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Tulane Law hosts an audacious Celebration of Scholarships

March 13, 2024 2:45 PM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu

Second-year law student Pablo Gonzales, left, meets Mina and Ernest O'Bannon, the donors behind his law scholarship.


Michael Rubenstein was poignantly honest speaking during Tulane Law’s first annual Celebration of Scholarships: attending Tulane Law School back in the 1990s would not have been possible without his full-ride scholarship.

Michael Rubenstein (L'93)

“The scholarship that I received changed my life,” said Rubenstein (L'93), who was among the first recipients of the Wiener, Weiss & Madison endowed scholarship, one of the school’s only full-tuition awards at the time he was admitted.  “I made Law Review at Tulane, clerked for a federal judge for two years and this fall will mark 30 years since I joined Liskow and Lewis.” 

Rubenstein’s scholarship was created by a law firm in Rubenstein’s native Shreveport by the families of iconic alumnus Judge Jacques Wiener (L’61) and the late Don Weiss (L’61), law school classmates who were also law partners. It gave the young law student the the flexibility to clerk at a lower salary than the industry norm, he said, and take a job not for the money but for his interests.

“I keep giving my money and time to Tulane because others did so before I was here and that’s how I was able to do it,” said Rubenstein, who is a shareholder with Liskow and Lewis handling bankruptcies, restructurings, and reorganizations, as well as complex business litigation and criminal law. “I believe very strongly that it is incumbent upon those of us who were the beneficiaries of a helping hand on the way up to extend that same helping hand to those who come after us.”

Rubenstein was among the dozens of donors who attended the first Celebration of Scholarships, a revitalized event designed to connect donors with the recipients of their scholarships and vice versa. The gathering was both a reception and mixer, with a short program in between, with Tulane Law’s future lawyers mingling and connecting with alumni donors – often generations apart – who have endowed scholarships for them and future students.

See photos from the event.

The mood of the afternoon was jovial, donors exchanging war stories with law students, who often were able to meet not only those who bear the names of their scholarships but also their spouses, children, and grandchildren. It was all about building Tulane community and recognizing the importance of giving back.

(L-R) Scholarship recipient Carolina Callejas (LLM '24),
Dean Richardson, recipient Kathryn Schimmel (L'24)
and alumnus Michael Lee (L'94), whose family has
endowed a law scholarship for years.

“Scholarships are crucial to being able to bring in the best, the brightest – the person who otherwise would not have the opportunity to attend – to Tulane Law,” said interim Law Dean Sally Richardson. “There is no way to overstate the importance of endowed scholarships for our students.”  

See the full event video here.

Law school can cost more than $100,000 a year, and the potential debt understandably can overwhelm future applicants, she said. Tulane’s goal is to make law school much more affordable through scholarships.

Pablo Gonzales, a second-year student who is the recipient of the Bryant Wood O'Bannon Law Scholarship, spoke of how his award has enabled him to join -- and next year lead, as Editor-in-Chief, the Tulane Law Review -- take part in affinity groups, and work summer legal jobs tailored to his interests, among other opportunities.

“I’ve had the experience of a lifetime this year and a half at Tulane Law,” Gonzales said. “It’s been everything that I could have imagined and more.”

Other students and scholarship recipients spoke at the celebration, too. Kathryn Schimmel and Roi Wallace, both third-years, echoed Gonzales’ experience and sentiments. They lauded the mentors they’ve had, the experiences they took advantage of, and the opportunities they could embrace when finances weren’t a factor.

Wallace, the 3L Class President, spoke of her membership in the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), and her participation in the Moot Court Program which led her to be part of the championship BLSA Moot Court team in her second year.

Wallace, the recipient of the William G. Duck Law Scholarship, said she originally came to law school with plans to “keep her head down” and “not get too involved” and just get through her three years of law school, in part because she knew the cost of law school would be so high. Thankfully, she told the crowd rather sheepishly, “that did not work out.”

Wallace is a three-year member of the SBA, is president of her 3L class, has coached Moot Court teams and worked as a leader in the Tulane Sports Law Society and is admittedly, “one of the most involved students at the law school.”

Roi Wallace (L'24) spoke about the impact of her law

“Without my scholarship, without Jerry Duck, I could not have completed any of these things,” Wallace said. “The community that I've been brought into at Tulane is exceptional.”

Alumnus Michael Lee (E '86, G ‘88, L ‘94), who received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering from Tulane as well as his J.D. in 1994, said he endowed his family’s law school scholarship in 2014 when he was at his 20-year law school reunion.

 “Walking back to my car I was so happy to see my colleagues and the success they had had in their career, and I realized it was all due to our experiences at Tulane Law,” he said.

Lee and his family created an endowed scholarship for students with science and engineering backgrounds in part because of their love of lifelong learning and his parents’ experience as immigrants from China, where they told stories of people disappearing and of property taken by the government.

His father, he said, “always stressed to me that education is the only thing no one can take away from you.”

At the Celebration, Lee announced, impromptu and audaciously that he would double the value of the family’s scholarship because education was so important to them.

“All of our scholarships have behind them a person who loved Tulane Law School, who was impacted by the education they received, and who wants the future generation of Tulane lawyers to have that same experience,” said Richardson.  “That pay-it-forward mentality, the sharing of the Green Wave experience with the next generation, that is what makes Tulane such a special place.”