While growing up in Cleveland, Thomas E. Szykowny ’82 always had a job. His father died when he was in the eighth grade, leaving his mother to raise Tom and his two older sisters. He worked in a machine shop to help his mother, a social worker in Cleveland, in any way that he could.
Tom received a much deserved scholarship to attend Denison University, and later was awarded additional scholarships from the Ohio State College of Law.
“For me, education was the great equalizer,” Tom said. “Because of education, I have been able to live a better life than I otherwise would. My parents and Polish and Italian grandparents prized education, hard work, and opportunity.”
For these reasons, Tom and his wife, Lee, recently made a $50,000 donation to create a scholarship at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
“Moritz has been very good to me and it has allowed me to do many things,” he said. “The hope is that the scholarship will give other students a chance to have a better life.”
Lee concurred, saying that she hopes the scholarship will open doors for deserving students.
“I very much value people who have the kind of work ethic that financial aid seeks to encourage,” said Lee, who is a child psychiatrist in Columbus and a 1988 graduate of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “We are looking at a wonderful generation of young people coming forward and embracing social justice.”
The couple made the donation last year in honor of Tom’s 25th law school reunion, which Tom attended. He said he enjoyed catching up with his law school class.
“We noted at the reunion that our class doesn’t have any Supreme Court justices,” Tom said. “But in terms of a group of colleagues, it is really a nice group of people. My classmates are all helping their communities with their law degrees. We were all well rounded. We studied and played hard. I am still amazed that if I don’t talk to some of my classmates for a while, it takes only 10 minutes and we’re back on the same page.”
Tom, a basketball player at Denison, was accepted into the Northwestern University School of Law. However, he decided that Ohio State was a better choice, and one that would not leave him buried in massive debt.
Although Tom made his decision on which law school to attend while he was an undergraduate, the decision to attend law school was made much earlier.
“When I was growing up, I thought that my family was taken advantage of in a lot of different ways,” he said. “With a law degree, I thought that I would be helpful to my family.”
Tom worked in the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s office after his first year of law school, and he said that he quickly learned that he was not interested in criminal law.
Tom said that his second year at Ohio State was the busiest year of his life. A former librarian at the law school’s library, Matt Dee, allowed Tom to work as a teaching assistant in a first-year legal research course.
Tom was also interviewing with law firms for a summer position. He chose a major Columbus firm, and spent the summer clerking for it. Following the clerkship, a partner at the Columbus firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP approached Tom and asked him to work at the firm during the fall semester of his third year.
“What I liked about Vorys was that they were professional, but they did not get hung up on ceremony,” he said. “I liked the collegiality and the firm’s community involvement.”
Tom has been at the firm ever since. He continues today, as a partner, in the firms’ corporate and finance practice group and concentrates on insurance regulatory and transactional matters as well as general business and corporate transactional matters.
Along with his generosity to the law school, he has also been heavily involved in several organizations throughout the Columbus area.
He is currently a trustee and former president of the I Know I Can program, the current vice president of The Columbus Academy, a trustee with the Griffith Foundation, a member of the board of directors for CBS Agency, Inc., a former president of the Buckeye Boys Ranch, and former member of the Denison University Board of Trustees.
Tom said that a major impetus for he and Lee making the scholarship contribution to the law school was the positive direction that he feels the law school is moving.
“I have a tremendous amount of affection for Nancy Rogers and her husband, Doug, who is a colleague of mine,” Tom said. “I think they are both wonderful role models, and I think that our community has been fortunate to have them. I think the law school is well positioned. Our diplomas have just gotten more valuable as the years have gone by.”
Lee said that she is proud of her husband and what he has been able to accomplish over the years.
“He’ll never say so, so I will,” Lee said. “My husband has worked extremely hard and he is extremely ethical. I am glad that he has been able to find and support something that he finds so meaningful.”
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