Sarah L. Bellinger '09 and William C. Smith, Jr., '09 received the Thurgood Marshall Award for distinguished pro bono work during the Law School's graduation ceremony on May 17. The award goes to a member, or members, of the graduating class who exhibit the ideals of distinguished public service exemplified by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993).
Bellinger, who received one of 47 prestigious Equal Justice Works Fellowships awarded in 2009, served in numerous leadership roles at the Law School, including as co-chair of the Public Service Fund and Bone Marrow Drive, member of the Therapeutic Jurisprudence Society's board, and member of the editorial board of the Journal of Women & the Law. One nominator, said Butler, lauded Bellinger noting that "she has personal resources sufficient enough so that she has never needed PSF or public service funding ... she chose to dedicate herself to PSF and its mission purely because she believes in public service and promoting it as a viable career path for law students." Following graduation, Bellinger will use her EJW Fellowship to create a Special Education Clinic in cooperation with Advocacy, Inc., a disability rights organization in Texas.
Smith's impressive commitment to the public good began before law school, Butler said. As co-founder of the Washington, DC, based Youth Achieve, a "nonprofit organization dedicated to serving, mentoring, and tutoring homeless and at-risk children," he helped lead an effort which "raised thousands for disadvantaged youth, ran a successful clothing drive, mentored and tutored more than 40 youth, ... and awarded college scholarships to at-risk youth." During law school his commitment to the organization continued as he recruited other law students to participate in the group. Smith also helped co-found the Election Law Society and Law Democratic Chapter, worked on a voter registration drive and a presidential campaign, and was active in the Black Law Students Association, Public Service Fund, Honor Council and Moot Court.
Both recipients, said the Dean, have public service in their destiny.