By Jeanne Segil and Abbey Marr, Co-chairs of the Gary Bellow Public Service award
On Friday April 12th, the HLS community gathered to honor the legacy of Professor Gary Bellow, founder and former faculty director of Harvard Law School’s Clinical Programs, while recognizing the work of an incredible HLS alumna, Laurel Firestone (HLS ’04) and an inspiring HLS student, Stephanie Davidson (HLS ’13). The Gary Bellow Public Service Award was created in 2001 to recognize excellence in public interest work at HLS and to honor Professor Bellow. The Award is entirely student-run and given annually by the student body of HLS to a student and alumnus/a whose commitment to social justice makes us proud to be a part of the HLS community.
Dean Minow opened the ceremony, speaking eloquently about Professor Bellow and his commitment to community lawyering and public service. She also introduced Professor Jeanne Charn, the Director of the Bellow-Sacks Access to Civil Legal Services Project and the wife of the late Professor Bellow, who shared the personal stories of faculty and students who fondly remembered Professor Bellow and his charges to his clinical students. Bellow’s presence was felt in the room as the two honorees received recognition for their commitment to legal services and community lawyering.
Laurel Firestone and community organizer Susana de Anda founded the Community Water Center, an environmental justice organization, based in San Joaquin Valley to ensure that access to water is recognized as a human right. Firestone’s dedicated work has impacted change at the community, regional, and state level. Her talk inspired students to “find their purpose,” to look in their own backyards and see people who often remain invisible. She suggested that community organizing is a vital component of creating change and empowering people.
Stephanie Davidson, the current president of the WLA and a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, spoke about her work within these organizations as she dedicated herself to anti-violence activism. Stephanie spoke passionately about her desire to change the paradigm of violence against women work, to move from being reactive to instead think about how to prevent such violence from occurring in the first instance. She plans to dedicate her career to such efforts and we were so excited to hear about the inspiring and important work she will continue to pursue.
The room erupted into standing ovation at the end of these talks as the HLS community demonstrated its appreciation for the work of individuals such as Laurel and Stephanie, committed and conscientious, determined to create change in a world that so needs it.