Monday Morning Message 12.21.20 Holiday Heroes

Posted 2020-12-21 10:02am

Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the hero within us is revealed.” – Bob Riley

An extraordinary semester has ended, and as the holidays approach, I want to devote this morning’s message to our many Holiday Heroes. I continue to be overwhelmed by the number of messages of support and appreciation from and about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. This message is longer than usual because I have so many uplifting messages to share!

Our Students

“My Holiday Heroes are our students!  In a year where there are amble and varied obstacles, I got to witness firsthand how so many of you scratched and clawed over those obstacles.  I am inspired by you and I am grateful for the time I get to work with you as you achieve your dream of being a lawyer.”  - Nick DeSantis, Director of Academic Support

“My holiday heroes are all of the students who have worked hard and persevered through what has been an incredibly challenging semester. I am so proud of all of you, and I hope you are extremely proud of yourselves. You did it!”-Jaime Gay, Assistant Director of Student and Career Services

“Two things I love about my job - our students and our colleagues.  A pleasure to be part of it all! ” - Laura Ray, Outreach & Instructional Services Librarian

“Cleveland-Marshall students are my holiday heroes. During these difficult times and many individual challenges, C|M students persevere. They work hard, with grace and grit, gratitude and fortitude, looking ahead to a day when these dark times will be behind us and their goals will be realized. As I say in the Preface to my textbook, Cleveland-Marshall students rock!”  - Professor Deborah Geier

“SBA 1L Senators, Jonathan Alamir, Christina O'Brien, Alex Venezia, Bess Massad, David Linden, Patrick Fox: Although all of our students have faced unanticipated challenges this semester, our first-year students had to navigate the standard challenges of the first-year law school experience in a new remote environment. There were questions and concerns throughout the semester. The 1L senators came to the administration on behalf of their colleagues with data, ideas, and flexibility. They were strong advocates and willing to work with us. They helped to communicate how first-year students were feeling and identify places where the administration could help. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with them during Spring 2021.”  - Sarah Beznoska, Assistant Dean for Student and Career Services

Just a shout out to Jonathan Alimar, one of our incredible 1L Senators. Jonathan has been extremely committed to our class and is just a stellar human being. In addition to his hard work on the part of our class he has been incredibly supportive and giving of his time and kind words.” - Christina O’Brien, 1L

I would like to nominate 2L student Ms. Tayler Gill as a Holiday Hero.  Ms. Gill has been, for all of this horrible pandemic year, a powerhouse of personal and institutional energy. She is a Dean's Leadership Fellow, Treasurer of the Hispanic Law Students Association, Co-Chair of the Racial Justice Task Force School Climate Work Group, and Legal Extern at the General Counsel's Office of Cuyahoga Community College, all while acting as an Associate Member of the Cleveland State Law Review.  In addition to her extensive accomplishments she has been a fount of much-needed support for our faculty and students. Ms. Gill is  Research Assistant for Professor Heidi Robertson, and a Fellow for the Academic Excellence Program with Professor Chris Sagers. In addition she has acted as Course Coordinator and Technology Manager for my courses in Torts, Constitutional Law, and Legal Profession. In so doing she has enabled a tech-challenged professor to teach his courses, and has provided much assistance and encouragement to his students.  Tayler Gill is emblematic of the highest standards we hope to see in our students and graduates. I recommend her as a Holiday Hero.” - Professor Steve Lazarus

This fall, I had the honor of working alongside Victoria "Tori" Hamilton as both an AEP Fellow and CSLR Associate.  Tori was so welcoming and warm, exuding so much positivity and brightness into the world. After just one text message from her back in July, I knew we were going to make an excellent team.  Tori is exceptionally intelligent, kind-hearted, and hardworking... such a beautiful person inside and out! On top of being an amazing human being, Tori does great things within our law school community, including Moot Court, AEP, Law Review, and so much more! I admire how Tori balances all of this so effortlessly and professionally.  This semester was challenging for everyone, including me, but Tori truly made every single day better in some way. While she had her own responsibilities and obstacles, she always made time to check in, answer any questions I may have had, or send me a TikTok to brighten my day. For these reasons (and so many more), Tori Hamilton is my 2020 Holiday Hero! I could not imagine going through this past semester without her "by my side".  I am so proud to call Tori one of my closest friends here at C|M|Law (even though I have never met her in person. Crazy, right?). While I will be super sad to see her graduate in May, I know that she is going to be a very talented attorney who will make lasting changes in the legal arena. Thank you so much, Tori, for all that you have done and continue to do for me and our peers! I love and appreciate you so much!” - Tayler Gill, 2L

“Just want to take the time to thank the 1L AEPs for all their time and commitment to our class this first semester. Their help was imperative and I am grateful to them. All my best to Tori Hamilton, Josh Hillman and Tayler Gill. You all are rockstars!” Christina O’Brien, 1L

“Here's a holiday hero! Renee Stromski had terrible tech issues for the last hour and forty minutes for a 9AM exam. Her colleague Rob Thompson brought her a laptop so she could take her exam.”  -Sarah Beznoska, Assistant Dean for Student and Career Services 

“ ….shout out to Ben Stucke, who I can attest has done an *incredible* job on his research project. We could not be more proud of him or his diligence and patience with this very trying research that is contributing to an overhaul of Ohio's outdated laws criminalizing those living with HIV/AIDS. We are so grateful for the partnership Equality Ohio has with CM|LAW, both through our school office spaces and through the ability to provide meaningful fellowship opportunities to our CM|LAW students. Thank you for all you do for our beloved Law School! – Alana Jochum ‘10

Our Faculty

“Thank you so much for sending this incredible information about our school faculty.  Found myself last week speaking to a potential student for next year about my experience at Cleveland Marshall. Really enjoyed seeing my former professors, colleagues, and friends accomplishing amazing things.” - Emily Smayda Kelly ‘99

“What an amazing faculty—and administration. These messages are tremendous.” – Dennis Lansdowne ‘81

“I’m so proud of you and the law school when I read what you’re doing.” – Elizabeth Pugh ’78

 “Dear Lee: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your Faculty Focus.  During these challenging times, I have enjoyed reading about the great work happening around the country.  It is clear that your faculty is doing fantastic things and I enjoyed reading about it.” - Elizabeth Kronk Warner Dean, S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah

“Thank you so much for checking in! I appreciate everything you and the rest of the CM family have done to try to make this semester as normal as possible for us. Thank you again for your support! –1L student

“Thank you so much for the calls and concerns-it is greatly appreciated. I am so lucky to call Cleveland Marshall College of Law my law school." – 2L student diagnosed with COVID- 19

“From my perspective as an evening student, the term has run quite smoothly. I think our faculty are making exceptional efforts to ensure a quality experience—They should be commended for taking on this formidable task.” – 2L student

Professor Michael Borden“I truly am grateful for everything you did. You saw my potential, even when I did not. You listened to me and helped me make the best decision for myself. You make a difference for many law students, including me. Thank you for being on my team.” – 3L student

Associate Dean Carolyn Broering- Jacobs: “My holiday hero is Dean Carolyn Broering- Jacobs. Dear Dean Broering-Jacobs, since we went to remote you have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help me, and you never got tired of my big head possibly getting on your nerves which I do sometimes. Thank you so much for everything you have done for me to help me get through these trying times, I am beginning to feel you are not just my holiday hero, but my Guardian Angel. I will give you a break, until spring semester starts (smile), you have a wonderful Christmas holiday and a happy new year, thank you so much!!”  -William Hall, Master of Legal Studies (MLS) student

Associate Deans Carolyn Broering-Jacobs and Jonathan Witmer Rich: “My Holiday Heroes are Dean Lee Fisher, Associate Dean Carolyn Broering-Jacobs and Associate Dean Jonathan Witmer-Rich.  When COVID struck, while the rest of us were trying to adapt to learning/working from home, our Deans didn’t have the luxury of time to adjust.  Many pivotal decisions had to be made in a short period of time.  In addition to making sure that the law school continued to run smoothly, they responded to calls and emails from students, faculty and staff literally all day and night.  There was no longer an end to their workday.  They worked tirelessly to make sure that all of us had what we needed to do our best.  And they did so with a positive attitude.  All suggestions and requests were considered no matter how out-of-the-box.  When it became apparent that our students were getting down, they created the Lift Your Spirits Committee with the purpose of just that, lifting our students.  When the staff’s spirits dipped, they showed up at each of our doorsteps with a gift to let us know we are appreciated.  Now it is time to let them know how much we appreciate them.  They are my heroes.”  -An appreciative staff member

Associate Dean Carolyn Broering- Jacobs and Jonathan Witmer-Rich: “I just wanted to reach out and say thank you to the Deans and school for all the hard work you have put into this semester for us. I know how much has been thrown at all of you this semester, and I can't imagine it has been easy. Trying to control a pandemic that is out of your hands, while still trying to keep all the students happy (most of whom have quite differing opinions) might as well be an impossible task. With that, I just wanted to let you know that you have been doing an incredible job. If you asked me what more you could do, I couldn't tell you. And while I cannot speak for all, I know from speaking to students that many others agree….I cannot reiterate how much it means to see such a receptive and caring administration for its students. When people ask me about the law school it is the first reason thing I mention, followed by a recommendation to apply. – 1L student

 Associate Deans Carolyn Broering- Jacobs and Jonathan Witmer Rich: “I just wanted to take a moment before we head into the craziness that is finals and just say thank you.  I know how difficult this semester has been for me personally as a 1L and a mom traversing a pandemic and I can only imagine how difficult it has been for you all as well.  I just wanted you to know that all your efforts on our behalf have not gone unnoticed.  We have brought a great deal of information to you over the last semester and we really appreciate your openness.  We know that not all things are possible, but we have been met with such great respect and willingness to help where you can.  While this situation is not ideal for anyone, I believe that it has been the best that we could expect given the circumstances.  Thank you again for your commitment to our education and our success.  “ - 1L student

 Professor April Cherry“Thank you for a wonderful semester…..Taking your class was a great decision.  I wanted to let you know that I appreciated how you taught the course and how you provided context to the topics we covered. I will recommend your class to my other friends at the law school.” – 2L student

Professor David Forte: “I just wanted to reach out and thank you for a great year. Your class challenged me to think more like a lawyer, and pick apart issues. I really felt that you transitioned the class to Zoom so well, and I really appreciate how much you care about truly educating us.” – 2L student

Professor Peter Garlock: “Yesterday, Professor Garlock spent a few minutes explaining the historical context and embedded biases of negligent infliction of emotional distress. This simple gesture created a climate of understanding and inclusion for underrepresented individuals at Cleveland Marshall—many who often feel marginalized by our country's history. I appreciate Professor Garlock encouraging our understanding of the historical context and his embodiment of Cleveland Marshall's Learn Law, Live Justice motto.” – 2L student 

Professor Peter Garlock:  “I just wanted to say that I really appreciated your class this semester! Transitioning to online law school was incredibly stressful, but I was grateful for the extreme efforts on your part to make the transition as seamless as possible. I wasn’t previously interested in criminal law, but it became my favorite class.” – 2L student

Professor Peter Garlock“I wanted to take a moment and send you an email thanking your for class.  Of all the classes I’ve taken so far, this was perhaps the one I was most nervous about coming in. And I will say that it lived up to its reputation as a difficult class. With that said, I really appreciated the way you pushed us out of our comfort zones. Cold calling can be really difficult, but I found myself enjoying the challenge and think I will be a better professional for it.  I also wanted to thank you for the effort you put in to keep our classes as normal as possible. It would have been easy to simply assign us the questions and call it a day. But we pushed through and I think my own success in the class was impacted by it.” – 2L student

 Professor Doron Kalir“Thank you for a great semester! I thoroughly enjoyed your class and I greatly appreciate your demonstrated understanding of our uniquely challenging circumstances. You notably made my transition to law school more exciting and more enjoyable. I will definitely miss your class!  Thank you again for helping us become good, real-world lawyers and teaching us how to think critically. I feel like I learned much more from you than just Contracts Law and I look forward to meeting you in person when this all blows over.”- 1L student

 Professor Doron Kalir“Appellate Clinic Secures Another Major Reversal in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals: This is absolutely extraordinary. Congratulations to the team and to Doron. It seems truly outstanding to me that the court would appoint the clinic for this--what high praise--and such a victory, in legal and human terms. Good work!”- Professor Chris Sagers

Professor Reggie Oh: “I was just listening in to my students bantering on Zoom before I joined my office hours, when I heard one of the students ask "Who do you have for Con Law?" The other student answered "Prof. Oh...He's literally the best!" – Professor Mark Sundahl

Professors Reggie Oh and Associate Dean Jonathan Witmer-Rich: “Thanks so much for this afternoon's webinar teach in! The participants asked interesting and important questions, that were of course expertly answered! I am quite grateful for the discussion and even more so that you were willing to take the time to speak to the issues of law, policing, and dehumanization of Black people. These are important issues . . . especially now.” – Professor April Cherry

Professor Kevin O’Neill: I would like to give a special shout-out to Professor O'Neill. His First Amendment class has been a tremendous experience and is my most enjoyable course this semester. This is the single class that I have the option to attend in-person, so I do try to attend as much as possible. He has done an amazing job accommodating for the hybrid course, assigning a fair workload, and giving students proper notice of when they will be called on. He has also put together phenomenal resources/guides for the students to reference and use throughout the semester. The last few months have been a challenging experience for me, academically and mentally. But I do recognize that everyone at CMLaw is doing their best, and I appreciate your commitment to supporting students.” – 2L student

Professor John Plecnik“Professor Plecnik is an awesome advisor for MLS students. I'm excited for next semester.” – MLS student

Professor John Plecnik: “My second hero is Professor Plecnik.Tthank you so much for making learning law so much fun, I see why you make it fun to relax your students, so the information will be retained. You are more than a law professor, you are a mentor, a big brother, and a therapist. Your teaching style helped all of your students get through this strange year. You have answered your calling above and beyond the call you were chosen for. Thank you and have a merry Christmas and happy new year.”  -William Hall, MLS student

Professor Brian Ray, Adjunct Professor Spence Witten: “I am a first-year graduate student mastering legal studies in cybersecurity and data privacy. …I wanted to tell you how great the program has been to me. You have put together wonderful and caring people who are passionate and educated on the law and cybersecurity. Professor Brian Ray and Adjunct Professor Spence Witten treated us as if we were one of their children. Always available for questions,  made the material fun, and broke down the harder concepts to easily be understood.” - MLS Cybersecurity/ Data Privacy student

Professor Heidi Robertson and Nick De Santis:  “I wanted to thank the both of you so much for having me in your property class last semester. Your course completely changed my approach to law school for the better! The both of you were extremely patient and helpful. Property was officially my favorite 1L class and I've given your course rave reviews to every upcoming CM student that I have met.”  - 2L student

 Professor Heidi Robertson“I passed the Bar Exam, Thank G-d! I couldn't have done it without your help!”  -2020 graduate

 Professor Heidi Robertson“I recently started as a Law Clerk….Today I was preparing a TOD affidavit and realized that a new deed would have to be executed before the TOD affidavit. Otherwise the TOD would not have the intended effect that the client wanted. I was so excited when the attorney said “good catch on that deed” not once but twice! All that property law I learned two years ago is back there somewhere in my brain and coming out!! I just had to share my excitement with you. It is so much fun to be able to actually apply the law in real life vs an exam!”- 3L student

Professor Heidi Robertson“You have been an integral part of my law school journey and I thank you for always supporting me. I made the Dean's List both semesters last year. That was a huge turnaround considering the way I ended my 1L year.”- 3L student

Professor Milena Sterio“I want to say thank you for all the support and encouragement you provided over the last year.  I have really appreciated it, especially during this crazy time of social distancing…. I really appreciate all the professional and educational guidance you have provided, so I just wanted to say thank you again.”  - 2020 graduate

Professor Milena Sterio“….thank you for a great semester and making your class a great experience, despite being virtual…..Your compassion towards your students and others has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for being aware of the mental toll this has taken on all of us.” -2L student

Professor Brandon Stump: “The amount of feedback he provides and attention to detail he has shown to these students has helped them achieve the ability to write phenomenally … He has been beyond understanding to the circumstances and a source for support to many of his students during a very difficult time for all. I think that a lot of people aren’t always given credit for the hard work and the sincerity they show, so I wanted to take a moment to recognize him for this. He, as well as many of my other professors, are the people I look up to in these kind of situations because of their ability to show they are just human, too. This time is not easy no matter what position you are in, but it means the world to students to see that transparent side of their professors and know that they are always available to students in need of support. He not only says, but also shows how he wants nothing but the best for these new law students.” - 2L student

Adjunct Professor Bob Triozzi“I've been on campus Mondays and Wednesdays for Criminal Justice Decision Points with Professor Triozzi which is one of the best courses I have taken in law school. I appreciate the administration working with Professor Triozzi to set that class up and I appreciate that we are able to have it in person.” – 3L student

Our Staff

Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Barbara Andelman“Thank you for sending the additional information. I wanted to thank you for your help and your comments at the law school forum on Saturday. Your presentation was definitely the most helpful and clearly distinguished Cleveland Marshall School of Law from the competition. I will be submitting my application in the next couple of weeks!” –Prospective student

Assistant Dean Sarah Beznoska, Assistant Director Jaime Gay, Michelle Landever Bond, Academic Support Specialist, and Mary Jane McGinty, Director of Bar Preparation: “While this year my official holiday heroes are the students, you should know that you are all my superheroes!  Anyone who works with students directly this year knows how difficult it has been.  We have worked virtually around the clock.  We have dealt with problems and tragedies well beyond our paygrade or training.   We have seen the worst and the best of our students.  I know how hard it is to put this job down at the end of the day.   It is all too easy to care so deeply for the students that a day's worries end in a sleepless night.  Thank you all for your teamwork, your support, and your heart.  This is a tough job and I am so thankful to have worked with all of you.” -Nick DeSantis, Director of Academic Support

Michelle Landever Bond, Academic Support Specialist: “I would like to recognize Michelle Landever Bond for her amazing ability to inspire hope and confidence in her students. Michelle has seen me at my best, and my worst, and genuinely expresses her pride and support in my success at law school, and in life. As a first-generation law student, it means volumes to me.”  - Lynn Kernya, 3L

Amy Burchfield, Head of Library Research & Instructional Services Amy did a presentation for my management labor law class on legal research this evening. As usual it was excellent.”  – Adjunct Professor Alan Zmija

Nick DeSantis, Director of Academic Support: “Nick, you are why I am where I am today, and hundreds of students can say the same. Please give yourself a pat on the back for all that you do for the entire student body! I am beyond grateful to have you as a resource, mentor, and friend.” – 2L student

Nick DeSantis“Nick DeSantis's Jumpstart program is really incredible.  Not only did I learn more than I imagined I would, but a lot of the fears and insecurities that I had in starting this journey have transformed into excitement and eagerness to get started. He is a really great teacher and leader and it is extremely obvious how much support he provides to the CM Law program.” – 1L student

Beth Farrell, Head of Library Access & Technical Services : “I am sending a Holiday Heroes Message to Beth Farrell and student Brandy Davis. Beth and Brandy are my co-chairs of the Racial Justice Task Force Public Action Work Group. In that role they have both been exceptionally dedicated, dependable, and creative. Whatever impact the Work Group has had thus far is in large part due to their efforts.”  - Professor Kenneth Kowalski

Jaime Gay, Assistant Director of Student and Career Services: “Great news! I have been hired by …. Really what sealed the deal for them was my newly updated resume. I cannot thank you enough. Thank you a million times over.” – 3L student

Holli Goodman, Administrative Assistant to the Dean“Holli is my year-round Hero. There is no person at our law school who is more liked and respected than Holli. I like to call her my Co-Dean, because she is truly indispensable not just to my success, but to the success of the entire law school. I am very grateful for her everyday advice, support, and leadership.” – Dean Lee Fisher

Amy Miller, Director of Donor and Alumni Relations /Associate Director of Admissions: “ Amy did a spectacular job putting the panel together. I think we should hire one of those airplanes that performs skywriting, so that Amy can literally be praised to the skies.”  - Professor Kevin O’Neill

Ashley Presutto, Development Manager: “Every time I interact with Ashley she demonstrates that she's student-focused and committed to the C|M|LAW mission. Although her position at the College of Law does not require her to do so, she's attended Town Halls, participated in morale building events for students, and has come up with creative ideas to lift student spirits and provide critical support. She easily ties together her fundraising work to the College of Law's commitment to student outcomes, and helps to make C|M|LAW a better place. In addition, during the pandemic she has supported staff in ways that aren't always visible - early in the pandemic, after a particularly difficult week, I received in the mail a small journal containing uplifting and confidence-building quotes. It wasn't clear where it had come from, but I did some digging and learned that Ashley had sent it to me. It provided a boost in a difficult time!” - Sarah Beznoska, Assistant Dean for Student and Career Services

 “Thanks to each of you for making the 5th annual Cybersecurity & Privacy Protection Conference, hosted online for the very first time, a rousing success!  Jill Natran was central to pretty much everything, in particular the complicated logistics of requalifying the event for CLE when we switched from live to online. Elaine Terman and Quan Nguyen produced another excellent set of marketing materials and website. Rick Zhang ran all of the the tech on our end. Julie DiBiasio shared her expertise in managing events at Case. 2L Evan Morris took excellent notes and conducted background research for the panel planning sessions. Donna Helfrich and Holli Goodman kept track of everything that physically arrived at the Law School during the shutdown and navigated our financials.” – Professor Brian Ray 

Our Alumni

“Jennifer Blaga ’94:  I used to think that those who are happy are thankful. However, I have come to realize that the true order is in the reverse. Those who are thankful are happy.  I am so grateful for your care, concern, support, and encouragement through this exciting yet challenging period in my life. I am in awe at your selflessness to others - sacrificing your time and energy to give them the tools they need to succeed. Rain or shine you are there with an outstretched hand and a warm smile.  May G-d be good to you as you are to others, and may you always be able to give! “ - Elchanan G. Stern ‘20

Additional Messages

Former Professor David Goshien: At the time I did not know it.  Professor Goshien was my contracts Prof. and which included our first year writing requirements.  A full 10 credit hours.  Each week Professor Goshien required that we submit a paper on a contract issue.  On the very first day of law school, while other students where on the front lawn or going to Hi’s Luncheonette, my classmates and I were in the library researching the status of the Ohio State Seal and its effects on written contracts.  Pure misery.  Looking back, Professor Goshien was the first to train my brain…hard, his expectations caused our classmates to bond, and what I learned from him has never left me.” - Keith Weiner, ‘82

For numerous reasons, my hero is Joan Werber. We met in early 1968 and married three months later.  At that time I was a Wall Street lawyer, Joan taught 4th grade in Harlem and we both had family in New York.  In August 1970 her husband had become a law professor and we were living in Euclid.  That October she gave birth to our first child. Joan has supported our family, my staying in teaching and advising moot court while opening our home to many moot courters. I had the privilege of advising Moot Court for twenty years ending in 2001.  Many C-M persons assisted me especially Holli Goodman and April Mixon who each earned at least a purple heart and a Silver Star. Prof. Ann Aldrich, a friend and colleague, created the program I inherited shortly before she became a federal district court judge.  They were each instrumental in making made our Board success possible.  I advised over 500 moot court students including several members of the C-M Hall of Fame.  I had the pleasure and honor to learn from and teach them, travel with them, rejoice or sympathize with them and watch them develop as students and advocates who understood that they represented C-M and the professionalism expected of them as lawyers. They learned to respect and work with persons of different backgrounds, races, religions and more.  Board teamwork began at our first competition when one of our two team advanced from the initial rounds. I granted the losing team’s request to go home, but added something like “You are a six person team, think about your team mates.” They left.  About an hour later they returned. They supported a team that became the first of many C-M CSU teams that reached the National’s Final rounds. Their return laid the foundation for teamwork that contributed to our future success.”  - Professor Emeritus Stephen J. Werber


This Week’s Monday Moment:   Our CSU C|M|LAW Holiday Video!


Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay Committed to Living Justice. Have a Happy, Healthy, and Safe Holiday and New Year.

Have a great day. Have a great week.

For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages

Subscribe to Dean's Monday Morning Message

Subscribe to C|M|Law Newsletter

My views in all my Monday Morning Messages are my personal views alone and do not reflect the views of our law school or our university.

My best,


Lee Fisher
Dean, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law 
| Cleveland State University
Joseph C. Hostetler-BakerHostetler Chair in Law

  • Share