The Rutgers School of Law—Newark held its annual gala at the Maplewood Country Club on November 1, at which the following people were honored:
- Hon. Mary Catherine Cuff ’73, who received the Fannie Bear Besser Award for Public Service
- Dennis Drasco ’73, who received a Distinguished Alumnus Award
- Okianer Christian Dark ’79, who received a Distinguished Alumna Award
- Hon. Barry Ted Moskowitz ’75, who received a Distinguished Alumnus Award
- Student Eric A. Menist ’19, who received an Alumni Student Recognition Award
- Student Joshua Lattimore ’19, who received the Fannie Bear Besser Award for Public Service
Alumni Association President Maritza Rodriguez ‘11 praised the evening’s honorees, “I congratulate each of you on your unmatched record of professional achievements and your characteristics –tenacity, intellect, professionalism – and most of all, heart.”
She recognized former Co-Dean Ron Chen, and Co-Deans Michael Cahill of Camden and David Lopez of Newark. Lopez, who came to Rutgers in August, talked about his decision to lead the law school “It’s commitment to excellence and its commitment to the idea of justice and truth is a real thing, and the depth of its faculty is something I want to be a part of,” Lopez said. “Rutgers Law School reflects the beauty and richness of America better than any other law school in the U.S.”
Cuff said she was “humbled and grateful” for the award. She said graduating in the 1970s were “tumultuous times” in the United States and many of her classmates went into public service careers – including becoming public defenders, attorney generals, assistant U.S. attorneys, prosecutors and public advocates. She said they worked, “to preserve someone’s rights or make sure their voice was heard. Those times were not so different than now.”
Drasco said, as a young newlywed in the 1970s, the affordability of Rutgers Law School made it the right choice for him and he was able to graduate without any debt. “Rutgers gave me a terrific legal education taught by a terrific faculty,” he said. He said it instilled in him an ethic of social justice, “I look forward to many years of instilling those values on the next generation of attorneys.”
Dark, of Howard University’s School of Law, talked about working as a tutor for a property law class, which started her on the path to becoming a professor. She said she had “amazing classmates” at Rutgers Law and was “deeply humbled” by her award.
Moskowitz traveled from San Diego to accept his award and asked former Alumni Association President Brian Biglin ‘11 to read his speech because he has a neuromuscular disorder that makes it difficult to speak. Moskowitz described coming to law school in the 1970s and working as an assistant U.S. attorney and at a law firm in Wayne, before working on a case in Los Angeles, which led him to move to San Diego in 1985, where he’s served on the U.S. District Court for the last 32 years. He said, “When I arrived at Rutgers Law School, I was amazed at the diversity of the first year class. There were women, people of color, students with master’s degrees and Ph.Ds. There were outstanding teachers.”
Menist, who is on the Dean’s List, earned the Tischler Memorial Scholarship for Highest Academic Achievement, and is the senior editor of the Rutgers Law Review. He complimented the law school on its, “strength, connection and longstanding tradition of excellence” and its “alumni camaraderie.”
Lattimore, who is also on the Dean’s List, is the commentaries editor of the Rutgers Law Review and the co-chair of the LGBTQ Caucus, said being part of the Minority Student Program pushes him to do more every day. “One of the great benefits of going to Rutgers Law School is the engagement with the community of Newark,” he said.
The sold-out evening also featured a silent auction, with proceeds benefitting law student scholarships.