The ballroom was full and the energy palpable as Texas Law students and supporters gathered on Sept. 15 for lively mingling, heartfelt speeches, and delicious food, meeting in service of an important cause: what the Texas Law community can accomplish, working together.
Speakers and attendees of the annual Scholarship Luncheon, held in the Zlotnik Family Ballroom at Rowling Hall, showed what happens when students are gifted a law education without significant financial burden.
Lives are changed. “With this scholarship, I was able to get married last May,” said speaker Wade Witcher ’25. “Without this scholarship, I would be working part-time jobs instead of working for journals and societies at the law school.”
Witcher described how his father’s cancer diagnosis initially put a halt to graduate school pursuits. But after choosing Texas Law and receiving the George E. Seay Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law, Witcher is currently president of the Intellectual Property Law Society and executive submissions editor for the Texas Intellectual Property Law Journal.
His story points to the law school’s mission of “real affordability,” as described by Dean Bobby Chesney in his own spirited remarks. Chesney explained that achieving that affordability, and the access that comes with it, requires the support of a “powerful and engaged alumni base.” That mission and support were both powerfully demonstrated at the luncheon, which featured 263 attendees.
At this year’s event, other speakers also celebrated what scholarships can do—not only for themselves, but for the larger profession. Angelina Ramirez ’26 of El Paso is the recipient of the Andrews Family Pipeline Scholarship, earned at the conclusion of her experience in the law school’s inaugural cohort program. “Scholarships such as the one I have received are crucial to diversifying the legal profession,” she said. “They provide a path for students like me to contribute to the practice of law.” Ramirez added that she hoped that one day more people “will see themselves in all legal spaces and that everyone will benefit from a wide range of perspectives.”
While all student attendees said they had benefitted from the wider support of Texas Law alumni, some especially looked forward to meeting their scholarship donors for the first time. “I feel very fortunate to be the recipient of several scholarships, one of which is the Morris Atlas Endowment for Excellence Scholarship in Law,” said Casey Geng ’24. “I am sitting today with Scott Atlas, the son of Morris Atlas, and it is really great to spend this time with him.”
The donors were similarly thrilled to make these direct connections. Hector De Leon ’73 was excited to meet Alex Wachino ’25, who receives the Elizabeth Marie De Leon Memorial Endowment for Excellence Scholarship in Law. “Alex is so impressive, and I am so honored to meet with him,” said De Leon. “When you endow a scholarship, you believe you can improve someone’s life, personally and professionally. Meeting Alex today, I truly believe my investment in the Excellence Scholarship was more than worthwhile and has made a real difference.”
De Leon, who has served as both president of the Law School Alumni Association and the Texas Exes, was one of many notable alumni attendees. Others include Atlas ’75, who led the recent Endowment for Excellence scholarship campaign, Texas Supreme Court Justice Jane Bland ’90, renowned Austin philanthropist Joe Long ’58, Susman Godfrey Partner Shawn Raymond ’99 and his wife Alicia, and retired Associate General Counsel for ExxonMobil Corp. JoAnn Lee ’83.
Student attendees also shared their strong feelings about Texas Law scholarships. “I made it a priority to come to a public law school, and one reason was affordability,” shared 1L Chris Jordan, who moved to Austin just before the semester began from Phoenix. “The scholarship I received from UT was a necessary condition. I wouldn’t be at law school if not for my scholarship.”
That kind of appreciation, along with a palpable joy, was clear on the faces of all in attendance.
“The scholarship luncheon is a great event that highlights gratitude,” reflected J. Christopher Luna ’86. “Gratitude from alumni like me and gratitude from current law students on how their scholarships have changed their lives. Graduating from Texas Law was so foundational for me. I got a great education, lasting friendships, and a diversity of experiences. I just hope that other law school alumni will join me in doing their part to carry the law school’s legacy forward.”
The example Luna cited of paying it forward was clearly on the mind of all the students, especially the newest ones, from the Class of 2026, having their first big experience of the large and powerful Texas Law alumni community.
“My scholarship means options and freedom,” said 1L Malcolm Zuckerman, adding that scholarships allow Texas Law students to, “work the job you want and take life in the direction you want.” He noted that every Texas Law grad who he’s reached out to has made time to speak with him, showing the value of the school’s powerful network.
While Zuckerman, with only four weeks of law school under his belt, does not yet know his career path (though he spent a year working in the energy industry before choosing law school as the next step in his professional journey), the incredible range of possible careers was on full display. The event featured soon-to-be alumni heading into judicial clerkships, public service positions, trial advocacy, nonprofit roles, and a wide range of big law jobs, including transactional work, litigation, oil and gas representation, and much more.
Several alumni noted that a lasting impression for them after the luncheon is that the day isn’t far off when the students thanking their scholarship donors at this year’s lunch will be endowing scholarships of their own, when they can. Poonam Agrawal ’24, a recipient of the Townes-Rice Scholarship who served as a student host for the event, heartily agreed.
“Being able to experience the transformative impact of financial support has deeply motivated me to one day endow a scholarship for a future law student,” said Agrawal. “My parents raised me to believe that education is the most powerful tool that we have for creating positive change in society. My scholarships (for both undergraduate and law school studies) changed the trajectory of my life and opened doors to opportunities that I did not even know existed.”
“I hope one day I have the privilege to pay it forward,” Agrawal added.
The power of that commitment was not lost on Anne and Ken Culotta. “That’s exactly the reason for the Culotta Family Endowment for Excellence in Legal Education,” the couple said. “We were confident that the sense of gratitude that led us to establish our endowment would be contagious for our scholarship recipients, and that some of these recipients will be attending these luncheons as donors someday.”
Why do the Culottas care so much about the law school, today’s students, and paying it forward?
“Anne and I benefited in so many ways from our Texas Law education,” reflected Ken. “We learned new powerful ways of thinking, found satisfying life and career paths, and came to each of life’s challenges better prepared because of it. Not least, we learned, and have since experienced in myriad ways, how fundamentally important the law is to the continued success of the American experiment, and how thoughtful lawyers contribute to the ongoing shaping of the law.”
View event photos on Flickr
To learn about the different ways you can increase the impact of your endowed scholarship, please reach out to:
Elizabeth Hundt, BA ’07, JD ’10