Arthur A. Riegel ’94 Establishes Scholarship for Nontraditional Students
There are two cherished Brooklyn Law School commencement traditions: children of graduates are allowed to join their parents on stage, and alumni may present degrees to their graduating family member. Arthur A. Riegel ’94 fulfilled both traditions at once when his daughter, Deborah Riegel ’93, president-elect of the Alumni Association, joined him on stage and presented him with his degree to thunderous applause from the audience.
“Brooklyn Law School has been a family affair,” said Riegel. This feeling of family extended to the whole Law School community, which he felt fully embraced him, an older student who had already retired from his first career when he enrolled at Brooklyn Law School.
It is for this reason Riegel has decided, after a full second career in labor and employment law arbitration, to establish a scholarship to assist other nontraditional students embarking on the same path.
Riegel, who grew up in a family with little money but with parents who instilled in him the value of education, was a public school principal for 20 years before deciding to apply to law school.
From his first day of classes, said Riegel, he felt “treated with such care.” His admissions counselor, recognizing his apprehension over returning to school after so many years, suggested he start with a lighter first semester before jumping in with a full course load. A chance early encounter with Dean David Trager led to a friendship not as dean and student, but as two professionals who had experience running educational institutions. Riegel also had many professors who he considered mentors, including Professor Joel Gora. However, the most help came from Professor Emerita Linda Feldman. She acted as Riegel’s informal guidance counselor and spent countless hours helping him learn how to take law school exams.
“At the end of my first year, I sent Dean Traeger a letter titled ‘Observations from the Senior Set,’ enumerating all the kindnesses shown to me from the faculty,” said Riegel. “When I got back to school, faculty kept stopping me to thank me. It turned out the dean had made copies and shared it with everyone I mentioned in the letter.” He also wrote “Observations from the Senior Set” after years two and three, and keeps copies of them in his files to this day.
After passing the bar exam on his first try, Riegel launched an arbitration practice. After a long career as part of a “big machine,” Riegel had vowed “never to work for someone else again.” His late wife encouraged him to follow his dream, despite the challenges he experienced. “My wife said don’t give up,” he recalled fondly. “Give yourself time. Have confidence in yourself.”
A year later, he was added to a panel of arbitrators and, within three years, had a thriving practice. Today, at the age of 84 and after 25 years of practicing law, Riegel’s practice is still thriving.
“But for Brooklyn Law School, I would not have achieved such great success, and it’s only fitting that I give back,” he said. After years of loyal giving, Riegel made a commitment of $25,000 to establish the Arthur A. Riegel Scholarship for nontraditional students who, like himself, have not taken the typical path to law school. “I’ve given in the past, and I’m not done,” he said.
Riegel looks forward to meeting with the recipients of his scholarship to provide them with encouragement and to advise them to seek out the assistance of others. “I hope this story will help others see that no one makes it on their own,” he said. “I’m giving back to the community that made me what I am, and I want to encourage others to do the same.”
Read about the Riegels’ shared law school experience in the Fall 2011 issue of Brooklyn Law Notes, page 33