George Washington University Law School Professors Jerome Barron and Alberto Benítez were honored in November with Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Awards for inspiring former students to make significant contributions to society. They were two of 20 distinguished professors from universities around the United States who received the award and a $25,000 prize from the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award Trust at a ceremony held in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award Trust was founded in 2008 under the will of Gail McKnight Beckman in honor of her mother Dr. Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman. Dr. Beckman was an educator, a renowned author, and a pioneer in the field of psychology. She was one of the first female psychology professors at Columbia University and later taught at the University of Pennsylvania.
Professor Jerome Barron was nominated for inspiring Marla Spindel, J.D. '93, to co-found the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project. The Project is a nonprofit organization which provides high-quality, free legal services to low-income DC residents in family law cases.
"The Elizabeth Beckman award came as a wonderful surprise, and a particularly meaningful one, because at the conclusion of this academic year, I will have taught for 50 years and will be retiring," said Professor Barron.
"Professor Barron's passion for the subject matter and thoughtful consideration of the issues were contagious, and I instantly became intrigued by the Constitutional legal issues he taught. Years later, the idea that everyone should have a lawyer, even in civil cases—known as the "Civil Gideon"—inspired me to found the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project," said Marla.
Professor Alberto Benítez was nominated for inspiring, among many students, University of Arkansas School of Law Professor Elizabeth Young, J.D. '04, who helped create and launch an immigration clinic at that school. Professor Benitez's nomination was submitted by Professor Gregory Maggs.
"We all know the difference that Alberto and his students make in the lives of immigrants in our community, but Alberto's influence extends far beyond his immediate work in the Immigration Clinic," said Professor Maggs. "As an inspirational mentor, Alberto has helped many GW graduates establish their own immigration practices and clinics, and these graduates are now multiplying Alberto's successes."
The University of Arkansas’s Immigration Clinic provides opportunities for students preparing for a career in immigration law or general practice to develop critical lawyering skills through experiential learning. The Clinic serves the community by providing pro bono representation to area individuals in need of legal assistance in immigration matters.
"As a student, I saw how Professor Benítez, affected the people around him and garnered respect from the courts, clients, and students," said Elizabeth. "That inspired me to want to do the same thing – teach in an immigration clinic and bring this type of education and empowerment to Arkansas. I try to instill the same thoughtfulness in my students as he did, in the hopes that I will make a systemic change to the legal system in Arkansas."
"A former colleague would say that thanking people by name is dangerous, because we forget to thank everyone we should. Instead I wish to thank everyone who has supported me throughout my professional career. The one person I will thank by name, however, is my wife, Janice A. Salas. Without her, none of my accomplishments would have been possible," said Professor Benítez.