A crowd of Fordham Law students and alumnae gathered at Bar Boulud on April 2 for the annual Alumnae Reception hosted by Fordham Law Women. At the event, the founder of the group, Betty Santangelo ’74 presented the inaugural Betty Santangelo Award to Kathleen Walsh ’89.
Fordham Law Women has undergone an impressive revival over the last three years. Founded by Santangelo in the 1970s to empower women at the school, the group became inactive in the 2000s. In 2015, a group of students revived it; the group now counts over 300 members ranging across all three years of the school.
This year, in honor of the 100 Years of Women at Fordham Law, the group has instituted the Betty Santangelo Award to honor an alumna who is sponsoring meaningful advocacy for women in the legal industry.
“Even though people think we’ve come a long way, there is a lot still to be done,” Santangelo said in her speech at the reception. “The glass ceiling is still there, despite the fact that we have people like the honoree [Kathleen Walsh], who has done so well.”
A renowned mentor for young women lawyers, Betty Santangelo is a partner at Schulte Roth & Zabel, where she focuses on white-collar criminal defense and securities/bank enforcement. Santangelo is nationally recognized for her expertise in corporate compliance issues. She is also a member of Fordham Law’s advisory board and a former adjunct professor at the school.
At the reception, Santangelo spoke about her decision to form Fordham Law Women after she arrived to the school in 1971. “We had less than 8 percent of women across 400 students and there were no women professors. I could not believe it. A group of us got together and decided to speak up. We went to the Dean of Admissions and we asked to see the statistics. Ultimately, they hired Sheila Birnbaum.”
“You need to help the students who are coming up, and we need to help you,” Santangelo told the students. “It’s our job as alumni to be a support for you, and it’s your job to keep the mission open. Don’t take for granted the fact that women have succeeded.”
Fordham Law Women co-presidents Kara Krakower ’19 and Kristine Itliong ’20 then introduced the winner of the inaugural Betty Santangelo Award. Kathleen Walsh, a partner in the New York office of Latham & Watkins, graduated from Fordham Law in 1989. She also attended Fordham as an undergraduate student. She teaches “Fundamentals of Private Equity Fund Formation” at Fordham Law. In 2014, she was named Best in Investment Funds and received industry recognition by Euromoney Legal Media Group for Women in Business Law Awards.
“What an honor this is,” Walsh said in her speech. “Betty is one of our most distinguished alumnae and such a champion for Fordham women.”
Walsh said that she arrived to Fordham Law 15 years after Santangelo graduated, and that by that time women represented a large percentage of the student body. “We had great female professors,” she said, as she mentioned one of her favorite professors, Prof. Helen H. Bender.
“Fordham is my family,” Walsh continued, discussing the importance of finding women mentors. “I know how important it is to mentor young women; but it’s equally important to find a network of women friends.”
FLW Co-President Kara Krakower said the criteria for the award include being an advocate for women involved with Fordham Law; being involved with women in law groups; being an active mentor of young women and law students; and being involved in women’s groups generally.
The event was part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fordham Law to women students.