Special COVID-19 Stories of Alumni Kindness
As challenging as the COVID-19 pandemic has been to society, we've seen many stories of kindness, courage and community service that make the crisis a little easier to bear.
Judge David Spurgeon, L'96, Presides Over Social Distanced Vows
Judge David Spurgeon presided over the wedding of Duquesne alumna Jenny Joyce and Rick Rump in April 2020. The couple, who had been scheduled to be married in Duquesne's chapel on April 18 but was unable due to COVID-19, wanted to be married on that date because it was the wedding anniversary of the bride's grandparents. "I'm not one of the front line workers in the medical field, a first responder or someone working in a grocery store that interacts with the public each day," said Spurgeon. "These people are making sacrifices every day, so it was no-brainer to officiate the wedding. My entire career has been in public service, and this was just a natural extension of my judicial duties I took an oath to uphold. Ensuring this couple were married on the day that they chose provided some normalcy and control of their future lives together." Jenny and Rick will have their church wedding in Duquesne Chapel later this year.
Amy Dolan Strano, L'92, and the Achieva Family Trust
Now more than ever, people with disabilities are relying on funds from their special needs trust to pay bills and to enable them to pay for necessary services and supplies.
"The non-profit that I lead, Achieva, continues to operate to serve the beneficiaries of the special needs trusts that we administer," says Amy Dolan Strano, Senior Vice President of Achieva and President of Achieva Family Trust. "Because of the social service support that we provide to people with disabilities, we are considered to be a life-sustaining business. A core group of us continue to come into the office on a daily basis to make sure that the services that our beneficiaries rely on continue to be available. Other staff are working from home."
Dolan Strano says the organization continues to disburse funds from their Charitable Residual Account to assist people throughout Pennsylvania with things they need, such as home and vehicle modifications, ipads and supplies. "Many of our Education and Outreach activities are on hold because of the pandemic, but we are already planning for events in the Fall, such as a Free Legal Clinic for families of people with disabilities and a Future Planning Conference!" she said.
Alums from Opposite Sides of Court Bond in Service
Paul Isaac, L'86, and Mike Laffey, L'85, are congenial "adversaries" in their subrogation/lien collections practices. While discussing settling a case in April, Isaac realized Laffey was on the road during the call.
"Where are you headed?" asked Isaac. Laffey explained that he was taking his 40-foot motor home to New Jersey to allow a health care worker infected with Covid-19 reside in the motor home in her driveway, with her family, so that her family would not become infected.
Isaac was so impressed by his fellow alumnus that he shared the good news with Duquesne. Laffey didn't want a fuss over it. His wife, Leah Laffey, is a graduate from Duquesne's School of Nursing, so he understands the stress in the profession. "It's no big deal," he says. "I saw a Facebook group called RV's for MD's and just volunteered. They hooked me up with a nurse who had Covid-19 and wanted to shelter away from her family. I drove down, set it up and drove back."
The nurse's family, who wished to remain anonymous, was beyond grateful. They were at first leery that someone would lend an RV to their loved one to self-quarantine and thought it was a hoax. However, "driving all the way down from Pittsburgh, in the rain, setting up the RV, and then immediately driving back again, for a stranger, is an overwhelming example of brotherly love. You are the epitome of a modern-day Good Samaritan."
Issac is proud of his friend, though they may practice law on opposite sides of the courtroom. "Heck of a nice guy," said Isaac.
Professors Make a Difference in Life of Local Family
When Professor Wes Oliver his wife, Kathleen Oliver, and Associate Professor Joe Mistick, L'79, put their minds and connections together, the Ossos, a local Syrian refugee family, found relief. The professors worked with Hello Neighbor, whose mission is to support recently resettled refugees in Pittsburgh. Read the full story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Robert Fitzgerald, 2L, Gives Back
Many Americans are going above and beyond to make a difference during this time of uncertainty. Second year law student Robert Fitzgerald, is one of them. While most students are able to stay at home and continue with their studies, Robert has had to suspend his schoolwork for the time being to serve our country, right here in the greater Pittsburgh area.
Serving in the Army National Guard, he has been tasked with numerous duties helping the community during this pandemic. Most recently, he was staffing the Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Bank to provide essential nutrients to those individuals and families that are in need during this time. "Students like Robert truly represent the spirit of Duquesne University School of Law and our Spiritan roots," said Dean April Barton.
Student Receives President's Award for Recognizing Civil and Caring Conduct
First year law student Brianna Schmid was one of twenty students named by President Ken Gormley for the President's Awards for Recognizing Civil and Caring Conduct. The pop-up contest was designed for students and held in conjunction with Gormley's annual series that focuses on civil discourse.
Students received $200 prizes for creative video submissions that reflected the amazing things Duquesne University students saw or did during the current COVID-19 health crisis. Brianna's video featured a community car parade she helped organize for her grandmother's birthday.