2023 Hall of Fame Honorees

ANN ABER, CLASS OF 2003

Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer & Secretary, JOANN Stores

Ann has been practicing law since 2003 and is currently the Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, & Secretary for JOANN Stores (NASDAQ: JOAN). JOANN is the nation’s category leader in sewing, fabrics and is one of the fastest growing competitors in the arts and crafts industry. At JOANN, Ann oversees the legal, trade compliance, risk management, and ESG functions. Prior to JOANN, Ann was General Counsel at a privately held specialty food manufacturer and before that was Counsel for Eaton Corporation. Ann also practiced law in private practice at Jones Day’s Private Equity Practice Group. Ann is very active in community organizations. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the National Advisory Council for On Our Sleeves, and the CSU|LAW’s Board of Visitors. Ann attended John Carroll University (BA, Political Science, 1999) and Cleveland State University College of Law (JD, summa cum laude, 2003). Ann is a life-long Northeast Ohioan, currently living in Lakewood with her husband and three children.  


TONY ASHER, CLASS OF 1963

Founder, Weston, Inc.

Anthony J. Asher is a first generation Lebanese American.  He graduated from St. Edward’s High School and attended The University of Dayton. Later he graduated from Cleveland State University’s College of Law and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in October 1963. Tony began his career working at a title agency while attending law school.  Shortly before graduation, with his father he launched Guardian Title and Guarantee Agency Inc., which grew to be one of the largest title agencies in Greater Cleveland.  Subsequently in 1972, he started Weston, Inc., an industrial real estate ownership firm that is now one of the largest privately held industrial property owners in an eight-state area. Tony has gifted the Weston Ideation Lab to Cleveland State University, co-founded the Asher Center of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the Holy Spirit University in Kaslik, Lebanon, and endowed a chair in family medicine and global health at the University Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.  He was approved as Honorary Consul of Lebanon for the Greater Cleveland area where an official Cleveland office was established. He was also knighted by the Catholic church in the order of St. Gregory in 2001.


STEVE AUVIL, CLASS OF 1993

Office Managing Partner, Cleveland, Squire Patton Boggs

Steven M. Auvil has been the Managing Partner of Squire Patton Boggs’ Cleveland office since 2021. He previously served as leader of the firm’s Intellectual Property (IP) Litigation Practice for nearly a decade. His practice focuses primarily on IP disputes. He was an engineer before he became a patent lawyer.  He obtained his JD (summa cum laude) from CSU|LAW and later graduated with an LLM from NYU Law before beginning his legal career at Jones Day in Cleveland.  He is the inaugural and current President of The Kathleen M. O’Malley American Inn of Court, and previously served as President of the Cleveland Intellectual Property Law Association. Since 2007, Steve has been listed in Chambers USA Leading Lawyers and, in 2006, The Best Lawyers in America. He is a volunteer board member of the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Chapter and the Playhouse Square Foundation. He regularly mentors CSU|LAW students interested in IP law, and, under two former deans, previously served on the adjunct faculty at CSU|LAW and on CSU|LAW’s Board of Visitors.


JOYCE E. BARRETT, CLASS OF 1971

Former Adjunct Professor, CSU College of Law

Joyce Barrett realized she wanted to be an attorney while working as a legal secretary after college. She applied to the CSU College of Law and received a full scholarship, graduating in 1971. Joyce became a very successful attorney in private practice, specializing in family law. She worked on several Ohio Supreme Court cases that set new precedents in family and marriage law. She chaired and served on numerous professional committees in the field of family law, including the Ohio Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Child Support Enforcement. She served as an Adjunct Professor at CSU|LAW and authored “Mastering the Complexities of Family Law” in 1991. In 2022, Joyce and her husband John Krebs established the Joyce E. Barrett ‘71 Endowed Scholarship in order to provide future students with the life-changing opportunity that Joyce had at CSU|LAW. 


KAY E. BENJAMIN

Former Records Officer, CSU College of Law

Kay Benjamin graduated from Howard University and earned a MEd and PhD from Cleveland State University. Before joining Cleveland State University College of Law in 1978, she was a first grade teacher for the CH-UH Schools, but returned to Washington, DC to be a Staff Assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives during the Nixon Impeachment Hearings. Her first position with the law school was Administrative Assistant to the Legal Clinic and in 1980, she became the Records Officer. Her responsibilities included maintaining student files and transcripts, grades, certifying bar applicants, facilitating Ethics and Professional Responsibility seminars, and providing stats to deans, faculty, staff, student groups, and University administrators. She restructured the testing and grading process by implementing the use of exam numbers to ensure the anonymity of students. She worked closely with the University Registrar and maintained an excellent working relationship with the Bar Admissions staff at the Supreme Court of Ohio. She was a member of the CSU Black Faculty and Staff Organization. She created and directed The Cleveland State University College of Law ARTS Players, a troop of administrative staff and others who performed comedy skits and song parodies during retirement celebrations for faculty and staff. Her office was always a welcoming place for students as they navigated their law school careers. In 2001, coming full circle, she joined the Teacher Education faculty of CSU’s College of Education and Human Services. She retired in 2007, but continued as adjunct faculty until 2017. She is very proud that her son, Ryan, is a 2001 Cleveland State University College of Law graduate.


TERRY BILLUPS, CLASS OF 2005

Chief General Counsel, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority

Terry M. Billups serves as Chief General Counsel of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA).  As Chief General Counsel, he serves as a visionary member of the Executive Leadership Team and provides strategic counsel and leadership on legal, business, and operational matters to advance the Authority’s mission and strategy. Before joining CMHA, Terry was the founder and principal owner of Billups Law, LLC, where he provided a full range of legal services focusing primarily on labor and employment, school law matters (K-12 & higher ed), and workplace investigations. Prior to starting his own legal practice, Terry served as the Chief General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Ursuline College. Prior to attending law school, Terry played professional football in the National Football League (NFL) for the New England Patriots, the Miami Dolphins, and the Dallas Cowboys. He also played in the inaugural season of the XFL for the World Champion Los Angeles Xtreme. Terry serves on several non-profit Boards and Committees, including the Ginn Academy of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the CSU Law Alumni Association. He was also a key member of the CSU Law School Name Committee, where he was instrumental in advocating that the law school change its name.


DAVID P. BURKE, CLASS OF 1980

Shareholder, Carlton Fields, P.A.;
General Counsel, Amalie Oil Company

David received his Master of Laws in taxation in 1982 from New York University and chaired the Carlton Fields Tax Practice for over 25 years. He is the General Counsel of Amalie Oil Company and a member of CSU College of Law Board of Visitors. David’s practice has been in state and federal taxation planning and controversy before the IRS and state taxing authorities. He has represented many of the Fortune 100 professional sports teams and professional athletes in tax planning and controversies, saving clients over $100 million in taxes. He was board certified in taxation by the Florida Bar from 1987 through 2022 and was a member of the Florida Bar Tax Certification Committee. David served for decades in the Tax Section of the Florida Bar as a Director of the State and Local Tax Committee and as an Executive Director of the Tax Section. He served as the shareholder and Chair of Tax Practice (1994 – 2017) in Carlton Fields, PA. David has spoken and written on state and federal tax topics for the Tax Section and the NYU Annual Federal Tax Program. David has been inducted into the Hall of Fame in taxation for Florida Trend’s Legal Elite. One of his co-authored articles was cited by the Florida Supreme Court. 


JUDGE PATRICK CARROLL, CLASS OF 1977

Retired Judge, Lakewood Municipal Court

Patrick Carroll served as judge of the Lakewood Municipal Court for almost 32 years and is currently serving by assignment by the Ohio Supreme Court.  Prior to taking the bench, from 1979 to 1984 Judge Carroll served as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for the Cuyahoga County Civil Division and in private practice until 1990. Judge Carroll served as a Law Clerk for Hon. John V. Corrigan at the Eighth District Court of Appeals. From 1981 to 1990 Judge Carroll was an Adjunct Faculty Member for the CSU College of Law. He received his J.D. from Cleveland State College of Law, serving as the Research Editor for the Cleveland State Law Review. He has written several reported decisions and legal articles, most recently, The Inequity of Third Part Bail Practices, 53 Loyola Univ. Chicago Law Journal, 153 (2022).  Judge Carroll is Co-Chair of the Editorial Board of the Ohio Jury Instructions Committee for the Ohio Judicial Conference, the Education Chair for the Association of Municipal/County Court Judges of Ohio, a past Member of the Supreme Court of Ohio Continuing Legal Education Commission, and a member of the Judicial College’s and Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s Board of Trustees. Judge Carroll is a life member of the Eighth District Judicial Conference, a two-time recipient of the President’s Award from the Association of Municipal/County Judges of Ohio, a winner of the Bronze Key Award from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and a faculty member for the Judicial College.   


JOHN S. CIPOLLA, CLASS OF 1989

Firm Vice Chair, Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP

John S. Cipolla, Vice Chair of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP, has 38 years of experience in patent and trademark law, on behalf of plaintiffs and defendants in the areas of patents, copyrights, trade secrets, product configuration, and trademarks John has successfully resolved a diverse range of federal and state litigation claims and disputes before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. John is both recognized as a “Leading Lawyer” in Intellectual Property (Ohio, Band 1) by Chambers USA and by The Best Lawyers in America© in Litigation – Intellectual Property and Patent Law. Having served on Calfee’s Management Committee since 2010, John was elected Vice Chair of the firm in 2021. He served as Chair of the Intellectual Property practice group for over 15 years. The IP Practice Group more than doubled in size during John’s leadership into over 45 IP professionals covering all areas of IP practice. John serves as Chair of CSU|LAW’s IP Advisory Council and as Board President of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Cleveland, and he is a member of the Cleveland Intellectual Property Law Association (CIPLA). John earned his J.D., cum laude, from CSU|LAW and his B.S. in Electronic Technology, cum laude, from Bowling Green State University.


JUDGE JOHN J. DONNELLY, CLASS OF 1969

Former Judge, Cuyahoga County Probate Court

Judge John J. Donnelly served as the Presiding Judge of the Cuyahoga County Probate Court from 1991 until his retirement in 2008. Judge Donnelly began his career in Cleveland’s historic old courthouse and worked from the bottom to the top position in the probate court. He worked as part of the court’s janitorial staff in college, then he was hired as a desk clerk during the day while attending evening classes at Cleveland State University College of Law. Upon graduation he was hired as Court Administrator and Chief Trial Referee. Judge Donnelly was elected Associate Judge in 1980—serving alongside his judicial mentor, the Honorable Francis J. Talty—and was eventually elevated to Presiding Judge. Donnelly’s skills as a jurist earned the confidence of the Ohio Supreme Court, which chose him to preside over all the civil litigation regarding the Home State Savings and Loan failure—litigation that involved a multitude of million-dollar claims. During his career Judge Donnelly served as President of the Ohio Probate Judges Association and Chairman of the Ohio Judicial Conference. He received numerous awards for superior judicial service from the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association as well as the Distinguished Alumni Award from Cleveland State University College of Law in 1986. Upon his retirement, the Cuyahoga County Metroparks named the John J. Donnelly Nature Center in his honor for his exemplary leadership in appointing the governing board for so many years.


ARTHUR ELK, CLASS OF 1973

Elk + Elk, Managing Partner

For nearly five decades, Arthur Elk – Managing Partner at Elk + Elk – has been passionate about protecting the rights of injury victims as an Ohio personal injury lawyer, representing medical malpractice and wrongful death victims. His impressive career in law began two years out of law school when he was elected Ashland, Ohio’s County Prosecuting Attorney for two successive four-year terms – making him the youngest prosecuting attorney in Ohio. When he decided to enter the private practice of law, Art found great satisfaction in providing injury victims with quality legal services in all major areas of injury law. When he’s not fighting for the rights of those who have suffered injuries, Art enjoys spending time with his wife, four children, and grandchildren – a reminder of why he is so passionate about protecting the rights of injury victims.


PROFESSOR JOEL JAY FINER

Former CSU|LAW Faculty Member (Deceased)

Professor Joel Finer began his long and illustrious career at the University of Texas School of Law, where he headed the Federal Appellate Defender Program. His scholarly research on religious rights in the use of psychedelic drugs led him to aid in the appellate defense of Dr. Timothy Leary, the noted psychotherapist that studied hallucinogenic drugs like LSD and marijuana. Professor Finer then worked at a New York law firm, was a visiting professor at Stanford University, and was a member of the faculty at University of Arizona College of Law for 10 years. Professor Finer began his tenure with Cleveland State College of Law in 1980, and retired in 2008. He was well known for his love of learning, teaching, and he often told his students, “Everything is open to question; challenge me, challenge the judges, challenge yourself, but remember to do what’s right and to love what you’re doing.” The Cleveland State University College of Law Professor Joel J. Finer Award is given annually to the law school’s top Criminal Procedure students. As a tribute to Professor Finer’s teaching, scholarship, and impact on the lives of students, the Joel J. Finer Award was created more than 15 years ago by his former student, Carter Strang ’84, a partner at the Cleveland firm Tucker Ellis. To date, over 60 CSU|LAW students have received the award.


GUS FRANGOS, CLASS OF 1982

President and General Counsel, Cuyahoga Land Bank

Gus Frangos graduated with honors from CSU College of Law in 1982. He served as an Associate Attorney at the firm of Ulmer and Berne starting in 1982, until elected to Cleveland City Council in 1986 where he represented Cleveland’s Ward 13. In 1993, he was appointed a Magistrate in the Cleveland Municipal Court and served until 1997. Thereafter, he continued his private practice to the present date. Gus crafted state legislation in 2005, beginning with HB 294, which streamlined and reformed tax foreclosure of vacant and abandoned properties. He later crafted legislation in 2009, creating County Land Banks. There are now 65 Ohio County Land Banks as a result of Gus’ legislative work. He has served as the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s President since its inception in 2009. He is considered an expert in the field of land banking and his Ohio land banking legislation is considered to be a national model.


TOM GREEN, CLASS OF 2002

Shareholder, Kastner Westman & Wilkins, LLC.

Tom Green is a Shareholder of Akron boutique labor and employment law firm Kastner Westman & Wilkins. An Ohio State Bar Association Certified Specialist in Labor and Employment Law, he represents a range of clients in comprehensive workplace law matters from locally owned small businesses to large, multi-state employers. Tom grew up in McDonald, a small, Northeast Ohio steel mill town and began his graduate career as a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier before pursuing a career in law as a non-traditional student. The first-generation lawyer (and college graduate) regularly gives back to his law school, at which he met his wife, Manju Gupta (JD ’03, MBA ’03). Tom serves on the Board of Visitors, as a 1L Student Mentor, as a Dean’s Leadership Fellow Coach, and in other roles where he can make a positive impact on the career paths of law students and new lawyers. Outside of the law school, he’s served in multiple community leadership positions, including as the Chair of the Board of Directors at the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, an organization with which he’s volunteered for many years. 


JUDGE LINDSAY JENKINS, CLASS OF 2002

United States District Judge, Northern District of Illinois

Lindsay C. Jenkins became a United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago in February 2023. President Joseph R. Biden nominated Judge Jenkins to a seat on the bench in July 2022, and her nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 14, 2023.

Born and raised in Cleveland, Judge Jenkins graduated from Miami of Ohio with a BS in Business Administration and is a summa cum laude graduate of CSU College of Law. Judge Jenkins started her legal career in Cleveland, first as a law clerk to the Honorable Solomon Oliver, Jr. and later as an Associate at Jones Day in Cleveland. She moved to Chicago in 2006 and spent 15 years as a Federal Prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. While a Federal Prosecutor, Judge Jenkins held a number of supervisory roles and by the end of her tenure, she was the Chief of the Criminal Division, supervising the work of approximately 150 prosecutors in nine criminal prosecution sections. Prior to taking the bench, she was a partner with the Law Firm Cooley, LLP in Chicago.


HON. DIANE KARPINSKI, CLASS OF 1980

Former Judge, Eighth District Court of Appeals of Ohio (Deceased)

Judge Diane J. Karpinski was devoted to CSU and CSU|LAW. She taught English courses at CSU before graduating from CSU|LAW, becoming an attorney and eventually being elected to the Eighth District Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County. Prior to being elected as a Judge, she was an Assistant Attorney General in the office of the Ohio Attorney General from 1982-1995, which included the administration of Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher (1991-1995). Judge Karpinski then went on to teach legal writing at CSU|LAW. In honor of her Polish heritage and interest in Films, she arranged for Educators from Poland to come to CSU and offer courses in Polish film making and to teach the Polish language.


ERICA LAZZARO, CLASS OF 2004

Executive Vice President of Publisher Services & General Counsel, OverDrive, Inc.

Erica Lazzaro joined OverDrive in 2003, and is the company’s Executive Vice President, Publisher Services & General Counsel.  She oversees the Legal, Publisher Services, and Content Services teams. In her role she leads the teams working with OverDrive’s content suppliers, including the operational/sales relationships and the licensing of OverDrive’s products and services. Erica received a BS in Mass Communications from Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio and graduated cum laude with a JD from CSU|LAW. She is admitted to practice law in Ohio, and in front of the United States Supreme Court. Erica has been a member and officer of the Gross Schechter Day School Board of Trustees since 2013, and is currently serving as its President. She is also on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland.  She lives in Moreland Hills, Ohio with her husband Anthony, a fellow CSU|LAW alum, and her son and daughter. 


JENNIFER MOUNTCASTLE, CLASS OF 2000

Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, and Corporate Insurance Director, The Huntington National Bank

Jennifer Mountcastle currently is in-house counsel at Huntington Bank, where she manages litigation, corporate insurance, and legal operations out of its Columbus, Ohio headquarters.  She previously practiced law from 2000-2015 at Thompson Hine in both Cleveland and Columbus, where she was a litigation partner, was active with the firm’s pro bono program, and chaired the firm’s Lawyer Personnel Committee that managed professional development and compensation for the firm’s non-partner lawyers.  Jen was a member of the Leadership Columbus Class of 2013, and was recognized by Law360 in 2012 as one of five product liability “Rising Star” lawyers nationwide. Jen was a co-recipient of a Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing in 2008.  She has been active on several non-profit boards in Cleveland and Columbus during her career and regularly volunteers with People In Need of Delaware County and with West Broad Elementary in Columbus.  Jen is a founding Co-Chair of the litigation section of the Columbus chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, has been an active mentor in the Ohio Supreme Court Lawyer to Lawyer Mentoring Program, and is also active with the Huntington Legal Department’s summer internship program.  A summa cum laude graduate of CSU|LAW, Jen was Executive Editor of the Law Review and Vice Chair of the Moot Court team.   


JUDGE CLIFTON NEWMAN, CLASS OF 1976

Judge, South Carolina Circuit Court

Judge Clifton Newman is a two-time Cleveland State alumnus. He has served as a South Carolina Circuit Court Judge for 23 years. Prior to returning to South Carolina where he practiced civil and criminal prosecution, his legal career began in Ohio, where he formed Belcher and Newman, PA. He has presided over numerous high-profile civil and criminal cases including The State v. Michael Slager, a police shooting case; The State v. Nathaniel Rowland, the “Fake Uber” case; and most recently, The State v. Richard Alexander Murdaugh. He is a Business Court Judge and has served as Presiding Judge over a specialized docket of complex construction defect cases. He is a member of the SC Chief Justice’s Commission on the Profession, the SC Commission on Judicial Conduct, and the John Belton O’Neall Inn of Court. He is the past President of the American College of Business Court Judges and Co-Chair of the Judges Initiative Committee of the Business Law Section of the ABA. He has served as a Program Faculty Member of the National Judicial College and is an Adjunct Professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law.


SUSAN PETERSEN, CLASS OF 1997

Partner, Petersen & Petersen

Susan Petersen’s career has always been based on telling people’s stories – first, as a broadcast journalist at several Ohio television news stations, and then, as an esteemed civil trial lawyer in Ohio’s courtrooms.  She worked in the trenches as a reporter at WEWS-TV5 in Cleveland while attending law school, developing a knack for digging deep to uncover the truth behind every story.  It was these journalistic and investigative skills that launched a legal career in which she has always represented everyday people in catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases.  Since starting her own law firm in 2004, she has recovered over $50 million in verdicts and settlements for her clients in courtrooms across Ohio. From the very beginning, Susan has been an advocate for women in law, writing and producing CSU|LAW’s 2000 Documentary “’Remember the Ladies’ – A Salute to Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s First Female Graduates,” and working her way up the ranks to President of the Ohio Women’s Bar Association in 2007.  In 2008, Crain’s Cleveland Business selected her to its class of “Forty under 40” – a salute to Northeast Ohio’s most influential people under the age of 40.  Since then, she has continued to lead, serving for more than a decade on the boards of the Ohio Association for Justice, the Cleveland Academy of Trial Lawyers, and the CSU|LAW Board of Visitors, now a member of its Executive Committee.  Her trial skills have earned her numerous recognitions, including induction as a member of both the American Board of Trial Advocates in 2013, and the International Society of Barristers in London, England in 2019.  During 2019, the International Barristers Society elected Susan to serve on its Foundation Board, and to its Board of Governors in 2022.  Susan has been honored as an “Ohio Super Lawyer” by Law & Politics Magazine in every edition since 2013.  She continues to tirelessly advocate for her clients and to pay it forward to the practice as a frequent lecturer on trial practice in Ohio.


WILLIAM T. PLESEC, CLASS OF 1971

Partner (retired), Jones Day

William “Bill” T. Plesec, began his legal career in 1971 as a Trial Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. He held that position until 1976, when he joined Jones Day and became a Partner in 1981. He concluded his career at Jones Day in 2011, when he retired from the practice. Throughout his career, Bill’s practice was primarily centered on major case litigation and trials involving alleged violations of the antitrust, consumer protection, contract, export, intellectual property, product liability, RICO, and tax laws. Bill also had extensive experience in a wide variety of federal grand jury investigations and internal corporate investigations. He was licensed to practice in Ohio, the District of Columbia, and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, several U.S., State, and District Courts. Bill is a past recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Award and is a Life Member of the Alumni Association of the Law School. Over the years, he has donated his time and resources to a large number of civic and community organizations, provided pro bono legal services to those in need, mentored new lawyers and served on several non-profit boards, including the CSU|LAW Board of Visitors.


RENEE TRAMBLE RICHARD, CLASS OF 1988

President/CEO, Corporate College, and Vice President, Legal Services & Risk Management, General Counsel, Cuyahoga Community College

Renee Tramble Richard is the President & CEO of Corporate College and Vice President—Legal Services and Risk Management , and General Counsel at Cuyahoga Community College. Cuyahoga Community College is one of the nation’s largest community colleges, a 300-million-dollar enterprise, serving over 40,000 students and 3,000 employees.  In these roles, Renee is a member of executive leadership, serving in the President’s Cabinet and the President’s Council. She represents the College Board of Trustees at its Audit Committee, Investment Committee, Management Committee (procurement and compensation), and Executive Committee (governance) meetings. As the CEO of Corporate College, she leads the division responsible for corporate training and providing workforce training solutions. As the Chief Legal Officer of the College, the Internal Audit, Risk Management, Compliance, and Institutional Equity departments are four of her five reporting units. In her 25+ years working with capital markets, Ms. Richard led numerous financing teams in the issuance of billions in tax-exempt bonds, requiring compliance with IRS and SEC regulations. While employed by four of Cleveland’s largest corporate law firms, Renee worked across a broad spectrum of organizations and industry sectors, including banks, port authorities, healthcare organizations and housing finance agencies. She worked on complex transactions including letter of credit financings and layered real estate financings. Renee began her career as a bank examiner for the State of Ohio. She transitioned into the realm of public accounting by becoming a certified public accountant, advancing from Staff Auditor to Principal. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Kent State University, an MBA with a concentration in Management from Cleveland State University and a JD from Cleveland State University College of Law. Renee completed Data-Driven Decision Making for Business Leaders at Harvard University Extension School and is a member of the Deloitte Board Ready Women 2021 Cohort and In Counsel with Corporate Women. Her Board portfolio includes Care Alliance Health Center, the YWCA of Cleveland, and AES Management Dba Louisiana Popeye’s Chicken. 


HON. MICHAEL J. RYAN, CLASS OF 1996

Judge, Eighth District Court of Appeals for the State of Ohio

Judge Michael John Ryan is a 1989 graduate of Cleveland Heights High School. He is also a product of Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). Judge Ryan has been serving as a judicial officer for more than 20 years: four and half years as a Magistrate for Cleveland Municipal Court, seven years as an elected Judge for Cleveland Municipal Court, 10 years as an elected Judge for the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division, and now as a judge on Ohio’s Eighth District Court of Appeals. He graduated from Allegheny College in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts in English then subsequently received his Juris Doctorate in 1996 from Cleveland State University College of Law. Judge Ryan has volunteered as a facilitator with Teen Domestic Violence Workshops, judge and coach for CMSD Mock Trial Competitions, instructor for the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s 3 R’s Programs, tutor and mentor for CMSD students, member of Cleveland Foundation Scholarship Selection Committee, baseball and basketball youth coach, and countless other initiatives. Judge Ryan serves as a trustee with St. Edward High School, Step Forward, and was recently the chairman of Sisters of Charity Foundation. He has received several awards for his service and his professional contributions: Allegheny College Gold Citation, Omega Psi Phi Citizen and Civic Leader of the Year, National Association of Social Workers Elected Official of the Year, Cleveland State Alumni Association Resiliency Award Recipient and more. Judge Ryan is married, has two children, is a Deacon and Trustee for the Pentecostal Church of Christ and a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.  


JAMES SAMMON, CLASS OF 1994

Corporate Counsel, Jenne, Inc.

Jim Sammon comes from a proud CSU|LAW legacy family.  His father Marty ’61, brother Al ’84, Uncle Tom O’Malley ’57, cousins Hon. Kathy O’Malley ’89, Joe O’Malley ’92 and Kohl Schneider ’92 are all CSU|LAW grads.  But none are more important than the “best thing Jim ever got out of law school” – his amazing wife, classmate (and life-coach/partner), Jennifer (nee Vinciguerra) Sammon ’94.  Jim further followed his father Marty — one of the original Founders of the CSULAA — in his alumni involvement and has been an active and vocal Alumni member – serving as the President of the CSULAA in 2014-15 and acting as chair and emcee of the Annual Recognition Luncheon for several years.  Jim began his legal career as a Judicial Clerk for Judge Donald Nugent (also a HOF Inductee), first on the Eighth District Court of Appeals and then Federal District Court.  For 30 years Jim has been a strident advocate for his clients and always maintained an eclectic practice.  Jim litigated and tried matters for individuals including wrongful death, medical malpractice, wrongful discharge and injury matters.  At the same time, Jim defended small and large corporations in complex civil litigation, judges and lawyers against legal malpractice claims, and many others in both Court and arbitrations.  Jim has been a partner at several Cleveland firms and recently took the position as Corporate Counsel at Jenne, Inc., a leading cloud services brokerage and value-added technology distributor.  Jim is a proud member of the Cleveland Irish community. He is one of the original founders of the Irish American Law Society of Cleveland and was recognized by The Irish Legal 100 Attorneys in America in 2021. Jim serves on the Parade Committee, President of the Irish Civic Association, and is currently active in assisting with the development of the historic Irishtown Bend Project.  Jim’s civic involvement includes serving as a citizen member of Shaker’s Public Works & Safety Committee and St. Dominic Parish Finance Committee.  Jim is committed to the Cleveland Autism Speaks chapter for which Jen, Jim, and his lifelong friend Chef Michael Symon have helped raise over $1 million through the Chef’s Gala for Autism Speaks.  Jim is a proud graduate of St. Edward High School and a Past Recipient of the Legal Eagles Man of the Year Award.  Jim received a bachelor’s degree from Miami University.  But more than anything, Jim and Jen’s greatest achievement are their three sons Joe (23), Jimmy Jr. (20), and Sean (19).


MICHAEL SCHWARTZ

President Emeritus, Cleveland State University and Kent State University 

Michael Schwartz is a native of Chicago and attended the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. He earned the baccalaureate in psychology in 1958, the Master of Arts in labor and industrial relations in 1959, and the Ph.D. in sociology in 1962. He then conducted academic research, taught at Wayne State University, later and moved to Indiana University, Bloomington. He became Chair of the Department of Sociology and Social Psychology at Florida Atlantic University and then Dean of the College of Social Science there. He then moved to Kent State University to become the Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research. He later served there as Interim-President, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, and was given the additional title of Provost. He became President of Kent State University in 1982 and served in that role until 1991 when he became President Emeritus and Trustees Professor. He taught courses in higher education administration and organization, the history of higher education in the U.S., and statistical methods in social research. A decade later, he became the President of Cleveland State University and served in that capacity until 2009, when he again returned to teaching and writing as President Emeritus and Trustees Professor. He is the author of more than 50 papers and books. Now retired, he has served as a member of and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Cleveland Institute of Art.


MARIA SPANGLER, CLASS OF 2006

Director, Community Engagement, The Sherwin-Williams Company; Director, The Sherwin-Williams Foundation

Maria Spangler leads The Sherwin-Williams Company’s enterprise strategy, which drives corporate social responsibility initiatives and programs, building alignment and synergies with shareholders, customers and employees. With a particular focus and passion around inclusion and talent attraction and development, she works strategically with a diverse set of internal and external stakeholders to build relationships and drive excellence. In addition, Maria directs the programs and investments of the Sherwin-Williams Foundation, supporting brand-aligned causes and organizations most important to the more than 62,000 committed and generous Sherwin-Williams employees across their global footprint.  A proud two-time Viking, Maria was honored in 2006 to have been the first in her family to earn a Dual Law and Public Administration Master’s Degree. She is grateful for the experience at Cleveland State, which proved to be critical in building a firm foundation for a career rooted in service to others and her adopted home of Northeast Ohio.  Maria’s board memberships include: the Cleveland Foundation, Cuyahoga County Public Library, University Circle Incorporated, Cleveland Development Advisors, and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. 


LEADER ON THE RISE

DELANTÉ SPENCER THOMAS, CLASS OF 2016

Chief Ethics Officer, City of Cleveland

Delanté Spencer Thomas serves as the first-ever Chief Ethics Officer for the City of Cleveland. He provides advice and counsel to the Mayor and a city workforce of over 8,000 employees to promote integrity and compliance with Ohio Ethics Law. As a senior leader, Delanté is also a key figure in the City’s police reform agenda and internal accountability structures. Prior to joining City leadership, Delanté spent five years as Deputy Inspector General and Ethics Counsel for Cuyahoga County; two years in career services at Case Western Reserve University School of Law; and since 2017, has managed his own private consulting firm – LMP Solutions, LLC. Delanté has also taught as an adjunct faculty member at both Cleveland State and Case Western Reserve Universities. In 2020, Delanté was elected President of the Norman S. Minor Bar Association, overseeing Cleveland’s premier organization for Black legal professionals. He also currently serves on the board of trustees for the Cleveland State Law Alumni Association and is trustee emeritus of the Cleveland State University Alumni Association. Delanté’s honors include his selection as a 2021 Crains Cleveland 40 Under Forty honoree and the 2022 NAACP Rising Leader awardee.

Scroll to Top