Outgoing University of Pennsylvania Law School Dean Michael A. Fitts has been honored with the Law School’s 2014 Beacon Award, which recognizes faculty members’ contributions to pro bono and public interest service.
The award was presented as part of Penn Law’s annual Public Interest Recognition Event, which took place April 9 in the Levy Conference Center. More than 100 student leaders and over 50 community partners were also honored.
Fitts, the Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law and Dean of the Law School since 2000, steps down in June to become the President of Tulane University. He was recognized for his vision and support of public service programs during his 14-year tenure, which have “transformed Penn Law into a national leader in shaping the next generation of public interest lawyers.”
In particular, Fitts was recognized for a multi-million dollar increase in funding for students working in public interest and government positions, an expansion of the Toll Public Interest Scholars and Public Interest Fellows programs, and the introduction of Public Interest Week, a symposium and related events showcasing the impact of public service while bringing together public interest practitioners, alumni, and an Honorary Fellow-in-Residence.
Fitts was also recognized for expanding Penn Law’s generous loan forgiveness program, TolLRAP, and for overseeing the introduction of the Penn Law Postgraduate Fellowship Program, and the new Catalyst Grant program, which is Penn Law’s latest effort to support public sector careers.
The Recognition Event celebrated the pro bono and public interest work of the Law School’s 2014 graduating class, who collectively performed more than 30,000 hours of service, with more than 90 percent of students exceeding the law School’s minimum graduation requirement.
Third-year student Justine Haimi received the C. Edwin Baker Award for performing the most pro bono hours of any student in the Class of 2014. She logged an incredible 1,080 hours.
Zengliang (Sarah) Luo received the LLM Public Service Award for performing the highest number of public service hours of all students in the graduating LLM cohort. She performed over 80 hours of pro bono legal service in the one year LLM program.
The work of numerous Penn Law students, including a record number of LLM students, was honored at the Ceremony, along with the contributions of public interest law attorneys and advocates, and more than 25 student-run pro bono groups.
Pro bono Leadership Awards went to Alison Hollenbeck L’14 and Mariam Khokhar L’14, co-directors of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, and Jack Sheehan L’14, Executive Director of the James Wilson Project, which partners with under-resourced Philadelphia high schools to bring Penn Law students into the classroom to teach about constitutional rights and responsibilities.
Legacy Awards, for Penn Law students who have founded new public interest and pro bono projects that will continue to engage future generations of students, went to Marisa Kirio L’14 and Andrew Morris L’14 for the Animal Law Project; Elisa Downey-Zayas L’14 and Jessica Greer-Griffith L’14 for the Financial Literacy Project; and Jessica Falzone L’14 and Jack Sheehan L’14 for the James Wilson Project.