At a ceremony held at Sidley Austin on Nov. 10, 3Ls Nija Bastfield and Genesis Aguirre Guerra received the inaugural Mark Herzog Public Interest Scholarship, established to honor Herzog’s legacy of more than 30 years of service in the public interest.
The Mark Herzog Public Interest Scholarship was created to support and provide mentorship to a current law student who has demonstrated a deep commitment to uplifting and serving the most vulnerable residents of the District of Columbia through civil legal services.
Rebecca “Becky” Troth, a founding donor who worked with Mark for 15 years, told the audience, “I suggested the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law because of its success in preparing students to serve the community through – among other programs – its amazing nationally recognized Clinical Program.” Troth explained that the scholarship committee, which included Herzog’s partner Chris Costa and his sister Dr. Leslie Herzog, “agreed a UDC Law scholarship would be a fitting tribute to Mark’s selfless service to our community.”
Aguirre Guerra and Bastfield were chosen from a pool of eligible applicants who were interviewed by the committee, which consists of Herzog’s colleagues, family and friends. The committee made its recommendation to the Dean, who chose Bastfield and Aguirre Guerra.
Initially, the founding donors set a goal of $200,000 to award one scholarship annually. However, after raising $267,000 in less than a year, they increased the goal to $300,000 and the number of annual scholarships planned to two, “thus creating a cadre of Herzog scholars,” Troth explained. She added that they chose to award two scholarships in this inaugural year “because the students interviewed were so impressive.”
“In my interview, I spoke about friendship,” Bastfield said in her remarks, addressing the selection committee, “and just doing this for him speaks a lot about [Mark’s] life and you as people. I will do well with this scholarship and it’s truly an honor to wear his name and start my legal profession.”
“With this scholarship and your support, I can create the vision that [Mark] wanted,” said Aguirre Guerra.
Mark Herzog’s legal career spanned over three decades and touched thousands of lives in the District of Columbia, from low or no-income residents to legal services colleagues and volunteers. His experiences included two decades working for the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, where he rose to be associate director. Mark joined Sidley Austin LLP in 2017, where he served as pro bono counsel until his death.
Throughout his storied career, Mark was selected for numerous leadership positions, including as a commissioner with both the D.C. Access to Justice Commission and the D.C. Commission on Human Rights.
UDC Law students who complete at least two-thirds of their legal education are eligible to apply for this scholarship. In addition to a commitment to practicing public interest law in the District of Columbia, students must demonstrate a high level of academic success and financial need.
Aguirre Guerra and Bastfield will also receive individualized, high-quality mentorship to support their career development as legal services attorneys in D.C.