2024 Reunion Shows High Attendance, Giving

Reunion 2024 Revelers
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Texas Law welcomed returning alumni on April 12 and 13, offering them a chance to reunite and remember with friends and faculty alike.

Reunion is about people, and the 800 attendees who gathered this year brought all their energy and enthusiasm to the proceedings. Alums included everyone from federal judges to heads of nonprofits to professors to public servants to partners and associates at both big and small firms.

Alums emphasized how meaningful the experience was. “Attending reunion back where it all started—away from daily practice and rhythmic life —helps us all reflect on how far we’ve all come, what new interests we’ve developed, and, concurrently, what hasn’t changed one bit,” said Poorav K. Rohatgi ’14, class co-chair and a white-collar criminal defense attorney with Gerger, Hennessy, Martin & Peterson in Washington, D.C.

For attendees, seeing friends was often a big draw. “You have to keep in touch with all of your classmates,” advised Sylvia Burks ’84, partner at Burks Johansson in San Francisco. “Make connections and keep those connections that are valuable to you—and not just valuable from a professional perspective, but also from a personal perspective.”

Others also emphasized the value of law school friendships. “I have good friends from law school who I kept up with,” said Tom Cason ’09, partner at Blackwell, Blackburn, Herring & Singer LLP in Dallas, including three of his groomsmen and all his golfing buddies.

“Law school was the best three years of my life,” he added.

Weekend of Celebration  

This year’s reunion honored classes with years ending in “4” and “9” from 1959-2019. 

Reunion 2024 Class of 1974

On Friday evening, the honored classes of 1959, 1964, and 1969 celebrated their reunion parties at the Driskill Hotel. Meanwhile, other alumni and their guests enjoyed a kickoff dinner on the Four Seasons lawn. There was also a reunion party that night for the honored class of 1974 at the Four Seasons.    

Law school “was a wonderful time with wonderful people—dear, dear people,” said Gerald Hilsher ’79, retired shareholder at McAffee & Taft in Tulsa.  The gathering on “the Four Seasons lawn was just so much fun to get back together with folks.” 

Beginning Saturday morning, alums and their guests gathered at the law school to enjoy faculty presentations, the dean’s address, lunch on the lawn, school tours, and family entertainment. The day’s soundtrack included children playing, laughter, and friendly conversation between law school classmates — and new friends from different classes who met for the first time as members of the extended Texas Law family.

“I was excited to come back to Austin and see a bunch of people I went to law school with and who went to law school before me to hear their advice, as I’m in my third year of practice,” said Anelis Villarreal ’21, associate at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Houston.

Leadership donors attended a reception with Dean Bobby Chesney that afternoon. In the evening, reunion parties for the honored classes of 1979-2019 took place at various locations around town.

For some alums, the law school has changed significantly from their time there. “It’s far more student-oriented,” said Lawrence Fischman ’64, shareholder at Glast Phillips & Murray PC in Dallas. “Back then, the student lounge was maybe 10 by 10 feet with a couple of bridge tables.”

Of course, legal technology has changed, too. “When I first started out, the only accessories in the courtroom were spittoons,” Fischman quipped of his legal career beginnings.

There were nods to missed classmates, as well. The Class of 1974 dedicated a bench on the north side of the law school to beloved friend and classmate Jane Hayman ’74, who passed away in October 2022. The bench dedication offered a chance to shed tears and share some fond memories of Hayman’s devotion to her law school community. The “best friends” bench is a fitting tribute to someone for whom the law school meant so much.

The passing of friends made attending reunion even more important for some attendees. “I lost my best law school buddy last year,” said Cynthia Jackson ’79, retired employment lawyer. “I recently lost two more friends, and I didn’t want to miss out on seeing other friends.” 

Looking Back 

Reunion Happiness

Despite changes in the legal profession, alums acknowledged how their education at Texas Law continues to serve them. 

“Law school offers a framework of thinking about how to understand the laws” even as they change, said Greg Sapire ’94, a shareholder with Maynard Nexsen PC in Austin. “And I got that foundation from The University of Texas School of Law.”

Cheryl Barber ’84, associate general counsel at USAA in San Antonio, recalled that her professor were skilled lawyers who shared their wisdom with students. “You learned how to think critically because that’s what lawyers do,” she said, noting an emphasis that went beyond simply memorizing. “They did a good job teaching us how to analyze problems and come up with solutions,” she said. “It was a good experience. That’s why I came back.” 

But it wasn’t always easy.  

Law school “was intimidating, and a lot harder than I thought it would be,” said Andy Kerr ’74, partner at Clark Hill PLC in San Antonio. “But I finally got adjusted and graduated. It did work out great. And I’ve been very fortunate in the years since graduation,” he said. “When I was here, I had great professors, great people who I made friends with, and it was just a great experience.” 

Generous Giving 

Alumni celebrating Reunion raised funds for class scholarships

In a bit of informal reunion competition, the Class of 1974 raised the largest dollar amount for Texas Law scholarships (over $242,000) thanks in part to also having the highest percentage of class participate in giving back (over 33%). The Class of 1994 raised the second-largest dollar amount for scholarships (over $134,500), while the Class of 1999 saw the second-highest percentage of donors (27%). The Class of 2014, meanwhile, registered the largest percentage of alums for reunion.

“Lawyers are very good and generous people. If you look at any kind of charitable group, lawyers always give a lot of money to it,” said Lee Yeakel ’69, a retired judge and current senior counsel at King & Spalding LLP in Austin. “Lawyers are really very caring.” 

Through their collective efforts, the honored classes raised a combined $779,115 towards class scholarships.

“Reunion 2024 saw some of the highest attendance and fundraising in the history of Texas Law reunions,” said Lorraine Sarles ’09, the school’s director of reunions. “We are thrilled so many alumni returned to celebrate and had such an incredible time.” 

Additional reporting by Tenley Jackson and Sam Jefferson.

View Reunion Photos in Flickr

More photos to come!

Reunion 2024
Category: Alumni News, Law School News