Published April 24, 2018
The University at Buffalo School of Law welcomed Terrence M. Connors ’71, of Connors LLP, to its 129th Commencement exercises on May 20. The ceremony was held at the Center for the Arts and will featured Connors as the keynote speaker.
Connors, a graduate of Canisius College and the University at Buffalo School of Law, is one of the pre-eminent trial attorneys in the State of New York. He began his legal career as a litigation associate at a large Buffalo law firm before joining Lawrence J. Vilardo, Esq., in 1986, to form the litigation boutique firm now known as Connors LLP. Connors LLP is devoted to trial and appellate advocacy in civil and criminal trials. Throughout his legal career, Connors has consistently been listed as one of Buffalo Business First’s top 10 Legal Elite, and was ranked number one by Super Lawyers Upstate New York for eight consecutive years.
Connors has been recognized by both Canisius College and the University at Buffalo School of Law as a Distinguished Alumnus. In 2016, he was presented with the Edwin F. Jaeckle Award, the highest honor that the School of Law and UB Law Alumni Association can jointly bestow. In accepting the award, Connors commented on the privilege of practicing law, saying “Every day we have an opportunity to make a difference, to change someone’s life, to stand between them and power, to stand up for them when some can’t stand up for themselves. It’s stimulating, it’s intellectually challenging, and it’s incredibly rewarding.”
Among the major recognitions at the Commencement ceremonies, Dean Aviva Abramovsky presented the Dean’s Medal to Hon. Eugene F. Pigott, Jr. ’73, a New York State Supreme Court justice and former Senior Associate Judge of New York’s highest court, the New York State Court of Appeals. The Dean’s Medal is awarded to an individual who is distinguished by their commitment to justice and the rule of law.
Pigott practiced as a trial attorney for several years after graduating from law school, handling major cases as chief trial counsel at his firm. In 1982, he was appointed Erie County Attorney and headed that office for more than four years before returning to private practice. He was elected to New York State Supreme Court in 1997, and subsequently served on the Appellate Division, Fourth Department in 1998, and on the New York State Court of Appeals in 2006, until he reached the mandatory retirement age in December 2016.
Over the years, Judge Pigott has maintained close ties to the law school, serving on the Dean’s Advisory Council, judging moot court competitions, and speaking as a guest in several classes. In 2014, he received the Edwin F. Jaeckle Award, describing the legal profession as “unparalleled on Earth, that does things no one else can do, that solves problems in the best way they can be solved.”
The Ken Joyce Excellence in Teaching Award was presented to Jennifer R. Scharf ’05 recognizing her excellence in teaching and her longstanding service to the School of Law. Scharf is a healthcare attorney at the Erie County Medical Center Corporation. Previously associate general counsel at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, she began her career as a litigation associate in private practice where she focused on the representation of physicians and other professionals, as well as personal injury, commercial litigation, and employment law.
Currently the co-director of the University at Buffalo School of Law’s Trial Advocacy Program and an adjunct instructor, Scharf coaches trial teams each semester teaching students litigation skills. “All law school courses are important,” says Scharf, “but trial team teaches you how to do the day to day. It makes you feel courtroom-ready from the day you walk out the door.”
The University bestowed a SUNY honorary doctorate of law to Margaret W. Wong ’76 as part of the law school’s Commencement ceremony. An international leader in the area of immigration law, Wong is one of the most distinguished, accomplished and dedicated alumna of the law school. Through her many achievements and contributions, she embodies the highest ideals of personal and professional excellence, service and leadership.
An immigrant herself, Wong has made it her mission to help others from countries around the world pursue opportunities in the United States, helping tens of thousands of people along the way. In the 1970s, she founded Margaret W. Wong & Associates and has built her firm into a nationally and internationally recognized practice for its expertise in immigration and nationality law.
Throughout her career, Wong has remained a dedicated supporter of her alma mater, where she has mentored many students, serves as a longtime member of the law school’s Dean’s Advisory Council and co-chaired the successful $30 million Campaign for UB Law. Wong has endowed scholarships for 15 UB law students to date and a named professorship in the law school.
The three top awards in the graduating class went to: Christian Alan Cassara who received the Max Koren Award for scholastic achievement and leadership; Timothy Banker who received the John N. Bennett Achievement Award for the highest scholastic average; and Jordan Nicole Sieracki who received the Dale S. Margulis Award for contributing the most to the School of Law and community.
Additional awards presented during the ceremony included the Faculty Award given to Professor Christine Bartholomew and the Staff Award given to Amy Atkinson.