February 1, 2024
three men and two women smiling

Every year in February, the nation recognizes the history and contributions of the Black community in the United States. There is no shortage of trailblazers at Rutgers Law School who paved the way for generations and altered the course of American history. Here are just a few Rutgers Law alumni who broke ground in their respective legal fields and beyond.

man smiling

Gregory M. Sleet `76 is the first African American to serve as U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware and the first to become a judge of the court, including seven years as Chief Judge. He was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware by President William Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1998. He retired from the bench in 2018 and joined JAMS ADR, an organization of mediators and arbitrators that provide alternative dispute resolution services. He has served as an adjunct professor at Rutgers Law and continues to mentor and inspire law students. Watch JAMS ADR’s “My Story.”

man in suit smiling

Joshua W. Martin III `74 is the first person of color to serve on the Delaware Superior Court. He is also the first Black partner at the oldest law firm in Delaware and one of the 10 oldest firms in the United States. He is now Senior Counsel at that firm, Potter Anderson & Corroon, LLP. Moreover, he was a physicist for a Fortune 500 company, a patent attorney at Hercules, and CEO of a telecommunications giant. Among his many honors and awards, he was inducted into the Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance in 2022. Watch his acceptance video.

woman smiling

Vickie Donaldson `82 became a leader in the Black Organization of Students at Rutgers-Newark in 1967. She helped engineer and played an instrumental role in the February 1969 nonviolent takeover of Conklin Hall, demanding more representation of African-American students and faculty members at Rutgers-Newark and more collaboration with the residents and businesses that surrounded the campus. This brave act transformed Rutgers-Newark with the creation of programs such as the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), MSP at Rutgers Law (of which she became a member), and the hiring of an expanded cohort of faculty of color. She later became the first female General Counsel for Newark’s Board of Education. She is now retired as the Director of Social Services/Homeless Programs for the City of Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness. Ms. Donaldson was honored at this year's ABLS Jazz for Justice Gala at the Newark Museum of Art. 

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Stanley Van Ness `63 was the first state public advocate of New Jersey and the United States. According to the New York Times, he roiled the political scene in the 1970s, often weighing in and filing lawsuits on controversial issues. He was appointed to the newly created post in 1974. Other states soon followed suit but few have been as influential as the office started by Mr. Van Ness. He earned his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University and served in the Air Force before earning his law degree at Rutgers Law and becoming a U.S. attorney. Mr. Van Ness passed away in 2007. Watch his Eagleton Institute of Politics interview. 

Gwynne Wilcox

Gwynne Wilcox `78 is the first Black woman to serve as a Board member in the history of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). She was a member of the MSP program and graduated from Rutgers Law School in 1978. She has served as an NLRB member since 2021 when she was nominated by President Joseph Biden and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. She was confirmed to a second term in September 2023. Ms. Wilcox gave the Rutgers Law Commencement address in Newark in May 2023 and was also a guest on Rutgers Law’s Power of Attorney podcast.

Rutgers Law Media Contact:
Shanida Carter

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