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WMU-Cooley Law School Distinguished Alumni Service Award

WMU-Cooley Law School Distinguished Alumni Service Award

Distinguished Alumni Service Award

President Jeff G. Haarer presented the first annual Thomas M. Cooley Alumni Association's Distinguished Service Award in 2000. This award is presented to WMU-Cooley alumni who excel in supporting the mission of the Alumni Association. Click here to read the criteria for the award and nomination process. 

Submit this nomination form for this year's award by September 15 to the Alumni Office.

 Email to [email protected].  


Award Recipients 2020


Amy Tripp (1996 Moody, Jr. Class)

Amy Tripp is a nationally recognized special needs attorney, and is a partner in the law firm Chalgian & Tripp, one of the largest and most prestigious elder law and estate planning firms in Michigan.  She has taught classes at WMU-Cooley Law School and has mentored students and recent graduates.  She has been named a Super Lawyer since 2008 and has received several awards for her work in the legal profession and her community service.

Karen Truszkowski (1999 Flannigan Class) 

Karen Truszkowski graduated cum laude in 1999, and is nationally recognized as an expert on Title IX issues.  She has taught classes at WMU-Cooley Law School. She mentors students, and has supervised clinics and disaster relief projects as a faculty advisor, and participated in the Service to Soldiers program.  She is dedicated to working with our most vunerable members of the community, to help give a voice to those who are unable to speak for themselves.



Award Recipient 2019


Helen Pratt Mickens (1980 Bushnell Class)


Helen Mickens is a cum laude graduate of WMU-Cooley.  She has been an exemplary Dean, Professor, alumna and community member.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Kalamazoo College, an MA from Michigan State University, and her JD from WMU-Cooley in 1980.  She has been a guide and mentor to countless WMU-Cooley students, helping them to follow in her footsteps as clerks to the Michigan Supreme Court Justices, especially with one of her bosses and mentors, former Justice Michael Cavanaugh.  She was Associate Dean at WMU-Cooley from 1982 to 2014.  She and her husband Charles remain world travelers and support many community activities.  She is a past president, and remains an active Rotarian and attends Rotarian International Conferences. She is a member of the Michigan and Louisiana Bar Associations, and the Federal Bars for Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan.




Award Recipients 2018

Rosemarie Aquilina (1984 Carr Class) and Janice Cunningham (1986 Mundy Class)

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Journalism from Michigan State University in 1979 and Juris Doctor from WMU-Cooley in 1984.  She currently serves as 30th Circuit Court Judge in Ingham County.  She has been an adjunct professor at both WMU-Cooley and MSU College of Law.  She has received the Frederick J. Griffith Award for Teaching Excellence.  She has also published two novels.

Judge Janice Cunningham received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Social Science-Pre Law from Michigan State University in 1982 and her Juris Doctor from WMU-Cooley in 1986.  She currently serves as Circuit Court Judge in Eaton County and oversees the Veterans Treatment Court and the drug program.  She has also been an adjunct professor at WMU-Cooley and was the first graduate to receive the Frederick J. Griffith III Adjunct Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence.  She is a member of the WMU-Cooley Alumni Association, the Cooley Society and Jurist Society.

Both these judges are hardworking professionals, committed to the legal profession, dedicated to their communities and defending the rights of those they serve.

Award Recipient 2017

William D. Cox, III (1990 Witherell Class)

William D. Cox, III received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Texas and graduated with a JD from Cooley in 1990.  He has over 25 years' experience as a criminal lawyer.  He is board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Bill is a member of the State Bar of Texas, the State Bar of Michigan, the US Supreme Court Bar, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Dallas Trial Lawyers Association, and the Criminal Section of the ABA.  He was honored in 2016 by D Magazine as a top criminal attorney in Dallas.  He has been named to Super Lawyers list from 2004 to 2017, and to the American Trial Lawyers Association Top 100 Trial Lawyers from 2012 to 2015.

Award Recipient 2016

Joseph J. Farah (1979 Wiest Class)

Joseph J. Farah is a graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School’s Wiest Class 1979 and served on the the Board of Directors from 2005-2012.

The Honorable Joseph J. Farah is the embodiment of what a WMU-Cooley education represents. He is hard working, committed to the legal profession, dedicated to his community and devoted to Cooley.

He was awarded a Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in 1975 and a Juris Doctorate from WMU-Cooley in 1979. Joseph was born and raised in Flint, Michigan and began his private practice of law in Genesee County. He is a member of the West Flint Optimists Club, Metro Community (Flint) Development Inc., State Bar of Michigan, Genesee County Bar Association and Michigan Judges Association where he is a Board member.

Judge Farah has served with distinction on the Genesee County Circuit Court Bench since 1998. He has also served as an Adjunct Faculty member at WMU-Cooley from 2009-2013. Currently he serves as Chairman of the Michigan Board of Law Examiners .

As a member of the Thomas M. Cooley Society, the school’s Donor Recognition Society, he is an esteemed member of the Jurist Society. Interestingly, Joseph wrote and directed a short film titled, “Jury Duty: It Isn’t Fair If You’re Not There.“ The film is distributed statewide to encourage optimum participation in the U.S. Jury System.

Award Recipient 2015

Lawrence J. Kish (1978 Marston Class)

Larry has been a member of the WMU-Cooley Alumni Association since 1980, serving on the Board and as President. As a student he was President of the Student Bar Association. He holds a J.D. from WMU Cooley, an MBA from Central Michigan and a BS from Ferris State University.

He served as Vice-President and Legal Officer of the Michigan Bankers Association and Director of Government Relations at Michigan Credit Union League. He is a graduate of the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin, a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and a Fellow of the Life Management Institute.

Larry has served the Olivet College Insurance Advisory Board since 1989 and was Chairperson for 14 years. He was on the Board of the Michigan Society of Association Executives for 6 years and served as Chairperson in 1996. He was President and General Counsel of the Life Insurance Association of Michigan for 25 years and was directly involved with every legislative initiative dealing with life insurance and annuities for a quarter century. He was inducted into the Michigan Association Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Michigan Insurance Hall of Fame in 2012.  He was an adjunct faculty member at Olivet College.

He was selected to receive the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Service Award by the Alumni Association Past President's Committee. WMU-Cooley Law School expresses deepest appreciation for his loyalty, faithfulness and generous service to the Alumni Association and his generous contributions to the Cooley Society and the insurance industry.

Award Recipient 2014

Catherine Groll (1992 Montgomery Class)

Catherine Groll has worked as a solo practitioner for 6 years and as an associate in several firms. In 2013 she took a 6 month hiatus from practice to teach as a volunteer for an ABA program at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia, teaching six very diverse courses. She previously taught at WMU-Cooley Law School and was awarded the 2010 Frederick J. Griffith Award.

Catherine's community service is well known to those in the the mid-Michigan area and internationally from her work with Legal Aid of mid-Michigan and the Care Free Medical and Dental Clinic in Lansing, along with Habitat for Humanity in Tanzania and Nepal. Catherine goes where she sees a need and puts her many talents to work. She personifies all the qualities of an outstanding alumna: a woman who has distinguished herself not only in her career but in service to her community, the legal profession and her school. She lectures, writes for several publications and is a member of the Thomas M. Cooley Society, the school's Donor Recognition Society.

Award Recipient 2013

Lawrence Patrick Nolan (1976 Cooley Class)

Lawrence P. Nolan is the Chairman of the Board of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He has been a board member since 1983 and is currently Secretary for the State Bar of Michigan and a Fellow. He served as President of the Ingham County Bar Association in 2003-2004.

Mr. Nolan has been a practicing attorney in Michigan for 37 years. He is the founder and president of Nolan, Thomsen & Villas PC in Easton Rapids, Michigan where he practices personal injury, catastrophic loss, wrongful death, real estate, corporate, domestic relations, estate planning and criminal law. He has appeared several times on the lists of Michigan Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, People’s Choice Award winner, and he has appeared on Cooley’s Benchmark magazine cover twice.

Service to community and Cooley Law School have been an ever present part of Mr. Nolan’s professional life. He has served on numerous law school committees and his continued commitment, support and service exemplify the honor of this award. We salute Lawrence Patrick Nolan and thank him for his service to Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Award Recipient 2012

Thomas C. Rombach (1987 Morse Class)

Thomas C. Rombach is currently Secretary of the State Bar of Michigan. He has practiced law in Macomb County for 25 years with an emphasis in trial work.

Mr. Rombach won a National Oratory Scholarship in a competition held in the Michigan Supreme Court to attend Cooley Law School in 1984. He was elected President of the Student Bar Association and was a National Moot Court team member. Mr. Rombach was recognized as an Alumni Association Distinguished Scholar in 1987 and elected as the Morse Class Representative under the original Alumni Association Charter. Since then, he has served on the governing board of the Alumni Association in various capacities, including Parliamentarian. He remains active with Cooley Law School as a featured speaker, recruiter, mentor and donor.

Since his first semester of law school, Mr. Rombach has served in an elected bar leadership position each year of his legal career. In 1997, he became the first Macomb County Bar Association President elected under the age of 40. In 2002, he was elected Chair of the Representative Assembly, the State Bar’s final policy-making body. In 2014, he will become only the second graduate of Cooley Law School ever elected as State Bar President.

Outside of his bar activities, Mr. Rombach has been elected to the Boards of Directors for 12 community organizations. He has served as Macomb County Charter Commissioner, Macomb County Commissioner and City/Prosecuting Attorney for Hazel Park. For his civic and charitable efforts, he was honored with the Macomb County Outstanding Volunteer Award in 2004, the Macomb County Pro Bono Services for Senior Citizens Award in 2007 and the Macomb County Bar Association’s first Distinguished Public Service Award in 2011.

Award Recipient 2011

No award made.

Award Recipient 2010

Jane Vandervelde (1986 Mundy Class)

Jane A. Vandervelde was a graduate of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School's Mundy Class of 1986 and was a member of the Thomas M. Cooley Alumni Association Board from 1986 to 1993. She was instrumental in assisting Andrew Sass in the formation of the Thomas M. Cooley Alumni Association Memorial Scholarship.

Jane represented the best of the Law School's Alumni. She attended Cooley while teaching at the Midland High School. As a teacher of psychology, sociology, and current world problems, she won numerous awards for outstanding teaching and involvement in extra-curricular activities.

After receiving her law degree, Jane moved to Holland where she engaged in the private practice of law. She was instrumental in establishing the Ottawa County Teen Court, a successful diversion program for non-violent, first-time juvenile offenders. She presented numerous seminars and programs dealing with juvenile law and women's rights. She served as a Public Defender in the 61st Judicial District for 17 years. She attended numerous National Child Abuse Defense Conferences and was a presenter and author for several of those years.

She was also an adjunct professor at Hope College, in Holland, Michigan, teaching a variety of courses including "Women in the Law," "National Government Topics," "Introduction to American Political Institutions," and "Philosophy of Law." There she was an active participant in the Internship Program at Hope College and the Externship Program at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, accepting both interns and externs.

In addition, Jane was very active in her community. She served on numerous boards including the March of Dimes, ACESS, and Child & Family Services. She was a member of the Junior Welfare League, the Rotary Club of Holland, the American Bar Association, Michigan Trial Lawyers Association, the State Bar of Michigan and its Family Law Section, and the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office.

On November 13, 2009, her life ended too soon as a result of the Swine Flu. She has left a lasting legacy in the Thomas M. Cooley Alumni Association Memorial Scholarship and in her outstanding service to the practice of law and community service. She was a model of the outstanding Cooley Alumna.

For all these reasons, the Past Presidents' Committee and the Executive Committee have adopted a Resolution granting her the 2010 Distinguished Alumni Service Award and direct that it be suitably framed and presented to Jane A. Vandervelde posthumously.

Award Recipient 2009

Jeffrey L. Martlew (1976 Campbell Class)

The Honorable Jeffery L. Martlew graduated from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in the second graduating class, the 1976 James V. Campbell Class. Judge Martlew has enjoyed a distinguished career as a lawyer, judge and Cooley board and faculty member.

He began his legal career as an associate attorney and by 1979 had begun a practice in the law firm of Matson & Martlew. By 1984 he was elected Judge of the 65th District Court for Clinton County and was re-elected in 1990. In 1992, Judge Martlew was elected Judge of the 29th Circuit Court for Clinton and Gratiot counties, became its Chief Judge in 1994 and was re-elected in 1998.

Judge Martlew ably served the Cooley Board of Directors for 12 years, from 1994-2006, leaving that position to become a full-time member of the faculty, on which he currently serves as Associate Professor of Law, teaching Cooley's litigation skills program.

He has been a member of the State Bar of Michigan's Character & Fitness Committee and a member of the State Judicial Council. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Judges Association, and the Michigan District Judges Association, chairing the latter board's Government Liaison Committee.

In conjunction with Cooley's Office of Development and Alumni Relations, Judge Martlew conceived the idea of the Jurist Society , which honors high-level philanthropic support to Cooley by alumni who have attained judicial office. Judge Martlew himself made the inaugural pledge toward the Jurist Society membership and personally solicited and obtained numerous pledges from other alumni judges.

His cheerful willingness to lead in philanthropic support for Cooley and his determined effort to obtain pledge commitments from others has set an example of success by which other Cooley alumni should be measured.

Award Recipient 2008

Aletha L. Honsowitz (1990 Witherell Class)

Aletha L. Honsowitz is a graduate of the Thomas M. Cooley Witherell Class of 1990 and has served on the Alumni Association's Executive Committee Board of Governors for many years and was Chaiperson of the Special Events Committee from 2004-2007.

Under Ms. Honsowitz's leadership, the Special Events Committee organized tours to the United States Supreme Court to participate in the first Swearing-In Ceremony for Cooley alumni. She has organized numerous alumni receptions and worked with the Fundraising Committee in organizing the annual Alumni Memorial Scholarship Golf Benefit and Wine Tasting events. Ms. Honsowitz has hosted numerous alumni events across the country and is always a willing and cheerful volunteer, serving the needs of the Alumni Association.

Ms. Honsowitz has also enjoyed a distinguished career as Law Librarian for the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. She currently serves as Head of Public Services at the Grand Rapid Campus and has steadily advanced through the ranks since 1977.

Aletha Honsowitz has taught courses in the area of law office management and legal research including computer assisted research. She continues to serve on numerous civic related volunteer boards and is accomplished in community organizations, helping women achieve their full leadership potential.

Award Recipient 2007

Henry J. Legere, Jr. (1993 Carpenter Class)

Henry J. Legere, Jr. was a Class Representative under the original Alumni Association Charter. He was selected for membership on the Executive Committee of the Alumni Association's Board of Governors and served as its Treasurer for many years, and served on the Executive Committee until October 2006.

Legere has enjoyed a distinguished legal career working with the many law firms; as well as in his own practice, the Law Office of Henry J. Legere, Jr. He has tried more than 100 capital offenses where clients faced life terms if convicted and has had no clients convicted of life offenses.

Award Recipient 2006

Darryl Parsell (1979 Wiest Class)

Darryl Parsell, Cooley Director of Alumni, graduated from the Wiest Class of Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 1979 and after a distinguished career as a public prosecutor was selected to serve as the Director of Alumni Relations at the Law School in 1993. Under his leadership, the Thomas M. Cooley Alumni Association has progressed from a loosely organized group to a fully functioning alumni association.

Award Recipient 2005

Charles R. Toy (1981 Kavanagh Class)

Charles R. Toy is a summa cum laude graduate of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He was a Class Representative under the original Alumni Association Charter. He was selected for membership on the Executive Committee of the Alumni Association's Board of Governors and served as Secretary in April 2000, was elected as Vice President in October 2001, and was elected as President in October 2003.

Toy is a partner at the Lansing firm of Farhat & Story, P.C. He has served as an adjunct professor for most of the twenty-four years since his graduation.

Charles R. Toy is the first active member of the former Board of Governors of the Alumni Association (now the Alumni Board of Directors) to be named to the Board of Directors of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Finally, he has served on the State Bar of Michigan's Board of Commissioners since 2000 and, having been selected as the Bar's Treasurer in September 2005, is in line to become president of the State Bar of Michigan.

Award Recipient 2004

James Vlasic (1978 Ransom Class)

James Vlasic completed his undergraduate studies at Yale University in 1973, earned his Juris Doctor degree Cum Laude, and attended Wayne State University to earn a Master of Laws degree in Taxation in 1986. Mr. Vlasic was elected to membership on the Board of Directors of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in May 1997 and has served continuously in that capacity through the present time.

He serves as Chair of the Development Committee and is a member of the Executive Committee, the Audit Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee and the Nominating Committee. He is also a Member of the Board of Trustees for the Cranbrook Educational Community.

Award Recipient 2003

Linda Sutton (1981 Dethmers Class) and Jerry Sutton (1976 Cooley Class)

Linda Sutton and Jerry Sutton have furnished employment to many of the law school's alumni at their firm of Sutton Advisors, plc in Lansing, Michigan. Jerry and Linda Sutton have also been among the most significant donors to the law school.

Jerry Sutton served as a Class Representative for the law school's first graduating class, the Thomas M. Cooley Class of 1976. He has regularly attended the Annual Meetings of the Alumni Association Board of Governors, accompanied by his wife and business partner Linda Sutton, a graduate of the 1981 Dethmers Class.

Linda and Jerry Sutton have been especially faithful supporters of the Alumni Memorial Scholarship though their consistent sponsorship and participation at the Annual Alumni Golf Outing.

Award Recipient 2002 

No award made.

Award Recipient 2001

Virginia P. Allen (1982 Wing Class)

Virginia P. Allen is the Chair of the Cooley Alumni Association Past Presidents' Committee. She served in most of the offices on the Executive Committee and is a substantial donor to the law school. She is also very active in the management of the Lansing Symphony.

Award Recipient 2000

Michelle Reddin (1999 Flannigan Class)

Michelle Reddin is the President of the Florida Alumni Association and a participant in the Cooley Externship Program. She is involved in many county and state bar programs.