The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) held its fifth annual UDC Law Gala on Nov. 17 at the University of the District of Columbia Student Center. The event, designed to support student scholarships and fellowships, also marked the culmination of a year-long celebration of UDC Law’s fiftieth anniversary.
More than 150 people gathered for the night’s events, centered on honoring the history and legacy of the law school. Regina Shaw ’97 and Freddie Mac received the 2022 Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. Champions for Justice Awards, and Karen Newton Cole ’87, Rochanda Hiligh-Thomas ’96, Saleema Snow ’97 and LaRuby May ’06 were inducted into the inaugural class of the UDC Law Alumni Hall of Fame.
The program featured remarks from Acting Dean Twinette Johnson, DC School of Law Foundation (DCSLF) Chair Jon Bouker, and 4LE Nija Bastfield. Donald Calloway (MSNBC, Pine Street Strategies) hosted the evening, and guests enjoyed musical performances from Yolanda F. Johnson, the UDC Chorale and Shawn Allen’s Choice Band.
Dean Johnson spoke to the history and future of the law school, acknowledging the impact of losing Dr. Edgar S. Cahn in January. Cahn was the co-founder – with his wife Jean Camper Cahn – of UDC Law’s predecessor school in 1972. Johnson noted members of the Cahn family were in attendance and then spoke to the strength of the Cahns’ impact, “For the first time in fifty years, we will have a class who have not had the opportunity to be imparted with his wisdom firsthand. Edgar and Jean taught us all, so it is the responsibility of all of us to share what we’ve learned.”
She then discussed the future of UDC Law. “This year, after enduring the pandemic, we have reopened our doors to 100% in person learning. We celebrated our 67 graduates as they entered the legal profession and welcomed one of our largest incoming classes to date,” she said, adding, “As one of only six Historically Black law schools in the country, we are essential participants in the effort to make this a more just and equitable society.”
Bouker also recognized the Cahn legacy and followed with recognition of the passing of B. Michael Rauh, whom Bouker described a staunch supporter of UDC Law. Rauh was a long-time member of the DCSLF Foundation Board. Bouker ended by saying, “We honor Mike and Edgar’s memory by remaining steadfastly committed to the mission of this great institution.”
In a surprise presentation, Bastfield presented University of the District of Columbia President Ronald Mason, Jr., with a suit jacket from SuitShop. In August, SuitShop provided each member of the incoming class a suit jacket to kickstart their legal career.
Dean Johnson returned to the spotlight after dinner to induct the inaugural class into the UDC Law Alumni Hall of Fame. To celebrate 50 Years, UDC Law established a Hall of Fame to honor alumni (living or deceased) whose exemplary careers, extraordinary service or outstanding contributions to UDC Law have significantly impacted our community and beyond. Inductees were nominated by members of the UDC Law community, and a selection committee carefully reviewed and chose Newton Cole, Hiligh-Thomas, Snow and May as the first four members of this new tradition. A virtual Hall of Fame has been established and will live permanently on the UDC Law website.
A reverse auction followed the Hall of Fame induction, adding to the over $108,000 raised for the night.
For the third year, the Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. Champions of Justice Awards were presented at the Gala. Barry Parsons accepted the award on behalf of Freddie Mac; Parsons is Associate General Counsel at Freddie Mac. Shaw was chosen for the award for her commitment to the public interest.
The Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. Champions of Justice Awards are presented to individuals who are using their position and platform to promote social justice and equality throughout the United States and abroad. “Named after one of the most prolific and influential social justice advocates of our time,” Calloway said as he invited the awardees to accept their awards, “the recipients of this award exemplify the same values embodied by Professor Ogletree and UDC Law’s commitment to public service.”
The UDC Law Gala celebrates leaders advancing the fight for justice and helps to provide students with an award-winning, social justice-focused legal education without the burden of unmanageable student debt.
UDC Law is committed to educating groups that are traditionally underrepresented at the Bar. Heralded as one of the best and most affordable schools for Black students, UDC Law is home to the largest female and one of the most diverse (law) student populations in the nation.
UDC Law’s clinical programs have provided life-saving legal services to the most vulnerable members of the broader DC community for the last 50 years. In the face of unprecedented challenges, our students consistently rise to meet the demands of a rigorous curriculum, adapted to a different style of life and learning and completed over 35,000 hours of clinical work and more than 4,400 hours of service to the D.C. community. We are steadfastly committed to community and dedicated to practicing law, promoting justice and changing lives.