California Western’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni of the Year Awards celebrated the achievements of three of the law school’s exceptional graduates.
The event, held Saturday, September 27, transformed the 350 Cedar Street building into a festive venue—complete with a red carpet and a disco—and reunited alumni from across the decades.
Roy Morrow Bell ’74 received the 2014 Alumnus of the Year Award; Drew A. Lautemann ’09 received the 2014 Outstanding Community Service Award, and Melissa R. Bobrow ’07 received the 2014 Rising Star Award.
“It is really fitting that we launch the awards program in 2014, the 90th anniversary of this law school,” said Dean Niels B. Schaumann at the award ceremony held in the Moot Court Room. “We have nine decades of successful outcomes to celebrate this year. We celebrate in particular three of those success stories, with a trio of engaging alumni.”
Tilisha T. Martin ’02, member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and chair of the awards committee, said that in selecting Bell for Alumnus of the Year, “we had a lot of great candidates for this category. But I can tell you that Roy Bell stood out above the rest, for his commitment, ethical standards, professionalism, and support of the law school.”
“I’m very honored to be here,” said Bell during a moving and inspirational acceptance speech. “This award is significant for me because as lawyers, we’re in a position to do something for others.”
To illustrate that point, he spoke of the 24 lawyers who were among the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.
“They realized that they were signing a death warrant for themselves,” Bell said. “These 24 lawyers, all of them educated, successful and wealthy and accomplished, were doing something for other people.”
Bell spoke of how many of those lawyers had their lives and families torn apart for their role in the signing of the document.
“What I’m saying is that freedom isn't free and we lawyers are charged with helping to keep that freedom. And that’s why in particular I’m honored by this award,” he added.
Bobrow, a criminal defense attorney who owns her own practice, said that being chosen for the Rising Star Award has a lot of meaning for her.
“It is exciting to receive this award, especially from California Western,” Bobrow said. “I love what I do and I’m fortunate in my career, which I owe this law school.”
Lautemann, in accepting the Outstanding Community Service Award, said he was very humbled and grateful to receive the award.
“I don’t feel like I've done anything other than what I am supposed to do,” said Lautemann. “I view the law as the rules we all have to live by in our daily lives and I came to law school because I wanted a say in those rules. We have a responsibility to make sure that everybody has a fair chance to know the rules.”
Lautemann has worked on a number of programs that have provided access to justice for people who can’t afford it, and he has also created programs that opened pathways to the legal profession for college students from underrepresented groups.
“It was an outstanding evening, and a night of joyous celebration,” said Lori Boyle, California Western’s director of alumni affairs. “We had the privilege and honor of acknowledging our inaugural Distinguished Alumni Awards recipients, for their dedication, passion and loyalty to California Western and our legal community and we welcomed back our alumni family to reunite. I am very proud of our Alumni Board for their involvement with this new program.”
Nominations for our 2015 Distinguished Alumni of the Year Awards will be accepted online beginning February 1.