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Alumni of the Year and Rising Stars Honored at Alumni Luncheon

05/19/2022
After two years of gathering virtually for the Brooklyn Law School Alumni Association’s annual Alumni Luncheon, more than 300 alumni, faculty, students, and friends reunited and celebrated in person at the May 6 luncheon at the beautiful Cipriani 25 Broadway. The event also saluted the great accomplishments of Alumni Rising Stars Dong Joo Lee ’13, Mary Willis White ’13, and Alumni of the Year Frank V. Carone ’94 and Wanda K. Denson-Low ’81.  

“It’s so exciting to see real people. You all look a lot better than you did on Zoom!” said Association President Valerie Fitch ’88 in her welcome to the group. Thanking all at the Law School who helped make the day possible, Fitch also paid a heartfelt tribute to the late Deborah Morse ’80, former Alumni Association Secretary and Assistant District Attorney with the New York County District Attorney’s Office Appeals Division, who passed away in 2021.

Dean Michael Cahill then took the stage to extend his welcome to the alumni who, he said, “inspire and motivate our students who want to be what you are and are inspired by what they can do and will do by the example you have set for them.” He acknowledged and thanked Valerie Fitch, “one of the great supporters and champions of Brooklyn Law School,” along with the many board members and former board members who were present, the faculty, and recognized a “future alum,” Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, who, he said, “in addition to her day job as State Assembly Member and Chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, just wrapped up her second year in our evening program.” 

In welcoming special guest Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dean Cahill thanked her and Wanda Denson-Low for facilitating an exciting new partnership between RPI and Brooklyn Law School through the Rensselaer Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems. The Institute, said Cahill, “will include industry leaders to address the major twenty-first-century challenge of climate change by trying to reimagine both large-scale urban environments and small-scale architectural design and development. The Law School plans to expand our own programs in the area of sustainable development, which builds on a longstanding strength of this school and alumni, the real estate sector.”

Dean Cahill also paid tribute to alumnus Warren Estis ’73, a titan of real estate law and a great friend and supporter of the Law School, who passed away earlier this year. Mr. Estis’ son Alex Estis ’17, and legal partner Gary Rosenberg ’74, were in attendance at the luncheon. 

Before introducing the Rising Stars and Alumni of the Year, the Alumni Association’s Tim Oberweger ’05, Chair of the Philanthropy Committee, encouraged all alumni to continue their generous support of the Law School, both financially and through providing opportunities to fellow alumni.

Rising Star Dong Joo Lee, a veteran of the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, currently an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, and recipient of numerous awards for his service to the legal community and to community organizations, was congratulated via video message by Rear Admiral Les Reardanz, who recognized Lee for his distinction and distinguished service. In accepting his award, Lee thanked Professors Lisa Smith and Karen Hennigan, whose clinical work, he said, set a path for and deeply impacted his career. He also paid tribute to his parents, who, when he was just four years old, he said, "left South Korea and everything they had known to give us a better life and become people who care about the world."

Fellow Rising Star Mary Willis White, a Partner at boutique real-estate law firm Kriss & Feuerstein LLP and an active member of the Women’s Leadership Circle, gave her thanks for the award, especially to her favorite alumnus, her husband Paul Means ’11. White, who oversees the firm’s Summer Associate Program and is the partner sponsor of K&F’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, said that if she had been asked at her K&F interview a decade ago where she would see herself today, “I hope I would have been bold enough then to imagine the things I could do in real estate in the greatest city in the world. That I would be hiring fellow alumni.” The training she and her fellow alumni received at Brooklyn Law School, White said, “gave us the tools for well-rounded, practical, and effective leadership for our clients.” 

New York Supreme Court Justice Devin P. Cohen ’95 then introduced Alumnus of the Year Frank Carone, Chief of Staff to New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Carone, a negotiator and business litigator who was formerly Executive Partner at Abrams Fensterman LLP, has long devoted himself to serving on the boards of local organizations. He recalled that he entered Brooklyn Law School with “insecurities and fixed opinions, but my Law School education transformed the way I thought.” He made special note of William Hellerstein, Professor of Law Emeritus, and Aaron Twerski, Irwin and Jill Cohen Professor of Law, “great teachers who helped shape my way of thinking and helped my theory of law evolve.” Now, building a team at City Hall, he added, he looks forward to helping the city “emerge from a time of crisis to reinvention.”

Via video message, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla of California congratulated Alumnus of the Year Wanda Denson-Low, retired Senior Vice President of the Office of Internal Governance at the Boeing Company and currently Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Following was a very personal introduction by Denson-Low’s son Cameron Low ’19, who told of his mother’s personal sacrifice, of her being a trailblazer as a woman of color in her field, one who has paid it forward through mentorship and many diversity initiatives. Denson-Low and her husband, Ron Low, have created many scholarships at Brooklyn Law School to help recruit promising applicants. “Brooklyn Law School gave me a sense of community and taught me how to be an advocate,” said Denson-Low. “As lawyers, upholding equity and the rule of law, you can always do something from whatever place you’re in to make the world better.”

In closing remarks, Valerie Fitch, who is ending her latest term as Alumni Association president, said, “These events show what an amazing place Brooklyn Law School is and how incredible our graduates and faculty are. I’ve been proud to be president and enjoyed every minute.” She then introduced incoming president Deborah Riegel ’93. “I want to thank Valerie,” said Riegel, “for stewarding the Alumni Association with grace, with an iron fist when necessary, with compassion, and a welcoming and collaborative nature. I have extraordinarily big shoes to fill!”

Our thanks to the many generous sponsors who made the 2022 Alumni Luncheon possible, including Frank Aquila ’83, Chair of the Board of Trustees; Rosenberg & Estis, P.C.; Vdiscovery; Abrams Fensterman LLP; Allegaert Berger & Vogel LLP; Wanda Denson Low ’81 and Ron Low; Valerie Fitch ’88 and Ed Flanders ’89; Kramer Levin; Kriss & Feuerstein LLP; Sasha L. Linney ’11; and S & E Azriliant P.C. For additional sponsors and to read full biographies of our Rising Stars and Alumni of the Year, visit our Alumni Luncheon page here.