The Law School awarded its annual Yale Law School Alumni Award of Merit to two sitting governors last Saturday: Gov. Jerry Brown LAW ’64 and Gov. Gina Raimondo LAW ’98.
Brown has served as the governor of California since 2011, and Raimondo is in her second year in office as governor of Rhode Island. Raimondo also served as a member of the Yale University Council, an advisory body to the University president, and was appointed alumni fellow of the Yale Corporation in 2014 for a six-year term.
The award was based on the candidates’ contribution to public service and to the legal profession and was decided by the Yale Law School Association Executive Committee, a committee that helps Law School alumni stay connected, according to Janet Conroy, director of communications and public affairs at the Law School. Conroy said the award is typically given to an individual or group of alumni or faculty whose contributions are in some way associated with one another.
For example, in 2014, the award was given to three sitting justices of the Supreme Court, and in 2010, it was given to four Law School alumni who pioneered environmental law.
“The award only reinforces for me the lessons I learned throughout school: the importance of applying responsibility, honesty and empathy into politics,” Raimondo told the News. “Ultimately, the school has granted me the ability to bring people together — and I thank the University for the skills I was afforded, the service I’ve been urged to pursue and the engagement I now practice daily.”
During the annual All Alumni Luncheon on Saturday, Yale Law School Dean Robert Post LAW ’77 praised Brown for his courage in improving California’s fiscal outlook. For example, when California had a $16 billion deficit early in his current term, Brown managed to address voters’ concerns with his propositions for fiscal reform that reversed the state’s plight, Post said.
Post also commented on Raimondo’s ability to turn dire situations into blessings, mentioning in particular her decision to enter politics when Rhode Island suffered from budget cuts that shuttered local libraries.
“Like Brown, Raimondo knew what needed to be done, and she did it,” Post said at the Saturday gathering.
Law professor Roberta Romano LAW ’80 expressed her wish to see more individuals like Raimondo, Romano’s former student and research assistant, in public service.
“She is a can-do person who understands the calling of politics and is the rare elected official who is willing to take on tough issues where the social benefits will occur in the longer term,” Romano said.
Former president and chair of the executive committee Cynthia Cwik ’83 LAW ’87 praised both governors for their enthusiasm and cooperative spirit in dealing with challenges. She added that this year’s award ceremony was especially “poignant” as it marked the last year when Post will serve as the law school dean. Post will not seek another term when his current term expires in summer 2017, University President Peter Salovey told the News in early October.
The Alumni Award of Merit was established in 1957.