On Friday, September 9, 2016, the University of Oregon School of Law will honor Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (J.D., 1975) and the late Minoru Yasui (J.D., 1939) each with the John E. Jaqua Distinguished Alumnus Award. The awards will be a presented during the Alumni Reception and Awards Dinner taking place at the Knight Law Center as part of Alumni Weekend celebrations running September 8-10.
Oregon Law will also recognize Matthew Kuntz (J.D., 2006), Laura Salerno Owens (J.D., 2007), and the late Albert "Al" Kim (J.D., 2006) each with the Oregon Law Outstanding Young Alumnus Award at the awards dinner.
The John E. Jaqua Distinguished Alumnus Awards are bestowed upon graduates of Oregon Law who exemplify the highest quality and ethical standards, as well as great loyalty to the school.
Many nominations for Attorney General Rosenblum shared sentiments anonymously such as, “Ellen Rosenblum, as a judge, as Oregon's attorney general, and as a fellow UO Law alum, has consistently impressed me with her kindness, her principles, and her professionalism. But what particularly qualifies her for this recognition is her moral compass, now brought to bear in running the Oregon Department of Justice. Her sense of fairness, justice, and decency are integral to her leadership. She has brought honor to our school, and it is fitting to honor her.”
Rosenblum has dedicated her career to public service, serving first as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Eugene and Portland; as a District, Circuit, and Court of Appeals Judge; and, most recently, as the first woman to serve as Oregon Attorney General. As attorney general, Rosenblum’s priorities include advocating for and protecting the state’s most vulnerable people, including families and children; seniors; Oregonians whose first language is not English; and students who have incurred significant education-related debt. She has assisted district attorneys and local law enforcement in prosecuting complex crimes and has made internet and other crimes against children her highest priority. In addition to her official duties, Rosenblum has also actively mentored young lawyers throughout her career. She currently serves on the executive committee of the National Association of Attorneys General; chairs the Conference of Western Attorneys General; and co-chairs the American Bar Association’s Section of State and Local Government Law’s committee, which is devoted exclusively to state attorney general issues.
Alumni also voiced support for this year’s co-honoree for the Jaqua Distinguished Alumnus Award, Minoru Yasui. Nominators often included Yasui’s heroic biography and highlighted his having been honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor. As one nominator stated, “Mr. Yasui was a man of indomitable courage and the highest character, who dedicated most of his life to the pursuit of justice. He would be a very deserving recipient of this most prestigious award.”
Yasui dedicated his career to fighting injustice toward racial and ethnic minorities. He was a "double Duck," having earned his bachelor’s degree (1937) and Juris Doctor (1939) from the University of Oregon, and became the first Japanese American admitted to the Oregon State Bar. Through legal channels, advocacy with the Japanese American Citizens’ League, and acts of civil disobedience, Yasui fought Executive Order 9066, the Japanese American internment order, and its post-war effects from 1942 until his death in 1986. Following World War II, Yasui worked on behalf of disenfranchised minorities in Denver, Colo., becoming a founding member of the Urban League of Denver in 1946 and serving as a member, and eventually as executive director, of the city's Community Relations Commission, (later renamed the Human Rights Commission), from 1959-1983. Yasui is credited with helping Denver avert race riots which erupted in cities nationwide following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. After more than forty years, a federal court vacated Yasui’s wartime in 1986. Two years after his death, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, providing an official apology and a payment to each of the survivors of the internment camps. And in 2015, Yasui was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor, for his life-long commitment to civil rights and justice.
Three recent alumni will also be recognized on September 9 with the Oregon Law Outstanding Young Alumnus Award.
Matthew Kuntz (J.D., 2006) is a nationally-recognized advocate for effective screening and treatment of post-traumatic stress injuries of returning service members. Kuntz is partner at Boyar & Kuntz, PLLC and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Uganda Rural Fund USA, Inc. He recently released his latest book, “Looking for Answers Through Dirty Glasses: Finding the Divine in a Challenging World.”
Laura Salerno Owens (J.D., 2007) is a trial lawyer with broad experience representing employers and executives in single and class actions lawsuits. She represents clients in a variety of employment law issues including noncompetition/nonsolicitation agreements and trade secrets, wage and hour disputes, discrimination charges, sexual harassment allegations, and whistleblower claims.
Albert “Al” Kim (J.D., 2006) was known for his service to others and his good nature while a student at Oregon Law. Upon graduation, Kim served the public as a prosecutor for several years and later operated a successful law firm in Riverside, CA. Kim passed away in 2016 and is remembered fondly by the class of 2006 as they celebrate their tenth reunion.
The full schedule of Oregon Law’s Alumni Weekend events and activities, including tickets and registration, can be found at Law.UOregon.edu/explore/alumni-weekend.