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Giving Through the Years

Our alumni's generosity underwrites the College of Law’s success. 

For many alumni, a tradition of lifelong giving is often tied to personal stories and fond memories of their alma mater. And what better time to reflect on their College of Law days than on the occasion of a class anniversary! Eleven alums—of years ending in nine—share their philanthropic journeys. Tell us yours by emailing us at su-law@law.syr.edu.

Arthur I. Sherman L’59 & George T. Bruckman L’59

Arthur I. Sherman L'59 and George T. Bruckman L'59
Arthur I. Sherman L'59 and George T. Bruckman L'59

For George Bruckman and Arthur Sherman, philanthropy is part of their families’ traditions, a custom they both learned growing up in an era of austerity and sacrifice.

“I was raised in the Great Depression,” says Bruckman. “But as little as my parents had, they still gave. It was part of the Jewish tradition.” Sherman continues, “My father didn’t have much, but he always gave to charity, and he taught me to do the same.”

Given this proclivity for charity, it isn’t a surprise that Bruckman and Sherman remain organizing forces behind the Class of ’59 Scholarship, which got its start 50 years ago.

“The Class of ’59 Scholarship was a graduation gift for the school,” explains Sherman. “We thought it would be a nice idea to help give other kids a legal education. I’m beholden to the law school because it took me in after my military service, and my education helped me get a job on Wall Street. I felt I owed something to others coming after me.”

Before law school, in the mid-1950s, Sherman served in the US Army as an Infantryman. After graduation, he went to work on Wall Street as a financial advisor. The firm where he started eventually became Morgan Stanley. “I worked as everything except CEO,” Sherman notes.

In addition to the Class of ’59 Scholarship, Sherman and his wife support the Arthur I. Sherman L’59 Scholarship. Their other philanthropic interests include civil rights and art, especially decorative art glass.

“The objects of my philanthropy are education, health care, religious programs, and food banks,” observes Bruckman. “I want to ensure that my kids and grandkids continue this tradition of giving.” Like his friend, Bruckman served in the military, doing a stint in the Air Force Reserve after law school. “That was a humbling experience. It made me realize how fortunate I had been.”

Bruckman then began a successful business law practice, representing companies in the food services industry. “I'm still working,” admits Bruckman, who now concentrates his practice on estate and tax planning. “I happen to love the law, and the law has been good to me. I still enjoy getting involved in new projects. Now I use my money for philanthropy and for educating my grandkids.”

These long-standing friends returned to Syracuse in September 2019 for their 60th class reunion. Asked how they felt to be celebrating this significant milestone, both expressed a mixture of pride and amazement. “It seems like yesterday,” said Sherman, thinking about his law school days. Added Bruckman, “In a flash of a second, 60 years have gone by.”

David Miller
David Miller L'69

David Miller L’69 

David Miller enrolled in the College of Law out of a need to stay in New York and because of an offer he could not refuse.

His soon-to-be wife Elizabeth—remembered by his classmates as “Bebes”—held a New York state teaching certification, which required Miller to find a graduate school in the state, so she could teach while he attended school. The law became his pursuit when Dean Ralph Kharas offered him a full scholarship.

Dean Kharas gave me a wonderful opportunity for which I forever have been grateful,” Miller recalls.

A partner at California law firm Hanson Bridgett for nearly 50 years, Miller believes in supporting the College of Law for several reasons. “Foremost, Syracuse invested in me before I even arrived on campus by offering me a full tuition scholarship and subsequently providing me with the platform that has led to a fulfilling and stimulating career.”

Miller recalls one mentor in particular: Professor George Alexander, who had a profound impact on Miller’s career. In the summer before Miller’s second year, Alexander asked if he would assist on a project funded by NASA.

This exciting job took Miller across the country to Ames Research Center in the Bay Area, which Miller says was the beginning of his transformation from thinking of himself as a New Yorker to being a Californian. He assisted the “space race” by researching regulations in outer space the year before the moon landing.

He joined Hanson Bridgett particularly because he was interested in the firm’s public sector practice representing government agencies.

For more than 35 years Miller served as outside general counsel to four Bay Area public transportation authorities, including the agency that operates the world renowned Golden Gate Bridge. “My practice has covered a wide range of legal matters together with those unique to the public transportation industry,” he says.

“After recently meeting with Dean Boise it is clear to me the College is on the rise. It has a very accomplished and diverse faculty, and the programs it is focusing on appear appropriate for the times.”

Jodé Millman L’79

Jode Millman L'79
Jode Millman L'79

When it came to getting a jump-start on law school Jodé Millman had a clear advantage over her classmates. “I started working in a law office when I was 14 years old,” Millman recalls. “I was in a summer job program for schoolchildren. I started out as an assistant to a legal secretary and learned the processes and language of law.”

This early advantage informs one of the objects of Millman's philanthropy. In addition to supporting the Syracuse Public Interest Network, Millman also supports the College’s Clinical Legal Education program. “The clinics give students critical real-world experience that was only just being introduced when I was in law school,” says Millman. “That's why I believe in them. Not everyone is going to have the same opportunities I had.”

After she graduated, Millman returned to the law office she started with. After that experience, she worked as a corporate counsel in Poughkeepsie, NY. “I then worked for a small tax firm before creating my own law office, which I maintain to this day,” she says, adding that she is now mostly retired from the law—and pursuing another passion.

“I've always been interested in writing,” explains Millman. Her first foray into publishing came in 1998 when she took up a non-fiction project of her father's, a “pocket concierge” guide to Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.

Millman then tried young adult fiction before penning a novel in 2010. As is typical for new authors, it took Millman some time to interest a publisher. In the end, brevity was the soul of wit. “I entered a Twitter pitch contest,” Millman says. Her “micro synopsis” caught the interest of a publisher in March 2018. By June 2018, her debut thriller—The Midnight Call—was published by Immortal Works. The novel has since been short-listed for the Clue Award and named “Best Police Procedural” by chantireviews.com.

Law Alumni Weekend 2019 was a chance for Millman not only to catch up with her friends but also to give a reading from her novel during a special Saturday morning breakfast program on September 21.

“Dineen Hall was a very special stop on my book tour,” Millman says. “It meant a lot to me.” There was another item of business for Millman during her visit—to drum up support from her classmates for a $10,000 giving challenge to celebrate the Class on ’79’s 40th anniversary.

Jeff Capwell L’89

Jeffrey Capwell L'89
Jeffrey Capwell L'89

In 2018, Jeff Capwell retired from Charlotte, NC-based McGuireWoods, where he was a partner and head of the firm’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation practice group, to pursue his passion for teaching, stepping into a new career as a middle school teacher with 55 pupils. Capwell’s aptitude for teaching had been identified three decades earlier by College of Law Professor Samuel Donnelly.

“I think becoming a teacher was in part influenced by Sam who told me I had a facility for it and encouraged me to pursue a number of different interests while in law school,” Capwell recalls. “It’s funny how things come full circle. He wanted me to consider entering into the profession to train lawyers. I’m not teaching law, but I am teaching sixth graders.”

Capwell remembers Donnelly as the professor who had the most profound impact on him. “He was one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met. Not only was he a fantastic lawyer, he also had a wonderful mind, a tremendous depth of compassion and commitment to social justice that came from his Catholic faith, a faith we both shared.”

Helping others is a trait Capwell embraces. While he gives regularly to the College of Law to support student scholarships, he dedicates considerable hours of his time as a mentor to students.

“My contributions have been primarily focused on scholarships,” he says. This focus lies in a philosophy he developed over his years of practicing law. “I really felt it was my responsibility to find opportunities for, and to promote, younger lawyers. We work in a profession in which people succeed when others take an interest in their careers and actively work to help them reach their full potential.”

Several students have reached out to Capwell for advice on career options, interviewing tips, and areas of law to consider. “One of the things I’m proudest of with respect to my career is what I’ve been able to do in terms of mentoring and providing opportunities for younger lawyers,” he says. “It is really satisfying to hear from them periodically about how things are going in their careers and their lives.”

Greg Sobo L’99

Greg Sobo L'99
Greg Sobo L'99

Greg Sobo says he was drawn to the competition inherent in litigation. “While not a sport, litigation has winners, losers, and a referee—or judge,” he says, smiling. Sobo notes that before law school, he was extremely competitive in sports, and the practice of law provides him a great outlet for this side of his personality.

It is the sporting side of Sobo that delayed his entry into law school. A rare deferment allowed him time to pursue his Olympic dream before attending law school. “I was a competitive springboard diver, and the College of Law was kind enough to defer my admission for two years to allow me to train for the 1996 Olympic Team,” he says. “I will always appreciate that courtesy, and I want to return the favor by supporting the College.”

Sobo says he hires students at Middletown, NY-based Sobo & Sobo Personal Injury Attorneys from a variety of law schools, and one way he supports his alma mater is by often turning to its students. College of Law graduates tend to have a better pulse on connecting with clients, he observes, adding, “I find they explain the law to clients in a way that makes sense,” attributing that distinction to the instruction and faculty attention they receive at the College of Law.

During his time in law school, Sobo says two highlights stand out: facing off against Temple University in the Tournament of Champions advocacy competition and being published in the Syracuse Law Review.

“Competing on the national trial team was a real thrill,” Sobo says. During the tournament at Temple University, Sobo recalls the packed courtroom. “I will always remember the feeling I had standing up to begin my cross-examination of a key witness, and the intensity and drama of the moment,” he says.

Sobo says the College of Law provided him with the educational background to excel immediately upon entering the legal community. “Thanks in no small part to the lessons I learned in law school—including in Professor Lewin’s classes, civil procedure classes, the trial team, and Syracuse Law Review—I was able to develop a strong reputation as a trial attorney within the first few years of graduating.”

“That reputation is the foundation for my success,” Sobo adds.

Matthew Lyons L’09 & Anna Lyons L’09

Matthew L'09 and Anna Lyons L'09
Matthew L'09 and Anna Lyons L'09

You could say that the Lyons family literally bleeds orange.

In addition to Anna and Matthew Lyons, several of Matthew’s relatives also graduated from the College of Law, including Gary Lyons L’75 (his father), Paul Lyons L’09 and Andrew Lyons L’12 (his brothers), Laura Dixon L’13 (his cousin), and her husband Bryan Dixon L’13.

For this pair, orange became the color of love when the College of Law served as their matchmaker. “Matt and I had all of our classes together our first year and played on the same flag football team. I believe its name was Assault and Battery,” Anna recalls. The team’s name proved telling as Anna’s intramural sports career was short-lived, ending when she sustained a cut to her lower lip requiring stitches. Yet it was the way she nursed herself back to health that won over Matthew.

“The evening of the injury, I attended one of the school’s bar nights where Matt noticed me drinking beer from a straw out of the stitch-free side of my mouth,” Anna says about her ability at the time to leave an impression.

Both see the College of Law as a strong community that they believe in supporting. They’ve been donating consecutively for five years, and they also give back by helping current students and recent alumni explore career paths.

The Lyons feel they have been fortunate to find fulfilling work in corporate law and public service, and both enjoy corresponding with students and alumni to guide them on non-traditional legal careers.

“I think it’s very important for students and alumni to understand the breadth of opportunities that come with a law degree,” says Matthew, who serves as Compliance Counsel for Royal Caribbean Cruises in Miami, FL.

This year, Anna’s employer—the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)—will support an expansion of the College of Law’s Externship Program by offering positions in its Boca Raton office.

“When we are in the position to hire individuals full time or through an externship, we let the law school know,” Anna says. “Matt and I have been fortunate to find amazing employers, and we hope to help others in their job.”

Yasmeen Eesa LL.M.’19, Brian Kim L’19, & Aili Obandja LL.M.’19

Yasmeen Eesa LL.M.'19
Yasmeen Eesa LL.M.'19
Brian Kim L'19
Brian Kim L'19
Aili Obandja LL.M.'19
Aili Obandja LL.M.'19

Three recent graduates say they were inspired to study law through personal experiences.

2019 J.D. Class President Brian Kim L’19 wanted to help others after an error in an immigration filing forced his parents to return to Korea five years ago. Kim stayed, but his family was forever altered. “I am grateful to have experienced how a lawyer can make their clients’ lives better,” Kim says.

As a child, Yasmeen Eesa LL.M.’19 saw the impact divorces have on children. “In Syria, children can’t give their opinion about whether to live with their mother or their father. I want to make changes to benefit children because, unfortunately, they are the biggest losers in divorce cases.” Eesa graduated from Aleppo Law School in Syria before enrolling in Syracuse’s Master of Laws program to help her better understand the American legal system and take this knowledge back home.

Syracuse had the most to offer Aili Obandja LL.M’19. She had worked as a public prosecutor in Namibia before pursuing her master’s. “Foreign educated LL.M. graduates of ABA-approved law schools can take the bar in about five states on the basis of having attained an LL.M. degree alone,” she says. “New York is one of those states. Picking Syracuse was a no brainer.”

Together, Kim, Eesa, and Obandja take great pride in the performance of the 2019 Class Act! campaign. Kim led his class to a record 80% participation rate, and Eesa and Obandja steered the LL.M. class to an astonishing 94% participation rate—a Syracuse University record.

Kim says he is motivated to give back to Syracuse University because of the generous support he received during his time here. “I feel motivated to continue the process,” he says. Says Eesa, “I always say we have to support future students because, as students, we were supported by the school when we started our journey.”

For Obandja, giving back is based on the African philosophy of “Ubuntu,” which she translates to mean “I am, because of who we are all.” Her Namibian upbringing taught her that people are the cornerstones of any institution. “I take pride in being a College of Law graduate,” she says, “and if I can help another student fill a financial gap, I will do as much as I can.”