Ian Ralby knows the pain of conflict, but he also knows the power of resolution. Now, a scholarship is allowing the former William & Mary Law student to study at the University of Cambridge so that he can bring that healing power to others throughout the world.
"Ian is a terrific person who has managed to overcome numerous obstacles through the force of his character," said Mitchell Reiss, William & Mary's Vice Provost for International Affairs. "His career to date is impressive and I expect him to make a major impact in the years to come in helping resolve conflicts around the world."
Ralby, currently an associate with Hunton & Williams in Norfolk, Va., was recently named a 2007 Gates Cambridge Scholar. He is the first William & Mary graduate to receive the scholarship.
Established in 2001, the Gates Cambridge Scholar program enables outstanding graduate students from outside the United Kingdom to study at Cambridge. According to the Web site, the scholars are chosen based on their intellectual ability, leadership capacity and desire to use their knowledge to contribute to society throughout the world by providing service to their communities and applying their talents and knowledge to improve the lives of others.
A native of Baltimore, Md., Ralby received both his undergraduate and master's degrees in 2002 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County where he also competed as a champion diver. While at William & Mary, he served for two years on the William and Mary Law Review, first as a staff member and then as notes editor. He was a member of the International Law Society, helped found the George Wythe Society, and was a Dean's Associate.
In 2005, he and 20 other William & Mary law students worked for the Department of Justice as clerks for the Iraqi High Tribunal, providing legal support for the judges who tried Sadaam Hussein and his top lieutenants.
After graduating from William & Mary Law School, he joined Hunton & Williams in Norfolk, specializing in maritime law. He also is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and serves as a captain and staff judge advocate in the Virginia Defense Force. But his interest in international conflict resolution--which he studied in both Switzerland and Mexico during his college years--has not dimmed.
Growing up with an abusive father gave Ralby an early education in how to confront conflict. In 2002, Ralby and his brother, Aaron, reported their father, an Episcopal priest, and later that year testified against him in Ecclesiastical Court. He was found guilty and defrocked.
"Ridding myself of my father was an important lesson in resolving conflict," Ralby said. "With the support of my mother and brother, I was able to see that I could choose to learn from my experience. Dealing with my situation directly and openly has helped me both to understand the process of overcoming conflict and to empathize with others who cannot yet see the end to their own difficulties."
In order to pursue his passion, Ralby began applying for graduate schools and scholarships. Many of his former William & Mary law school professors provided advice, encouragement and assistance in the process.
"William and Mary has extremely strong scholarship applicants," said Lisa Grimes, William & Mary director of fellowships and undergraduate research at the Roy R. Charles Center. "Ian was one of the most impressive I've seen in all of my years here. He has a huge range of accomplishments."
Ian credits his experience at William & Mary in helping him win the scholarship.
"The training at William & Mary and the relationships forged at William & Mary all contributed greatly," said Ralby. "This was a wonderful place for me to explore the ideas I had and find out they were passions I could devote my life to."
Ralby will leave in September to study international relations at St. John's College Cambridge. He intends on getting his master's degree and eventually his Ph.D., but isn't sure what will come next for him. However, he does know, that whatever it is, he will always be involved in public service.
"I can think of no more satisfying work than supporting nations in their efforts to rebuild after conflict. I so appreciate that the Gates Cambridge Trust is making it possible for me to do that work," he said.