On October 29, more than 250 people gathered at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville to recognize and applaud the professional accomplishments of the recipients of the Law School Alumni Association’s annual awards for 2013. Those honored at this year’s gala event were: Distinguished Graduate Award recipient Michael L. Aresco ’76, the commissioner of the new American Athletic Conference and one of America’s most influential leaders in sports television and collegiate sports; Distinguished Service Award recipient Willajeanne F. McLean, whose illustrious twenty-two career as a professor at UConn Law includes serving as associate dean of academic affairs, as well as a year (2012-2013) as interim dean; and the Honorable John A. Danaher, III ’80, who received the Alumni Association’s Public Service Award in recognition of his twenty-plus years of service in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, his stellar tenure as commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, and his most recent service as a Superior Court judge.
In his introduction of Michael Aresco, Law School Dean Timothy S. Fisher noted that Aresco has been known, throughout his career, for a number of impressive character traits. “First,” said Dean Fisher, “Michael is trusted by all. Second, he is relentless. Third, he is an optimist with a positive perspective that is totally contagious. And, fourth, he has the skills to keep a team of dynamic and powerful parties together.”
Michael [Aresco] went to Tufts, where he graduated magna cum laude, and to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy for a master’s in international relations. But then he realized that [his education] wasn’t complete yet and in a flash of brilliance realized, ‘Aha, I need a UConn Law degree.’ ”
Timothy S. Fisher, Dean and Professor of Law
In accepting his Distinguished Graduate Award, Aresco was quick to credit UConn Law for his success. “Because of the Law School, I have been able to have an interesting career,” said the former head of the Big East Conference and one-time executive vice president of programming for CBS Sports. “My work in television media began in the legal department of ESPN, a company not much removed from a startup in the mid-1980s. Owing to my sound legal education I have always had the confidence to negotiate deals and work on complicated contracts…in the television business and now in the collegiate sports landscape.”
Distinguished Service Award recipient Willajeanne McLean was presented her plaque by former colleague Carolyn C. Jones, who left the UConn Law faculty in 2004 to become dean of the University of Iowa College of Law, where she is currently dean emerita and the F. Wendell Miller Professor of Law. In her warm remarks, Dean Jones paid tribute to the influence of McLean’s family on her career, as well as the influence of her alma mater,Wellesley College. “With her arrival at Wellesley, Willajeanne began a pattern she would repeat: Learn a great deal. Truly appreciate what she’s been given, and give extraordinarily in appreciation of what she has received.”
Upon stepping up to the podium to receive her Distinguished Service Award, Professor McLean reflected on the day 23 years ago when she was interviewed for a position as an associate professor of law by Dean Emeritus Hugh C. Macgill and a select group of faculty members and students. “I knew [at that time] that I wanted to come here,” recalled McLean, an expert in the interface of intellectual property and European law. “When people…asked why, I replied that [UConn Law] had impressed me as a place with collegial faculty and great, likable students. I imagined it to be a place where I could grow professionally and hone my skills. I was right.”
“I was brought up to think that service is the ultimate quid pro quo.
One gives back because one has the ability to do so.”
Professor Willajeanne F. McLean
Doing the honors for the evening’s final award presentation was the Honorable Douglas S. Lavine ’77, who presented the Alumni Association’s Public Service Award to his longtime friend John Danaher. “Why does John love public service?” asked Judge Lavine. “Because, as he told me, ‘you are paid to do the right thing.’ Not bad.”
In his remarks, Danaher focused on the service of his colleagues at the State Attorney’s Office and the Department of Public Safety, rather than on own professional accomplishments, which also include serving as a trial attorney for five years at Day, Berry & Howard. “It seems incongruous to receive an award for something you love to do,” he said.
"My responsibility now [as a Superior Court judge] is to do the best I can to make sure that the proceedings are fair.
It is clearly something I will spend the rest of my life learning to do well."
The Honorable John A. Danaher, III '80
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