Susan M. Finegan '85: Dartmouth Alumni Award Recipient, 2011-12
Susan M. Finegan '85 (right) was presented a 2011-12 Dartmouth Alumni Award by Danielle Dyer '81, '89Tu.
The Dartmouth acceptance letter you received during your senior year of high school stated "Welcome to the Dartmouth family" and you have become the poster child of our Big Green family ever since. In fact, tonight you become only the sixth person among your 73,000 fellow alumni to receive both the Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award and the Dartmouth Alumni Award.
Tagging along with your big sister on her college visit tour, you fell instantly in love with the Dartmouth campus. You have commented that you knew from the start that you wanted to pursue a career in law. Majoring in government, you still smile when recalling your classroom experiences with Professors Mather and Starzinger. Your legal education was not restricted to the classroom as you served on the judiciary and executive committees of the Inter-Fraternity Council, received a Rockefeller Grant enabling you to complete a summer internship for Senator Edward Kennedy in Washington, DC, and were thrilled with the opportunity to meet two Supreme Court justices, Harry Blackmun and Sandra Day O'Connor, when they visited Hanover. A natural leader, you also served as president of Sigma Kappa sorority, and were a member of the varsity women's swim team, your Class Council, the Pan-Hellenic Council and Palaeopitus.
Following graduation, and a few years in the advertising world, it was back to school. In 1991 you received your law degree from Boston College, where you served as editor-in-chief of the Boston College Third World Law Journal. After clerking for the Honorable Andrew Caffrey and Francis P. O'Connor, you accepted a position with Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. Representing clients in a variety of legal matters, your star rose more quickly than one could imagine and by 1999 you were a litigation partner. It was during this time that you also began performing pro bono work for political asylum clients, homeless individuals, and victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Here lies your passion and in 2004 you left the firm to accept an offer to serve as legal director of the Victim Rights Law Center commenting "This type of job is why I went to law school." Your old law firm understood your desire to link your mind with your heart as you provided assistance to less fortunate individuals in need. In 2007, they created a pro bono partner position and lured you back to manage this program which now consists of over 300 matters handled by 375 attorneys and staff in eight offices.
Your professional and personal board participation outside your office is just as impressive. In 2010, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed you to the Massachusetts Judicial Nominating Commission. In addition, you have participated on the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service, the Boston Bar Association Council and the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission. Recognized for your many contributions within the Massachusetts judicial system, you have been honored with the presentation of numerous awards including the 2009 Women of Justice Award, the Curtin Center for Public Interest Pro Bono Service Award, and Mintz Levin's Pro Bono Award. Tonight we look forward to joining this prestigious list!
It might be difficult to believe, but the many hours you have expended on behalf of Dartmouth College might actually equal or surpass your "real job" hours. Right out of the gate, you assumed the position of class president and have continued to serve in a wide variety of volunteer roles for your alma mater over the last twenty-six years. The range of activities you have been involved in is astounding with service as president, vice president, continuing education officer and community service chair for the Dartmouth Club of Greater Boston; class agent, reunion giving committee member and executive committee member; chair of the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee; alumni councilor; enrollment interviewer; chair of the Committee on Trustees; member of the Student Life Initiative; and chair of the Nominating Committee for the Rockefeller Center Board of Visitors.
One would think that this lifestyle might not leave much time for social activities. Thank goodness your Dartmouth friends looked out for you, as many of them spent time trying to set you up on a date with your future husband, Mark Vasu. In fact, it was actually your classmate and the first person you met when you arrived on campus your freshman year, Pam Cohen Hallagan '85, who succeeded in this at her birthday party. Those friends were right - you are perfect for each other! Married at the Aquinas House on campus in 1992, the two of you are the very proud parents of Connor and Jack.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The future depends on what we do in the present." You have improved the future lives of so many individuals with your brilliant mind and your sense of compassion. In recognition of your life-long devotion to your community, your family, your profession and your alma mater, it is our honor to present you with the Dartmouth Alumni Award.