young man (center) wearing graduation regalia, posing with his father and mother, standing outside a building.

Charles S. Desmond III (center) with his father, Charles S. Desmond II and mother Deborah Desmond.

Four generations of Desmond graduates

When Pomp and Circumstance sounded at the 134th Commencement this month, one graduate’s name echoed across more than a century of UB Law history.

a painting of man wearing judges robe.

Hon. Charles Stewart Desmond ’20 
Photo: Historical Society of the New York Courts

Charles S. Desmond III, who goes by Charlie, accepted his degree in the footsteps of three namesakes: his father, Charles S. Desmond II, Class of 1988; his grandfather, Charles Ryan Desmond, Class of 1953; and his great-grandfather, Charles S. Desmond, Class of 1920.

You may recognize the name; the law school’s most prestigious appellate advocacy competition, the Charles S. Desmond Moot Court Competition, is named in honor of the family patriarch, who spent nearly his entire judicial career on New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, and became its chief judge.

“No one ever gave me trouble” about his famous name, Charlie says. “At the beginning of the semester, sometimes professors would ask if I was related, and a lot of classmates asked. There might have been a little joke here and there.” He never competed in the moot court competition, but only because it wasn’t his thing.       

His father, Charles S. Desmond II, drove Judge Desmond, who died in 1987, back and forth to the North Campus from the family home in Eden when the elderly judge was teaching appellate advocacy and Charlie’s father was a law student. “People loved the class,” his father says, partly because the judge would bring in lions of the local bar and bench as guest speakers. “We talked about everything” on those drives, he says.

He remembers Judge Desmond taking the train from Buffalo on Sundays, staying in Albany through the workweek at the Cornell Club, and returning every Friday. And the old-time pictures of the judge, buttoned-down and serious, told a true story: “He always wore a sport coat or a suit, no matter what. Even at Sunday morning, brunch, it didn’t matter. He was not a work-out-in-the-garden type of guy.”

Charles S. Desmond II practices personal injury law with Gibson, McAskill & Crosby LLP and he says he followed his grandfather’s career advice—“he thought it would be a good idea if I went to UB law school.”

For his part, Charlie says he learned about the lawyer’s life around the dinner table. And summers during his high school and undergraduate years, he’d work in the mailroom at his father’s firm. There, he says, “I started to get a feel of what actually happens in practice.”

“I’ve been around it so much. A lot of our friends are lawyers, and I’ve gotten to see what they do. My dad never pushed me. He’d even jokingly say not to do it.”

“I didn’t want to force him,” says Charlie’s father. “He saw what I do and what lawyers do. It’s a hard profession; it takes a lot of time and energy and aggravation. But he was confident that he could handle the lifestyle.”