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Changing Lives One Gift at a Time

Lee Michaels L’67 (right) with 3L Adam Leydig, the recipient of the 2019 Advocate of the Year award.
Lee Michaels L’67 (right) with 3L Adam Leydig, the recipient of the 2019 Advocate of the Year award.

The impact that scholarships have on the lives of students and the reputation of the College can never be overstated, as this update of five recipients of the College's more than 100 named scholarships attests.

“Scholarships have paved the way for students for decades,” says Director of Financial Aid Kristin Shea. “The College has a proud history of providing aid, and our mission remains to offer more than 90% of students merit- or need-based grants.”

In fact, the availability of financial aid is an important influence for students deciding which law school to attend. Scholarships help the College attract top talent while keeping law school accessible and affordable. For our philanthropic alumni, endowing or giving to a scholarship creates a lasting legacy and deepens connections among them, their alma mater, and generations of students.

As for their impact on the students themselves ...well, let them explain:

Class of 1996 Scholarship

“One of the key factors in my decision to choose Syracuse was the connection between alumni and their alma mater,” says 3L Nolan Kokkoris, the 2019 recipient of the Class of 1996 Scholarship.

"Conversations with alumni energized me about studying law and broadened my understanding of the profession, and alumni helped make my goal of obtaining a law degree tangible,” Kokkoris adds. “The support of alumni-funded scholarships, such as the Class of 1996 Scholarship, has helped me pursue my dream.”

The Class of 1996 Scholarship benefited from a timed Class Challenge in 2018, boosted by the promise of a match to maximize the impact of individual donations. The challenge, to reach either a 40% participation rate or $10,000, proved effective and fruitful: the Class of 1996 raised $10,535 to unlock the $25,000 match.

Class of 1968 Scholarship

While the Class of 1996 fundraising effort relied on the power of social media and other electronic connections among classmates, friends from a different Orange generation organized their fundraiser around their class reunion.

During its 50th get-together, the Class of 1968 not only shared memories, but they also challenged each other to continue the Syracuse tradition of giving back. This class raised an impressive $103,650 toward its scholarship fund—and boosted its participation rate to 34% in the process!

Maria Zumpano L’19 was the grateful 2019 recipient of the scholarship. “I was thrilled to learn of my selection, and I am deeply appreciative of the support from the Class of 1968,” says Zumpano. “Without financial assistance, my success in law school would not have been possible.” And Zumpano’s success continues. She graduated magna cum laude in 2019 and joined Bousquet Holstein PLLC, where she continues to build on her passion for business law.

Advocacy Scholarships

Sometimes students get to express their appreciation in person. That was the case at the Travis H.D. Lewin Advocacy Honors Society Banquet in May 2019. Among the awards conferred that night were two scholarships created by Professor Lewin: the Emil M. Rossi L’72 Scholarship Award and the Model of Excellency in Advocacy Award.

Honoring Syracuse-based trial attorney and Adjunct Professor Emil M. Rossi L’72, the Rossi Award was presented to 3L Courtney Thompson, the student who most demonstrated “excellence in trial advocacy.” Thompson was part of the American Association for Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition team that won the regional round in 2019.

Third-year student Aubre Dean captured the 2019 Model of Excellency in Advocacy Award as the student who “demonstrates excellence in advocacy and who exemplifies leadership, sportsmanship, and professionalism.” Dean was a member of the third-place 2019 Evans Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition team and co-winner of both the College’s inaugural Entertainment and Sports Law Negotiation Competition and the 47th Annual Mackenzie Hughes LLP Edmund Lewis Appellate Advocacy Competition.

The 2019 Model of Excellency award was presented in honor of Joanne Van Dyke L’87, a long-time coach of College of Law advocacy teams. “This award recognizes the efforts of our students and the contributions of the program’s alumni,” says Professor Lewin. “I beamed with pride as Joanne stood alongside Aubre!”

Another alum present at the 2019 banquet was Lee Michaels L’67, who teaches a popular trial practice course. To help continue the Advocacy Program’s stellar legacy, Michaels has established the Lee S. Michaels Advocacy Fund, which underwrites the Advocate of the Year Award. In May 2019, the award was presented to rising star 3L Adam Leydig. Leydig and his teammate Dennis Scanlon L’19 won the regional round of the National Trial Competition and brought the Tiffany Cup back home to Syracuse.

Following the Footsteps

Scholarships not only have a profound impact on the academic lives of our students, as the recipients often explain, they also inspire future giving.

“I couldn’t have made it without the help of those who preceded me,” says Kokkoris. “Thank you, Class of 1996, for inspiring me every day. As an alumnus, I too will help the next generation of lawyers who follow in my footsteps.”

Echoes Zumpani, “I hope one day I will be able to help other students achieve their goals, just as the Class of 1968 helped me.” 

To give to any of the scholarships mentioned in this article, to establish a scholarship, or to spearhead a Class Challenge, please contact Assistant Director of Development Fritz Diddle at fjdiddle@law.syr.edu or 315.443.1339.