Emory Law Provides Strong Foundation for 2009 Distinguished AlumniBy: Liz Chilla
Although they have followed varied career paths, the three 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award winners credit Emory Law with preparing them to serve as an ambassador, a public health expert and a large firm executive.
“There’s no doubt that the preparation you receive from Emory—to think like a lawyer and analyze like a lawyer—is of great assistance in almost any professional pursuit,” says the Hon. Gordon D. Giffin 74L, the 19th ambassador to Canada.
“Legal training is great training for many professions,” says Ruth J. Katz 77L, chief public health counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. “My own resume is a good example of that. I certainly have not followed the traditional career path of a law school graduate. But, my Emory experience prepared me very well for the road I have chosen to travel.”
“Emory Law gave me the foundation to enjoy a wonderful career in the practice of trial law, as well as the tools to play a role in law firm management,” says Thomas A. Reynolds III 77L, a partner at Winston & Strawn llp in Chicago.
Excelling in Public and Private Practice: The Hon. Gordon D. Giffin 74L
Giffin is a senior partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in Atlanta where he chairs the public policy and international department. He has a long and distinguished legal career in both public and private practice.
Following his graduation from Emory Law, Giffin served as the legislative director and chief counsel to U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn Jr. 61L 62L in Washington, D.C. In 1984, he joined Sen. Nunn and then-Gov. Bill Clinton in founding the Democratic Leadership Council. At that time, Giffin also began his practice at McKenna Long & Aldridge.
From 1997 to 2001, Giffin served as ambassador to Canada, managing U.S. interests in the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship in the context of the North American Free Trade Agreement, as well as U.S. collaboration with Canada on global issues.
Giffin returned to McKenna Long & Aldridge in 2001, focusing on administrative and regulatory law in the energy, environmental, trade, communications and procurement fields.
“The rigorous, focused analysis of the challenges that you confront is probably the best thing my Emory education did for me,” says Giffin. “I also think the value of an Emory Law degree has appreciated over the years. Certainly the reputation of the school today has broadened substantially.”
Giffin’s commitment and service to Emory is steadfast. He served on the Law School Council—now the Emory Law Advisory Board—and the board of The Carter Center. Giffin has been an adjunct professor and has hosted and participated in numerous alumni programs regarding the political atmosphere and election analysis.
Taking a Different Path: Ruth J. Katz 77L
Combining her legal education with a master of public health from Harvard University, Katz has been a leader in public service and in the medical and legal professions since she graduated from Emory Law more than 30 years ago.
“My most valuable lesson from Emory Law was a new way of thinking about problem solving,” she says, “This has been enormously helpful in navigating through very difficult health policy questions.”
As the Energy and Commerce Committee’s chief public health counsel, Katz is focused on helping to enact healthcare reform legislation.
Early in her career, Katz worked for the Atlantic City prosecutor’s office and practiced law in Philadelphia. After graduating from Harvard, Katz worked as a policy analyst to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health. From 1982 to 1985, she served as counsel to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Health and Environment of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
After leaving Capitol Hill, Katz was director of public health programs at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and then worked as counsel to the Advocacy Committee on Tobacco Policy and Public Health. She also served as an associate dean of Yale University’s School of Medicine.
In 2003, Katz became dean of The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services—the first individual with a law degree to serve as dean of an accredited school of public health.
“A lawyer approaches the job of leading a complex institution, such as a school of public health, much differently than an MD or PhD, the more traditional choices for the dean’s position,” Katz says. “I brought a different perspective to the table, and I think a very helpful one.”
An active alumna, Katz served as a long-term member of the Law School Council and the Dean’s Council at the Rollins School of Public Health. She also sits on Emory’s Board of Trustees.
Giving Back to the Community: Thomas A. Reynolds III 77L
Reynolds recently stepped down from Winston & Strawn’s executive committee after 12 years in a senior management role. A former assistant attorney general for Illinois, Reynolds focuses on commercial, securities and antitrust litigation.
He holds the distinction, along with another firm partner, of having secured the highest jury award — $181 million for Carbon County Coal Co. — ever collected in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In addition to his legal successes, Reynolds is being recognized for his civic leadership. “Without Emory Law I would not be in a position to support school reform in our cities and financial aid awards for students,” he says.
Reynolds’ community service evolved during his years as a former public defender and a prosecutor in Chicago. “It eventually became clear to me that inadequate education of those I either represented or prosecuted was the common theme,” he says. “It became a passion.”
Reynolds and his wife, Hope, are involved in the Big Shoulders Fund and link Unlimited—organizations dedicated to providing financial support and mentoring to Chicago’s inner-city students. They recently received the Martin Luther King Jr. Award by LINK Unlimited for enriching the education of disadvantaged African American students.
A 1974 graduate of Georgetown University, Reynolds has been a member of its board of directors since 1997. He also is a trustee and vice chair of the board for the University of Chicago Medical Center and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and he sits on the University of Chicago Board of Trustees.
Reynolds serves on the executive committee of the Emory Law Advisory Board and has hosted and organized several alumni events in Chicago.
Distinguished Alumni Award nominations are accepted throughout the year. After reviewing nominations, the Emory Law Alumni Board selects award recipients based on the nominee’s credentials and record of service to the legal profession.
The recipients’ photos and biographies now hang in the Emory Law Hall of Distinguished Alumni in Gambrell Hall.