Feerick Center Awards Honor Public Service Leaders


From pro bono counsel to philanthropy to direct legal advocacy on issues including immigration and domestic violence, nine people were honored for their legal work at this year’s Fordham Law’s Feerick Center awards celebration.

The Feerick Center, founded by Fordham Law Dean Emeritus John D. Feerick ’61, works with social justice groups, legal services, and public sector organizations to respond to the needs of marginalized people, including low-income New Yorkers, asylum seekers, and unaccompanied minors. 

Each year, the Center recognizes the impact of exceptional lawyers who have made a difference through their public interest and social justice legal work. 

At this year’s event, Fordham University President Tania Tetlow recognized the recipients with these remarks, “The Feerick Center transforms the lives of the clients it serves. But not just that. Because it also teaches our students to become the kinds of lawyers who transform lives for the rest of their legal careers. A force multiplier beyond measure.”

This year’s honorees were: 

Professor Maria L. Marcus (awarded posthumously)
The Gail D. Hollister Dedication to Excellence Award

Marcus was the former Joseph M. McLaughlin Chair and professor of law emerita at Fordham Law, and a moderator for the Law School’s Moot Court Board. She was the second woman to become a tenured full professor at the law school, where she taught for 33 years before she passed away in 2022. She was also previously associate counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, an assistant attorney general for New York State, vice president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and had argued six cases before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of New York State, winning all six. 

Valerie Marcus accepted the award on behalf of her mother and said, “The Feerick Center’s mission aligns entirely with [Maria Marcus’s] own lifelong pursuit of equality and justice under the law.”

Dean Emeritus John Feerick ’61, Valerie Marcus, and Dean Matthew Diller

Kim Koopersmith ’84
The Spirit of Service Award

Kim Koopersmith ’84 is chairperson of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, where she has earned numerous recognitions for her leadership. She spearheaded Akin’s efforts to join with other firms in launching the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance, and in 2020, Akin earned Mansfield 3.0 Certified Plus certification for its success in promoting women, lawyers of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities into leading roles at the firm.

Koopersmith has also served on the boards of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Her Justice, the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, and Equal Justice Works.

“The adage that life works in mysterious ways certainly proved true for me… I have been able to ensure that this firm—that I am so, so honored to lead—does more to advance social justice than I could ever do alone,” said Koopersmith. 

Kim Koopersmith ’84 and Mary Ellen Kris ’76

Jennifer A. White-Reid ’98
The Honorable Deborah A. Batts Life of Commitment Award

White-Reid is the chief of staff and senior advisor to the CEO of the Urban Resource Institute, a non-profit that tackles domestic violence, homelessness, and poverty. She also currently serves as the co-chair of the NYC Coalition of Domestic Violence Residential Providers and is a former board member of the NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Before joining URI, she was a senior staff attorney at South Brooklyn Legal Services helping people impacted by domestic violence.

“When I think of Judge Batts’s legacy and impact, I can only hope that my small contributions to the field—particularly in serving marginalized communities—inspires future lawyers to engage in meaningful work that promotes equity and inclusion and empowers individuals and communities,” said White-Reid. “More than ever, we need lawyers who are engaged citizens willing to devote themselves to the causes that expand access to justice.” 

Dean Matthew Diller and Jennifer A. White-Reid ’98

Patrick J. Foye ’81
The James F. Gill Spirit of Hope Award

Foye served as president, and later as chairman and CEO, of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and now serves as CEO of ASTM North America, an infrastructure public-private partnership firm. Foye was previously deputy chairman of the Long Island Power Authority, downstate chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, and in 2011 became executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He previously worked in the private sector, including as managing partner of the Brussels, Budapest and Moscow offices of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and as executive vice-president of Aimco, a real estate investment trust.

“I’m incredibly honored to receive this award,” said Foye. 

Patrick J. Foye ’81 and Dora Galacatos ’96

William P. Harrington ’82
William F. (BJ) Harrington ’59 (awarded posthumously)
Frederick J. Martin Jr. (awarded posthumously)
The Spirit of Service Awards

Harrington is a partner at Bleakley Platt & Schmidt LLP, as well as chairman of the firm’s Executive Committee and head of the Litigation Practice Group. His father, William F. (BJ) Harrington, along with Frederick J. Martin Jr., were also former partners at Bleakley Platt before their deaths, in addition to being leaders in their commitment to service and philanthropy. “To see model lawyers you need to look no further than Bill Harrington, BJ Harrington, and Fred Martin,” said Fordham Law Dean Emeritus John Feerick in presenting the award.

“They talk about standing on the shoulders of giants…. Fred Martin and my dad were giants. Not because they deem themselves to be but because they just were,” said Bill Harrington. 

William P. Harrington ’82 and Dean Emeritus John Feerick ’61

Eleanor Acer ’88
Kennji Kizuka
The Champion of Justice Award

Acer and Kizuka were presented with the Champion of Justice Award by Jojo Annobil ’90, executive director of the Immigrant Justice Corps and co-chair of the Feerick Center’s Advisory Board, in honor of “their tireless work promoting the due process rights of asylum seekers at our southern border,” said Annobil. “It’s hard work, it’s difficult, it’s also life and death. But that’s what they stand for.” 

Acer is the director of Human Rights First’s refugee protection program. Acer serves on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration and on the Advisory Board of the International Detention Coalition. “It is an honor for me today—and a particular honor as a Fordham Law graduate—to receive the champion of justice award on behalf of Human Rights First,” said Acer.

Kizuka is director of asylum policy at the International Rescue Committee. He was previously director of research and analysis at Human Rights First and an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow. “The work that the center does for immigrant rights has an incredible impact which everyone here knows so well,” said Kizuka. “Together, we have to redouble our efforts to welcome our newest neighbors in their hour of need.”

Dean Emeritus John Feerick ’61, Eleanor Acer ’88, Kennji Kizuka, and Dean Matthew Diller


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