Nine Fordham Law alumni will be honored as “trailblazers” by the Law School’s chapter of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) at the conclusion of Black History Month this year. The alumni’s work and contributions to the legal profession have paved the way for current and future Black Fordham Law students to achieve professional excellence as attorneys.
“Fordham’s BLSA has had amazing members in the past, and to see the alumni return for a night to give them their praise and flowers and show our ultimate respect for their work in their respective fields is beyond humbling and exciting as both a president and aspiring attorney,” said BLSA President Ryan Washington ’23. “We thank Fordham Law for giving them the opportunity to become the advocates they are today, and we thank the honorees for being living testaments to what hard work and a genuine love for the community can produce.”
Washington added that BLSA board members Bané Touré ’23 and Damien Rainford ’24, who organized this year’s event, worked tirelessly and consistently to make it a possibility. “I’m forever grateful for their commitment,” he said.
RSVP for BLSA’s “Road to Success: Blazing Trails for Future Black Attorneys” award event, which will take place virtually on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.
Read more about the 2022 honorees:
Jeanine Botwe ’20, Associate Counsel, Brands and Content Intellectual Property, NBCUniversal
Botwe was a member of BLSA, the Fordham Media & Entertainment Law Society, and the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law Journal. One of her mentors throughout law school was Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard ’97, current senior vice president for business affairs at ABC News.
Botwe is a mentor with the Pursuing the Esquire program and a member of Lawyers for the Arts and The International Trademark Association. She received a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Certificate from the University of South Florida this past year.
Deneen Donnley ’92, General Counsel, Con Edison
Donnley served as BLSA chair during her 3L year and was mentored by the late Judge Deborah A. Batts.
Since graduating from Fordham Law, Donnley has served as general counsel at both USAA and ING DIRECT USA. She received the Corporate Leadership Award from the Asian American Bar Association in 2019 as well as the Outstanding Lawyer Award from San Antonio Business Journal in 2018.
Donnley has been a nonprofit involvement member on the board of directors at Girls Inc. of New York City since 2021, board of directors member with the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity since 2019, part of the Professional Association Executive Leadership Council since 2017, member of Dole Foundation from 2017 to 2019, board of directors member with Girls Inc. of San Antonio from 2012 to 2017, and a member of DirectWomen Institute’s Class of 2017.
Jumaane K. Ford ’14, Sports Agent, National Football League
After playing defensive back at Stony Brook University, Ford earned his law degree at Fordham Law, where he was a member of BLSA, Fordham’s Latin American Law Students Association, and the Trial Advocacy team.
Now, he uses his former experience as an athlete to inform his work representing professional athletes; among his clients are eight active players in the NFL, including Cincinnati Bengal D.J. Reader.
Ford is the founder of Prep Football Showcase, an organization that uses football to help place children of color at prestigious prep schools across the country for little to no tuition. He is also the executive producer of the television show “Terror Lake Drive” on AllBlk network and is the writer and creator of “Five Deep,” a television series currently in preproduction.
Suzanne E. Miles-Gustave ’02, Executive Deputy Commissioner, New York State Office of Children and Family Services
Miles-Gustave was an active member of BLSA, serving as vice president and then president during the 2000-2001 academic year. She was also the associate editor on Moot Court, member of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition Team, and was on the staff of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law Journal. She was part of the Civil Rights Clinic led by Professors Elizabeth Cooper and Gemma Solimene.
“Professor Solimene helped guide me through my last years at Fordham Law, and I look to her for advice and counsel to this day,” Miles-Gustave said.
Miles-Gustave is an officer and board member of Youth Research Inc., a non-profit that provides training and support to New York State Office of Children and Family Services and other human service community partners.
Jason B. Lynch ’10, Executive Director (in-house counsel), Morgan Stanley
Lynch was involved with BLSA, the Fordham Environmental Law Review, and the Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office. He looked to Professor Susan Block-Lieb as a mentor during his time at Fordham Law.
Since graduating, Lynch has served as board treasurer with the Community-Word Project, ambassador with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. He is a member of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association and American Bar Association. He has done various pro-bono volunteering, including resume reviews, immigration pleading assistance, and family law assistance. He was awarded the Legal “Culture Carrier” Award by JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s legal department in 2020, recognized as a Legal ‘Rising Leader” by JPMorgan’s legal department in 2017, and won first place in American Bankruptcy Institute’s National Law Student Writing Competition in 2010.
Lynch says that maintaining a committed focus to “spreading the gospel of how Black lawyers in financial services improve the industry, enhance financial inclusion, and increase companies’ profit margins” has been one of his greatest professional achievements.
Tracey L. McNeil ’99 (Evening Division), Ombudsman, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
McNeil served as a notes and articles editor for the Fordham Urban Law Journal and chairperson of BLSA during the 1997-98 academic year. One of BLSA’s significant accomplishments that year was planning and hosting the 20th Annual Ruth Whitehead Whaley Dinner, which McNeil said was a “wonderful celebration befitting both its trailblazing namesake and the importance of the 20th anniversary of the occasion.” McNeil received the Dean’s Award at commencement, presented to her by Dean John D. Feerick ’61.
McNeil was recently elected to serve on the Fordham Law Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. She was also competitively selected for, and completed, the Partnership for Public Service Excellence in Government Fellows Program and the Brookings Institution Women’s Leadership Program.
McNeil is the SEC’s first ombudsman, a distinction which she calls one of her greatest professional achievements.
Vivian D. Wesson ’00, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel, Marsh & McClennan
Wesson was the managing editor of Fordham Urban Law Journal and was mentored by Professor David Schmudde during her time at Fordham Law.
Over the last two decades, Wesson has served as chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Attorney Professionalism, co-chair of the Environmental Justice Committee of the Task Force on Racism, Social Equity & the Law, and director of the General Alumni Association for Phillips Exeter Academy. She authored three articles that were published in the New York State Bar Association Journal in 2020.
White was also profiled by Modern Counsel magazine last August.
Valerie White ’96, Executive Director, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) NYC
White was a member of BLSA and Fordham Urban Law Journal, and calls Dean Matthew Diller (then a professor) her mentor. She was honored with the Louis J. Lefkowitz Award at the Fordham Urban Law Journal Alumni dinner in 2019. She also serves as a director on the Fordham Law Alumni Association board and is on the advisory board for the Urban Law Center at Fordham Law School.
As executive director of LISC NYC, White is responsible for advancing a platform of racial and economic equity by building on $3.1 billion in LISC NYC investments to spur affordable housing, economic development, health equity, and workforce development in underserved neighborhoods. In this role, she leads the team in developing a vision and advancing strategic policies and programs that foster equity and inclusion in disinvested communities. Before joining LISC NYC in April 2020, White served as executive vice president at Empire State Development as well as executive director of the New York State Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development. Previously, she was vice president at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation and spent 17 years at Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings, leading the public finance structured and affordable housing business as managing director.
“I’m most proud of having the honor to employ and mentor many Black lawyers and MBAs who were early in their career,” White said. “I take very seriously my responsibility to ensure that I’m providing not only guidance, counsel, support, and encouragement, but real opportunities to the next generation of Black leaders across the industry so that equity of access to success and achievement can be fairly obtained.”
Jennifer White-Reid ’98, Senior Vice President, Domestic Violence Residential & Legal Programs, Urban Resource Institute
White-Reid was a Stein Scholar and involved with BLSA, Housing Advocacy Project, and Fordham Urban Law Journal. She was honored by Fordham Law School in 2019 with the Louis J. Lefkowitz Public Service Award as well as the Stein Scholars Public Service Alumni Award in 2003.
In her current role, White-Reid oversees the design, operation, and growth of URI’s domestic violence emergency and transitional shelters, crime victims’ services, and legal programs. She has played an active role in the agency’s significant growth including leading project expansion teams. In 2020, she was recognized as an Advocate of NYC by the NYC Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. In the past year, White-Reid spearheaded the opening of two new domestic violence shelters—the sixth and seventh domestic violence shelters that have opened under her leadership and 14 total that she oversees for the Urban Resource Institute—providing safe shelter for 132 individuals and families experiencing domestic violence in New York City.
White-Reid also sits on the Steering Committee of the NYC Coalition of Domestic Violence Residential Providers and is a member of the NYS Bar Association and the Metropolitan Black Bar Association. She is a former board member of the NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence.