On Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, William & Mary’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) welcomed Angela Ciccolo, Esq., Chief Legal Officer and Secretary of Special Olympics, Inc., to the Law School as part of the William & Mary Black Law Students Association L. Douglas Wilder Speaker Series. Ciccolo’s lecture, entitled “You Can Change the World,” detailed how a lawyer’s work can be a force of change in the world and challenged students to look for ways to make a difference.
Ciccolo talked about her motivations for going to law school, which included frustrations with failures in the criminal justice system. “I felt the world had to change,” Ciccolo said, “and I wanted to be a part of that change.”
After earning her degree from Georgetown University Law Center, Ciccolo first represented plaintiffs in the Washington Metro region before moving to the NAACP, where she became the first woman to serve as the organization’s General Counsel. Among the many areas of law in which the NAACP engaged were capital punishment cases.
Through her work on two cases challenging the legality of capital punishment sentences for mentally impaired prisoners, Ciccolo developed expertise in the issues that the mentally disabled face. Ciccolo’s commitment to these challenges led her to accept her present position at Special Olympics, Inc. in 2010.
At Special Olympics, Ciccolo’s responsibilities extend beyond issues affecting the disabled to those that come with guiding a large international organization. Special Olympics is both the largest provider of disability health services in the world and, with more than 7,000 participants, host of the world’s largest sporting event in 2015. In a career that began with a desire to see the world change, Ciccolo’s work serves as an example to current students and recent graduates. She challenged students to “pick up the ball, get in the game, and change the world.”
Prior to her lecture, Ciccolo joined BLSA members as well as Dean Davison Douglas, Vice Dean Laura Heymann, BLSA faculty advisor, Professor Vivian Hamilton, Assistant Dean Cinnamon Baker, and Professor Crystal Shin, Director of the Special Education Advocacy Clinic, for a luncheon in her honor in which she discussed her career path and answered students’ questions about law school and contemporary human and civil rights challenges. BLSA President Matthew Kemelek J.D. ’16 presented Ciccolo with a proclamation from BLSA, recognizing Ciccolo’s contributions to social justice through her legal work.
Following the lecture, BLSA Vice President India Richardson J.D. ’16 and Professor Shin presented Ciccolo with tokens of appreciation for her dedication to issues affecting disabled persons across the world. BLSA Committee Chair, Patrick Sebastian J.D. ’16 noted that he “was very inspired and awe-struck by Ciccolo’s life story and career of advocacy for society’s marginalized” and “was extremely privileged and honored to be a part of the day’s events.”
The William & Mary Black Law Students Association L. Douglas Wilder Speaker Series features notable and respected individuals who have served in governmental, public policy, and legal capacities and who have made significant contributions to the Nation, the Commonwealth, and/or the local community. Selected speakers embody the ideals of public and community service Governor Wilder has represented throughout his distinguished career as a public servant.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.