Nine of William & Mary Law School's former and current Mary Siegrist Hinz Leadership Fellows and members of the selection committee gathered in April in Williamsburg to remember the fellowship's namesake. The first fellowship was awarded 25 years ago, in 1986. Funding for the program is provided by an endowment created by Mary's husband, Lt. Dan Hinz, U.S.N, and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Siegrist. Mary, a member of the Law School Class of 1985, died tragically in a bicycle accident during the summer following her second year of law school.
"The William & Mary community was fortunate to have a student like Mary among us," said Faye Shealy, associate dean for law admission. "The commitment of selection committee members Robert O'Donnell, Michael J. Walsh '85, and Laura Rugless '00 inspire me as we endeavor to honor Mary's spirit and achievements through the program. For the past 25 years, Mary's legacy has continued through the lives and contributions of our Hinz Fellows. I am proud of each of them."
Selection Committee Chair Robert O'Donnell, a partner at Vandeventer Black in Norfolk, helped Mary's family create the fellowship endowment in her memory. O'Donnell supervised the recruiting committee and summer clerk program at his firm, and had hired Hinz as a summer associate. He was the lead attorney on the settlement that led to the endowment, and, in accordance with the Hinz and Siegrist families' wishes, established the Leadership Fellows Program at the Law School and a scholarship fund at her undergraduate alma mater, the University of Mary Washington.
"Mary distinguished herself as a clerk," O'Donnell said, "and as a member of our firm's softball team. All who had an opportunity to work with Mary were impressed by her dedication to the law, her enthusiasm for new experiences, and her willingness to help in any way she could. Mary was a unique individual - she did not know obstacles, but saw only opportunities. Because she was so 'alive,' no one could accept that she died so suddenly."
Michael J. Walsh '85, a partner at Miller, Walsh & Kutz in Newport News, Va., was Hinz's classmate and friend, and serves on the selection committee. He recalled the terrible shock he felt when he heard the news of Hinz's death. The two had become friends at the beginning of law school, sometimes carpooled together from the same apartment complex in Newport News, and he and his wife, Ann, had sometimes socialized with Mary and her husband.
"Mary was one of those rare people whose strengths lay in a combination of intelligence and scholastic achievement, a love of and aptitude for sports, and a deep commitment to service to her community - all traits which we seek out in prospective Hinz Fellows," he said.
The program awards fellowships to outstanding law students who share Hinz's best qualities: academic distinction during their college careers, characteristics of citizenship and concern for others, involvement in the community and contributions to the welfare of others, excellence in team athletics, and a personal commitment to physical fitness.
At Mary Washington, where she graduated summa cum laude and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, Mary founded, coached and played on the college's softball team. She had served as captain of the softball team in high school and was also a member of the school's varsity basketball and field hockey teams. At the time of her death, she was training for a triathlon, bicycling nearly 80 miles per day.
Several former and current fellows shared news of their endeavors and thoughts about the program:
Jean Hernon Kallus '89
The first Hinz fellow, Jean Hernon, was chosen in 1986 and graduated in 1989. Hernon received a B.A. in political science from Union College where she played field hockey and lacrosse.
"I remember my three years at William & Mary very fondly, and I can't believe how quickly the years have gone," Hernon said. "I have always felt honored and grateful for the Hinz Fellowship; it eased financial pressures on me both during and after law school."
After graduation Hernon returned home to New York state to take the
bar exam. Her first job was representing children in Family Court as an
attorney with the Children's Rights Society. "This was a great
introduction to the real world for me," she said. "I loved the freedom
and pace of the job. I also loved being in court, with all its cast of
characters. It was rewarding work, although sometimes emotionally
draining, but I stayed there for seven years until the birth of my first
In 2004, Hernon returned to work in her current position at the Orange County (N.Y.) Legal Aid Society, this time representing indigent criminal defendants. "This job suits me well," Hernon said, "and I am proud to be a part of such a dedicated group of people. Looking back, I feel enormously grateful for the Hinz Fellowship because it enabled me to choose a fulfilling career at not-for-profit agencies."
Carolyn Signorelli '91
Signorelli '91 has pursued a career as a public service attorney. She is an honors graduate of Vassar College, where she received a degree in political science. Signorelli is presently the first chief child protection attorney for Connecticut's Commission on Child Protection. The state established the commission in 2005 to build a system of quality legal representation for children and indigent parents in child protection, custody and support proceedings.
"I was always committed to becoming a public service lawyer," Signorelli said, "therefore, the Hinz Fellowship served as a tremendous opportunity for me to obtain an excellent legal education, without amassing a large amount of debt, which has derailed many lawyers who want to serve in the public or not-for-profit sector. When I learned of William & Mary Law School's commitment to ethics and public service, I was extremely excited to attend law school there."
After graduating from Marshall-Wythe, Signorelli secured a position with the Connecticut Attorney General's Office prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases in juvenile court for the state's child welfare agency. In her current position, she heads the first agency in Connecticut established to reform its system of legal representation for indigent parents and children in child protection proceedings. As such, she is responsible for providing quality representation for about 18,000 clients per year in child protection, custody and support proceedings in Juvenile and Family Court. Signorelli serves on the Executive Committee of the Children's Trust Fund Council, the Chief Justice's Public Service and Trust Commission, the Governor's Task Force on Justice for Abused Children, and a host of other public service and legal committees in Conn. She has also coached recreational basketball in her local area.
"For me," she said, "being a lawyer and public service are synonymous, and the opportunity to attend William & Mary Law helped solidify that commitment, and provided an experience that fostered and valued public service."
James H. Lister '94
Lister '94 is a regulatory (telecommunications, natural resources) and bankruptcy attorney with Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot (BHBC) in Washington, DC. He spent six years practicing law at Arter & Hadden and McGuireWoods in the District of Columbia and northern Va. before returning to BHBC in 2005. Lister is an honors graduate of the College of William & Mary, where he was a member of the cross country and track teams and earned a B.A. in history and mathematics.
Lister's law practice takes him to federal district, bankruptcy, and appeals courts across the country, with an emphasis on administrative law litigation under a diverse variety of statutes.
"Each year I appreciate more the immense value of the Hinz scholarship, which took a lot of stress out of law school and allowed me to start my career at a smaller firm (BHBC) without worries about debt," Lister said. "Hopefully there will be an opportunity for me to give back to the Law School community."
Laura Walsh Rugless '00
Rugless, a class of 2000 graduate, was a Hinz Fellow during law school and now serves on the fellowship's Selection Committee. She was a Class of 2000 Moot Court champion, a member of the Regional Champion National Moot Court Team, and an associate editor for the Journal of Women and the Law. Rugless graduated from the College of William & Mary with a B.A. in international studies and Russian in 1990, and spent several years in the U.S. Army as an Airborne and Air Assault-Qualified Military Intelligence Officer. Prior to entering law school, she also worked for Cities/Communities in Schools, Inc., and in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at the Pentagon.
Rugless simultaneously served as a JAG officer and equal opportunity officer in the Army Reserve for three years after law school while spending two of those years as a law clerk in the Office of the Chief of Staff Attorney and Senior Justice (Ret.) Richard H. Poff of the Supreme Court of Virginia, and one year as an associate at Patten, Wornom, Hatten & Diamonstein in Newport News. After a few years in her own firm, she took a position in the University of Virginia's Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, and currently serves as EEO and employee relations manager at the Virginia Department of Health.
"I have been doubly honored and humbled to be a Hinz Fellow, and also serve as a selection committee member," Rugless said. "I still remember my visit with Mary's parents at their home during spring break of my 1L year, learning about their daughter's extraordinary accomplishments, and marveling at all of her awards and trophies. Now, more than a decade since that visit, what I find even more impressive is her living legacy-the 25 classes of Hinz Fellows and my fellow committee members who remain steadfast in their commitment to promoting ideals that Mary embodied."
Laura Jacobson '11
Jacobson served as articles editor for the William & Mary Law Review, was a Graduate Research Fellow, and a member of the Public Service Fund. She was president and founder of De Vecino a Vecino, a student organization dedicated to serving the local Hispanic immigrant community, and was vice president of the Student Hurricane Network during her second year. She graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern College in Iowa, where she earned a B.A. in English and writing/rhetoric, and minored in Spanish. At Northwestern, she was editor-in-chief and sports editor for her college newspaper, and, as a member of the track and field team, was named captain, Most Valuable Runner, and NAIA All-American.
In spring 2011, Jacobson represented, under attorney supervision, detained immigrants in deportation proceedings and also conducted client intake interviews and 'know your rights' presentations. During summer 2010, she worked at Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Assistance Services in Omaha, Neb., where she focused on cases involving U visas, naturalization, and refugee adjustments.
"In many ways, the Hinz Fellowship and what it represents were at the core of my experience," Jacobson said. "I entered law school knowing that I wanted to work in public interest law, immigration law in particular. Being a Hinz Fellow was a constant reminder of my commitment to service, an incredible honor that affirmed my goals. When we meet with the scholarship committee and other Hinz Fellows in the spring, Mary's story is inspiring every time. Being chosen as a student to carry out her legacy was humbling to say the least, and hearing all the wonderful things about her inspire me that much more to leave my own legacy."
Patrick Slebonick '13
"The Hinz Fellowship has enriched my law school education in ways that I couldn't have anticipated," Slebonick said. "Without it, I would not have continued my public service work. The fellowship drew me to a school where the education I have been afforded is second to none, and I will be forever grateful."
Slebonick is a board member of the Public Service Fund. He holds an M.A. in social foundations of education, and a B.A. in government with a religion minor from the University of Virginia. He also played varsity football at Virginia, where he was on the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Academic Honor Roll and was given the ACC Top Six Award.
Merideth Snow '13
Snow is a Graduate Research Fellow at the Law School and a member of
the Alternative Dispute Resolution team. She is a summa cum laude
graduate of Texas A&M University, where she graduated with a B.S. in
nutritional science and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. During
college she was a member of the cross country and track teams, an Honors
Program Lechner Scholar, and a member of the Student Athlete Advisory
Committee. She received the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences'
Senior Merit Award. She is an avid runner and a cyclist.
In summer 2010, Snow worked as an office assistant in the St. Louis office of Thompson Coburn. This summer she is an intern with Judge Xavier Rodriquez of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio.
"After hearing the selection committee describe Mary Hinz," Snow said, "it was evident that she was truly unique, gifted, and highly regarded by all of those who knew her. To be associated with such a special person through this fellowship is inspiring for me. I am grateful for the opportunity to help carry on Mary's legacy."
Melanie Walter '13
Walter is a joint degree candidate who will earn both a J.D. and M.A. in public policy at William & Mary. The four-year joint degree program, she said, will allow her to develop multiple skill sets required for work in specific areas.
"I began law school knowing that I wanted to do something in the public sector," Walter said. "The law degree prepares me for dealing with legislation and regulatory requirements, and equips me with skills needed to negotiate, understand, and enact complex government contracts. The public policy program is helping me develop a greater understanding of government's structure and function, and focus my economics background on the type of quantitative analysis that will be relevant to my career."
Walter is a magna cum laude graduate of Mary Washington University, where she earned a B.S. in economics. She was the recipient of many academic honors and awards, including the Ginniss-McGirk Scholar Athlete Award. Walter was president of Omicron Delta Epsilon honor society, a member of the varsity track and field First Team All CAC, and a participant in Model United Nations. At the Law School, she is a member of the Moot Court team and the George Wythe Society of Citizen Lawyers. She also serves as an articles editor of the William & Mary Policy Review, which is published by the college's Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy. Walter will be completing an internship for her master's degree this summer at the Virginia College Savings Plan.
"The Hinz Fellowship is a unique scholarship," Walter said. "It
celebrates the life of an amazing, talented woman, and is awarded to
students with the kinds of diverse interests that remind the selection
committee of Mary herself. And the committee members are wonderful
people, too; they welcome the Hinz fellows so warmly, and they've really
stayed interested and involved in our lives since we have arrived at
William & Mary."