With all the chest-beating surrounding the University of Miami's Homecoming celebrations last week, Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte figured that, as the former President of Florida State University, he would try to blend in as much as possible.
"I came tonight in neutral colors," Professor D'Alemberte told the guests – some of them sporting distinctly orange-and-green hues – at a reception hosted by the University of Miami's Law Alumni Association, which joined forces with FSU to honor Professor D'Alemberte and Edward "Tad" Foote II, president emeritus of UM.
Professor D'Alemberte was careful to note that he had begun his legal education at Miami Law and that he had taught here, even though he earned his JD at the University of Florida and spent time at the University of Virginia and the London School of Economics. While teaching at Miami Law, his boss was Soia Mentschikoff, who had become the school's first female dean in 1974. "She was not always easy to work for," he recalled, to knowing nods from the crowd, but he made clear that there have always been "great deans and great leadership at this university."
A former President of the American Bar Association, Professor D'Alemberte served as Dean of Florida State University College of Law from 1984 to 1989 and was appointed president of Florida State University in 1993, a post he held for a decade.
The evening's other main honoree, former UM President Foote, was not able to attend the reception, but UM's Provost, Thomas J. LeBlanc, accepted the Law Alumni Association's honor on his behalf, even though, as School of Law Dean Patricia D. White pointed out, he is "not nearly as tall" as Foote.
"It's no surprise that they chose a law dean with a legal education to raise the academic standards of the University of Miami," LeBlanc said, referring to Foote, who was UM's fourth president, from 1981 through 2001. Foote was credited with prompting the dramatic rise in UM's rankings during the last two decades of the 20th century.
Also at the reception, two distinguished Miami Law alums received the Alumni Leadership Award – Hilarie Bass, JD '81, and Harley Tropin, JD '77. The award recognizes alums who have had a distinguished career in their field of endeavor and have brought honor to their alma mater.
"One of the best decisions I made was to come back to Miami to study law," said Bass, a member of UM's Board of Trustees as well as the School of Law's Visiting Committee and Momentum 2 Campaign Committee. "This is one of the top law schools in the country."
Bass is a partner in the law firm Greenberg Traurig. She recently served as ABA Chair of the 70,000-member Litigation Section, and also served as board chairman of the United Way of Miami-Dade County.
Tropin, an adjunct faculty member at Miami Law and a generous supporter of the school's Litigation Skills Program, is a partner in the law firm Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton and heads its litigation department. He concentrates his practice on high-risk business litigation and national class actions. Tropin's expertise in commercial litigation has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America since 1989.
"I really love the University of Miami School of Law – it has given me my wife, who I stalked in the law library 35 years ago and finally captured," Tropin said as Sherry Tropin, smiling, stood nearby. "The law school has been great to me and anything that I've done for it has been small in comparison."
The crowd was welcomed by Adam Moskowitz, JD '93, Vice President of the Law Alumni Association's board of directors and Homecoming Chair. The awards were presented by the association's president, Devang Desai, JD '03.