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Alumni Award Winners Announced

May 5, 2011 | Alumni

The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law is pleased to announce the winners of its five prestigious alumni awards: Distinguished Alumna/us Award; William K. Thomas Distinguished Jurist Award; Community Service Award; Public Service Award; and Outstanding Recent Alumn/us.

“As dean, I am always so energized by the opportunity to interact with and highlight the terrific achievements of Moritz alumni who have used their distinctive educations to accomplish so much in their communities and the legal profession,” Dean Alan C. Michaels said.

The winners are:

  • Distinguished Alumnus: Alec Wightman ’75
  • William K. Thomas Distinguished Jurist Award: Paul Pfeiffer ’66
  • Community Service Award: Daniel P. McQuade ’67
  • Public Service Award: Kelly Schneider ’96
  • Outstanding Recent Alumnus: Anthony and Hope Sharett ’02

Distinguished Alumna/us Award – Alec Wightman ’75

Wightman is a partner at the Columbus office of Baker Hostetler. He previously served as the firm’s Executive Partner and Legal Services Partner, which is responsible for coordinating the firm’s national system of substantive legal practices and industry teams. Wightman’s practice covers a wide range of business and business-related areas, and he is the lawyer-in-charge of the firm’s relationship with Cardinal Health, a Fortune 20 healthcare services company. Wightman also has substantial experience in bankruptcy and workouts.

Wightman’s connection with Moritz is also wide-ranging and impactful. Most recently, Wightman joined a small group of key donors to create the College’s new Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic, announced in January 2011. The clinic will serve start-up and emerging businesses unable to afford legal representation and in need of assistance on such issues as business structure and formation, taxation, employment contracts, and intellectual property issues starting next year.

Wightman’s membership on the College’s $30 million Investing In Momentum campaign committee helped not only to match the Moritz family’s exceptional generosity, but also created additional student scholarships, endowed faculty positions, and programmatic enhancements. His leadership, specifically, helped to accomplish the campaign’s “professionalism” priority through the building of the Barrister Club, a $2.2M alumni events facility funded completely through alumni support. Wightman’s personal generosity for the Club helped to inspire that of his partners at Baker & Hostetler, as well as the firm itself, who all joined together to establish what is known as the Baker & Hostetler dining room — the centerpiece for all activity. During football season, it is the destination for pregame brunches, responsible for attracting Moritz graduates, many of whom have not visited campus since graduation. During the week, it hosts the College’s professionalism programming including “Mentoring and More @ Moritz,” a lunch series at which alumni and students groupings discuss current legal topics, or to listen to a nationally recognized lawyer or judge through our Distinguished Practitioners in Residence program. Both programs offer unique opportunities to foster interaction between alumni and students and promote the importance of professionalism among our law students.

Wightman also is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and the Richard J. Solove Research Institute at The Ohio State University, as well as its foundation board. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Otterbein College and Cleveland Rock and Roll, Inc. Wightman has been named in The Best Lawyers in America every year since 1997.

William K. Thomas Distinguished Jurist Award – Paul Pfeifer ’66

Justice Paul E. Pfeifer grew up on his family’s dairy farm near Bucyrus. He still resides just down the road. As a teenager, he raised purebred Yorkshire hogs to finance his college education. Those years taught him the value of hard work, determination, and clean overalls.

Justice Pfeifer’s first job after graduating from law school was as an assistant attorney general trying eminent-domain cases associated with the building of Ohio’s highway system. Traveling the state gave him an appreciation for Ohio’s county courthouses, architectural jewels that are the crossroads of life in our towns and cities. He always tries to keep in mind how the Supreme Court’s decisions might affect the people seeking justice in county courthouses every day.

In 1972, he became a partner in the law firm of Cory, Brown & Pfeifer, where he practiced — primarily as a trial and tax lawyer — for 20 years. He also served several years as an assistant county prosecutor.

Justice Pfeifer served in both houses of the Ohio General Assembly, including one term in the House of Representatives and four terms in the Senate. He held a variety of leadership posts in the Senate, and served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 10 years. His proudest legislative accomplishment was crafting the legislation creating the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority.

Justice Pfeifer was first elected to the Supreme Court in 1992. For him, the most inspiring thing about the Court is that every voice gets heard, from that of the widow fighting for her husband’s workers’ compensation benefits, to those of corporations battling over tens of millions of dollars.

Community Service Award – Daniel P. McQuade ’67

Giving back is a relative phrase. Its definition varies from person to person; for some, it’s periodically volunteering and for others it’s providing financial support.

For Daniel P. McQuade ’67, “giving back” means donating countless hours, helping the town that he has called home his entire life. In the Toledo suburb of Swanton, McQuade, along with his wife, family, and law firm employees, has operated a small – yet quite functional – food pantry for nearly 25 years.

It all started when Dan and his wife, Gloria, sent an introductory letter around to local pastors in February 1985, and by the end of the year the McQuades began to receive monthly distributions of food through the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program. McQuade began work at the small, general practice law firm that was started by his father in downtown Swanton immediately after he passed the bar exam in 1967. McQuade, his brother, Colin J. McQuade, and Alan Lehenbauer continue to run firm, which is now 72 years old.

And, in 1985, when the food pantry was in its infancy, McQuade decided to store and distribute food out of a garage adjacent to the law firm building (which the family also owned). The food pantry – now incorporated as the Swanton Christian Food Pantry – moved to another location in the 1990s, but finally found its permanent location in 2002: at McQuade’s law firm.

The firm was badly damaged by fire in 2002 and when reconstructing the building McQuade decided to make an addition to house the food pantry. The 12-by-20 room attached to the law firm is now where food donations are dropped off. The food pantry receives federal food and money, as well as food that is donated by several other local organizations, including churches, schools, the Boy Scouts, and 4-H.

Today, along with some very faithful volunteers, the pantry services approximately 100 families the fourth Wednesday of every month. McQuade and his family also created an endowed scholarship at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law that will help students cover the costs of a legal education.

Public Service Award – Kelly Schneider ’96

Kelly Schneider ’96 has never wavered in her deep commitment to seeking justice in her often unglamorous and unappreciated job as a public defender.

Having her career goals directly aimed at a profession rooted in public service since high school, Schneider said it was not surprising that she pursued a bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice at The Ohio State University and later embark on a career in law. After 12 years of trying work in the Office of Ohio Public Defender, Schneider, a Columbus native, believes that there are still injustices that plague the legal system.

Schneider is working to reverse the wrongs of the legal system and she also spearheaded the start of the Ohio Public Defender’s Wrongful Conviction Project in 2009. This project is the state’s first program to focus exclusively on wrongful conviction claims that do not involve DNA evidence and targets non-DNA, life-sentence cases rather than death penalty cases. The project targets inmates who meet seven criteria: (1) the inmate is an indigent Ohio inmate; (2) the inmate claims factual innocence of the convictions; (3) the inmate did not contribute in any way to the commission of the offense; (4) the inmate is serving a lengthy prison sentence; (5) the inmate has no prior history of violent crimes and no lengthy prior criminal record; (6) the basis for claimed innocence is not outcome determinative as to DNA evidence; and (7) the inmate has exhausted the legal process. Inmates referred to the project are asked to complete a questionnaire. If they meet the project’s criteria, their case will be referred to the project and the merits of the claim are considered. Focus is on allegations of flawed science, witness misidentification, and false confessions.

Early in the project development stage, Schneider and her colleagues hoped to receive a grant from the Department of Justice. Unfortunately, the grant did not come through, but Schneider moved forward with the project anyway. Fellow Moritz alum Erin Moriarty ’77 saw an article on Schneider’s efforts with the project and stepped forward to organize a campaign to fund a fellow, most likely a recent law school graduate, to work on the project. Moriarty’s goal is fund a fellow for at least the first three years of the project.

Outstanding Recent Alumna/us Award – Hope and Anthony Sharett

Hope Sharett ’03
Though she is quick to flash a bright, easy smile, Hope Sharett becomes focused and serious when discussing her job as the Executive Director of the Law and Leadership Institute. With her unique blend of specialized training and experience, focused energy, and warm, engaging personality, Sharett ensures that the Institute students have the opportunity to achieve their dreams of future success.

While still in school, Sharett led an organization called the Accounting Careers Awareness Program, which has a focus similar to the Institute — exposing underserved high school students to business and accounting careers through meetings with professionals in the field, seminars, shadowing opportunities, and other similar activities. This experience inspired Sharett. The program was, and continues to be, a rousing success, with approximately sixty percent of participants either studying these fields in college or stating that they intend to do so.

After graduating with her law degree, Sharett went to work for the law firm of Bricker & Eckler, where she was a municipal bond attorney, helping cities secure funding so that they could further develop their infrastructure. After about four years, she felt the pull to public service, and joined the Ohio Attorney General’s Office as Director of Special Counsel. There, she coordinated and expanded the pool of private attorneys that assist the Attorney General’s Office on cases in the field and gained valuable administrative experience. After a few years, Sharett returned to Bricker & Eckler, balancing her work with a lecturer position at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs (where she taught a class on public budgeting) and several volunteer commitments, including work with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and a mentoring program run by the Columbus Bar Association.

Though she thoroughly enjoyed all of these activities, one stood out in her memory — volunteering her services as a mentor and role model for the Institute’s Columbus classes in 2008 and 2009, which reminded her of her days working with the Accounting Careers Awareness Program.

When the opportunity arose to lead the organization after founding Executive Director Maxine Thomas returned to her position at the Kettering Foundation, Sharett jumped at the chance. Sharett officially took office in April 2010, and spent her early days on the job preparing for the July 6 start of classes at eight different sites across the state. She quickly took on the involved task of coordinating site activities, maintaining a critical degree of programming uniformity while still allowing sites to be flexible in their instructional methods, and ensuring that funding remains in place for all of the necessary activities.

While these administrative tasks alone require a significant time commitment, Sharett has not gotten lost in the minutiae—she continues to work on turning her big dreams for the Institute into reality.

Sharett is working hard to study the students in the Institute, finding out what works for them and refining their efforts to achieve the best results possible. She has made connections with the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University, and together they are working to refine a sound scientific model to evaluate the program’s results. She is also focused on school dropout rates, believing strongly that the Institute can help lower them.

Anthony Sharett ’02
Anthony Sharett is a member of the Bricker & Eckler litigation group and focuses on commercial litigation involving business torts, unfair competition, covenants not to compete, theft of trade secrets, insurance coverage issues, breach of contract claims, and similar issues. Previously, he spent more than three years as an attorney with the Ohio Department of Commerce where he handled matters regulating the banking, mortgage and credit union industries.

But, Sharett’s work extends way beyond the court room or even his law firm. He is a leading and active member of dozens of organizations. He’s chairing new and innovative programs, mentoring minorities in hopes of attracting the best and the brightest into the legal profession, and on a path to being a lifelong community leader. Sharett is not the type of volunteer who shows up at the occasional meeting and uses public service as a resume-building tool. He cares passionately about each of the organizations he is involved in and his dedication is proven by his deep level of commitment.

Three years ago, Sharett completed a year’s worth of planning to start a free legal clinic at his church, the First Church of God in Columbus. Residents can visit the church once a month and receive free legal advice on several topics. The clinic has been a tremendous success and is providing aid to people who otherwise could not afford it.

Sharett has a strong desire to mentor others – especially local minority students. He currently is mentoring four students as a part of two separate programs through the Columbus Bar Association, where he serves on the Board of Governors. He also serves on the boards of the Columbus Early Learning Centers, Franklin American Inn of Court, and is President-Elect of HandsOn Central Ohio. Additionally, he serves on the African American Advisory Council of Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as the Income Impact Council of the United Way of Central Ohio.

He is a member of the Council of Delegates of the Ohio State Bar Association and was a 2010 Ohio State Bar Foundation Fellow. In 2006, Anthony was the recipient of the Emerging Leader Award presented by the John Mercer Langston Bar Association. This year, he was named to Columbus Business First’s Forty Under 40 recognition list.