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Madelyn Reilly, L’85

Madelyn ReillyGraduation Year: 1985

From Duquesne Lawyer
Fall/Winter 2015

In a sense, Madelyn Reilly’s journey to her present position as vice president for legal affairs and general counsel at Duquesne University began during chats with her grandfather, a judge and graduate of the Law School. “I still recall my childhood and his many stories of life on the Bluff. When I was accepted to the Law School, my grandfather was so proud he gave me his Duquesne class ring, which I still keep in my desk drawer to remind me of my roots.”   

Her own time on the Bluff was, not surprisingly, a profound experience. Singling out specific professors or classes is a daunting task, no doubt for diplomatic as well as sentimental reasons, but upon reflection some highlights come to her mind. “I really loved Legal History with Prof. Sam Astorino. The course provided context for all of the other courses in a way that made everything make more sense and reenergized my love of law,” Reilly says. “The most valuable skill that we learned in law school was how to think like a lawyer—how to assess situations and documents critically.  That analytical approach to situations is helpful for any career path, not just the legal field, but is an especially useful tool for my present position.” 

An in-house counsel must have the capacity to work with a diverse assortment of people and be able to effectively respond to a wide range of legal topics.  Leadership skills and a willingness to learn are vital tools for responding to the unpredictable situations that the job brings on a regular basis.

Besides a solid foundation from her time at the Law School, Reilly’s background is impressively eclectic. She taught high school for five years prior to law school, and immediately after receiving her J.D., she spent three years as a litigation associate at Eckert Seamans in Pittsburgh. This was followed by fifteen years as in-house counsel for PPG Industries, a global manufacturer of chemicals, coatings and glass. “Just prior to finding my way home to Duquesne, I worked for a short time with Ron Petnuch, who was a law school classmate, and his security company Intertech,” Reilly recalls. “I never dreamed that I would come full circle back to Duquesne as Vice President and General Counsel. For much of my in-house corporate practice I focused on the area of environmental law and litigation, then added compliance, ethics and risk management.  Those years provided a very strong foundation for my current role. Nonetheless, I have found that the practice of higher education law, for me, is absolutely the most personally rewarding, the most challenging, and the most fun of the legal areas in which I have been privileged to practice.”

Reilly is very quick to place her individual role in context with the greater whole, fully recognizing that success of a university is a multifaceted accomplishment. “We have an incredibly accomplished, engaged, and dedicated faculty with whom I get to interact regularly, and the President, the Spiritans and my colleagues on the Cabinet provide a source of strength and inspiration every day,” she explains. “And another highlight of my role is simply the privilege of having such a beautiful work environment. There is so much beauty in the work of the grounds crew and in the significant art that adorns many campus buildings and public areas which reflect our Catholic Spiritan identity.”

Serving Duquesne is foremost in her vision of the future, and her dedication stretches far beyond sentimental attachment. “Higher education has faced a sea change in the last decade.  The degree of scrutiny and demand for accountability from the public, government agencies, the press, parents, and students is enormous and unprecedented.  We need to respond to those challenges in a strong, positive and transparent manner and that will take the ongoing dedication and cooperation of the entire University community.”