsai L’88, a partner with Archer & Greiner.

“These honorees have made – and continue to make – enduring contributions to the law, to the welfare of their clients and to the future of the law school that was a springboard to their success,” said Penn Law Dean Michael A. Fitts. “Each of them epitomizes the importance of being dedicated to something larger than one’s self, to helping create opportunities for others.”

The awards will be presented during an Oct. 7 ceremony and reception celebration at Penn Law.

The Hon. Randy Holland

The James Wilson Award, honoring service to the legal profession and named for the signer of the Declaration of Independence who was the first lecturer in law at Penn, will be awarded to Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy J. Holland. Holland was the youngest person to serve on the Delaware Supreme Court when he was named to the bench in 1986. Prior to joining the court, where he is now serving a second 12-year term, Holland was a partner at Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell. Holland, former national president of the American Inns of Court Foundation, has been an active leader in the areas of ethics and professional responsibility. He chaired a national advisory committee to the American Judicature Society’s Center for Judicial Ethics and the American Bar Association’s National Joint Committee on Lawyer Regulation. He has served on the ABA Presidential Commission on Fair and Impartial Courts, the Appellate Judges Conference’s Executive Committee, the Standing Committee on Client Protection and the Judicial Division’s Ethics and Professionalism Committee. U.S. Chief Justices Rehnquist and Roberts appointed Holland as the State Judge Member of the Federal Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules. Holland is author or editor of several books: Middle Temple Lawyers and the American Revolution; The Delaware Constitution: A Reference Guide; Delaware Supreme Court: Golden Anniversary; The Delaware Constitution of 1897 – The First One Hundred Years; and Appellate Practice and Procedure.

Robert S. Blank
The Distinguished Service Award honoring service to Penn Law will be awarded to Robert S. Blank, senior partner of Whitcom Partners and co-chair and co-CEO of its affiliate, Whitney Communications Co. The firms make investments in public and non-public companies and have operated large-market FM radio stations and network-affiliated television stations, cable television systems, trade magazines, newspapers and other publications. Blank began his law career as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, DC, and later worked in mergers and acquisitions at Goldman, Sachs. He joined Whitcom in 1971. Blank is a director of Toll Brothers Inc., a member of Penn’s Board of Trustees, a member of the Penn Medicine Board, an overseer of both The Wharton School and Penn Law, and he serves on the board of managers of The Wistar Institute.

The Alumni Award of Merit, recognizing professional achievement and service to the Law School, will be presented to Richard A. Spragueand Stella Ming Tsai.

Richard Sprague
Sprague is principal with the firm of Sprague & Sprague, where he has represented a variety of high-profile figures, including basketball star Allen Iverson and radio personality Howard Eskin. In 2000, Sprague was listed in Philadelphia magazine’s Power 100 as the 25th most powerful person in Philadelphia.  He has served as special prosecutor for the Allegheny County District Attorney since 1999 and as special prosecutor for the Philadelphia County District Attorney since 2000.  Sprague was chief counsel and director of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations, investigating the murders of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sprague’s 50-year career has also included leading roles in a test of the insanity defense and in prosecuting United Mine Workers president Tony Boyle for the murder of Joseph “Jock” Yablonski.

Stella Tsai
Tsai, a partner with Archer & Greiner, focuses her practice on corporate governance and governmental affairs, and she has extensive commercial litigation experience, including trial work. She has served as one of the city of Philadelphia’s top lawyers, managing the 45 attorneys of the Health and Human Services Unit. She also supervised attorneys who represented the city in civil rights and labor relations matters in state and federal courts and before local, state and federal labor boards and commissions.   During her tenure at the Law Department, Ms. Tsai made substantial contributions to the system-wide implementation of court reforms designed to achieve the safety, permanency and well-being of at-risk children and youth in Philadelphia. She subsequently served as an inaugural member of Philadelphia’s Board of Ethics and helped rewrite the city’s complex and outdated zoning code to help facilitate sustainable growth. She is a former president of Penn’s Law Alumni Society.

Leba Toplin
The Young Alumni Award, honoring professional achievement of a student who graduated within the past 10 years, will be presented to Leba Tolpin. Since September 2006, Tolpin has served as a staff attorney and the Steven J. Rothschild Skadden Fellow at the Disabilities Law Program at Community Legal Aid Society Inc. in Wilmington, Delaware, where she represents at-risk youth.  She also advocates within the juvenile justice facilities and the juvenile delinquency system and has represented children in Social Security and Medicaid appeals and in school disciplinary removal hearings. She recently accompanied her husband, a doctor, on a service trip to the Himalayan Mountains, establishing medical clinics in remote villages.

David Richman
The inaugural Howard Lesnick Pro Bono Award, named for a longtime Penn Law professor and awarded to a graduate who has shown a sustained commitment to public service as part of a private-sector career, will be awarded to David Richman. A partner with Pepper Hamilton and a trial and appellate lawyer, Richman previously served 18 years as a court-appointed counsel to the inmates of the Philadelphia Prison System in a federal class action. He has worked as an Assistant DA for Philadelphia, following service as counsel to an ad hoc committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives investigating corruption in the state government. He co-founded the PA Innocence Project in 2008 and is the organization's president.