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Billock Fund Eases Law School Loan Repayment for 14 Duquesne Alumni

The first group of Duquesne University School of Law alumni involved in public service has received loan repayment assistance totaling $70,000 through The William B. Billock Loan Repayment Assistance Program, an endowment fund established at the University last year.

As part of its mission as a Spiritan University, Duquesne not only serves students, but the poor and less fortunate. Through law clinics and educational programs, Duquesne students discover the vital roles that attorneys can play in shaping a better society.

However, some law alumni with outstanding loans find themselves torn between lower-paying careers that pursue social justice and higher paying jobs in the private sector. A typical private law school graduate may carry more than $1,100 per month in debt payments while the median annual starting salary for new legal aid attorneys is about $36,000. The Billock endowment is assisting alumni who pursue public sector careers by relieving some of this financial burden.

This fund has made a difference for Hope Guy, a 2003 Duquesne law school alumna who is a staff attorney for KidsVoice, representing abused, neglected and at-risk children in Allegheny County Juvenile Court.

“I am grateful for the assistance,” Guy said. “Obviously, I am not in a field of law that offers competitive pay. However, I believe everyone in this field would acknowledge that we aren’t here for the salaries, but to help others in need. Generous gifts such as these ensure that we are able to continue our work and not be overwhelmed with student loans and other debts.”

Guy was one of the initial 14 recipients. The others are:

  • Nicole Scialabba, staff attorney, Neighborhood Legal Services Association, Pittsburgh
  • Kirsha Weyandt, associate counsel, Allegheny County Office of Conflict Counsel, who represents indigent criminal defendants
  • The Rev. Ernest L. Poland Jr., attorney for Justice for All Legal Services, which provides low-cost or pro-bono services to indigent clients in Mineral County, W. Va.
  • Maria Balling-Peck, guardian ad litem for displaced children for Fayette County Children and Youth Services
  • Justin J. Ketchel, assistant public defender, Blair County
  • Courtney Butterfield, assistant district attorney, Allegheny County
  • Genylynn Marie Cosgrove, prosecutor, City of Lancaster, Ohio
  • Nicole Thomas Wetherton, assistant district attorney, Allegheny County
  • Jessica Sue Roberts, senior judicial law clerk and protection from abuse coordinator, Washington County Court of Common Pleas
  • Matthew Kopecki, judicial law clerk, Berks County Court of Common Pleas
  • Matthew Rogers, judicial law clerk, Washington County Court of Common Pleas
  • Louise M. McGuire, assistant district attorney, Allegheny County
  • Julie A. Brennan, judicial law clerk, Butler County Court of Common Pleas

Applications are due for the next round of funding by Sept. 1, 2010 and will be available on the law school’s Web site, www.duq.edu/law.

The late William B. Billock, a 1938 law school graduate, served as vice president of Gulf Oil Corp. and represented the company around the world as head of industrial relations. The $1.4 million endowment was established in his name to encourage pursuit of careers in nonprofit public interest law or in local, state or federal government.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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