2022 Grand Honors Award Recipients Announced
Albany Law School will honor five distinguished alumni and friends at the 2022 Grand Honors Awards on Thursday, September 15 at 5:30 p.m. The ceremony is presented by the National Alumni Association. All are welcome to attend in person or tune in virtually to celebrate these dedicated Albany Law School alumni.
Trustees Gold Medal
James E. Kelly ’83
Trustee Emeritus, Albany Law School Board of Trustees
Founding donor, Albany Law School Wellness Initiative
Formerly General Counsel at Dime Bancorp, Inc., throughout his career Kelly worked as a financial and legal executive and Board member in the banking and asset management industries in New York City. As a three-term member of the Board of Trustees, Kelly chaired the Trustees’ Long Range Planning Committee from 2009 through 2013, and was involved in the development of the Opportunity Pathways strategic plan adopted by Albany Law School in 2014. During his time on the Board, he also helped to stabilize the outlook for the school during the economic downturn for law schools in 2010 through 2015, serving as Vice Chairman of the Board during that period, from 2013 to 2015.
Distinguished Alumni Award
Renee Z. Merges ’83
Retired Assistant District Attorney with the Albany County District Attorney’s Office
Merges is an adjunct faculty member at Albany Law School. In her thirty-plus year career she worked on many notable cases, including several homicides and violent crimes. She was the first woman to be the major crime bureau chief in the county. She also became the liaison to the internship program with Albany Law School and has mentored nearly 1,500 young lawyers. Currently, approximately 22 out of the 35 Assistant District Attorneys in the office have completed this internship program under her supervision which ultimately resulted in landing ADA positions upon graduation and passing the bar exam. She retired from the county in 2013 to take a full-time criminal justice teaching position at Southern Vermont College. She returned to Albany County in 2019 and now heads all the diversion initiatives in the office including the felony youth diversion program, felony drug court, mental health court, and LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion).
Donald D. DeAngelis '60 Excellence in Alumni Service Award
BJ Costello III ’72
Senior Counsel at Hinman Straub
Costello is Senior Counsel at Hinman Straub PC. He represents clients before the New York State Legislature, Governor’s Office and state regulatory agencies. He specializes in Board governance issues for not-for-profit corporations. Costello is Chairman of the Board of the USS Slater and also serves on the Board of Directors of Hope House, an addiction treatment center in Albany which merged with women-focused addiction recovery center, The Next Step. He is a long-time member of the Government Law Center Advisory Board and currently serves as Chair. He has served as chair of LaSalle School, the Albany Diocese Catholic Charities, the Saint Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center, the United Way of New York State, and The Albany Waterway.
Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Benjamin P. Pomerance ’13
Deputy Director for Program Development for the NYS Division of Veterans’ Affairs
Pomerance is Deputy General Counsel and Legislative Liaison overseeing several of the Division’s programming initiatives. His work focuses on advocacy and assistance for Veterans, Service members, and their families on a wide range of federal and state issues. While at Albany Law, he founded and directed the school’s Veterans’ Rights Pro Bono Project. He is also an adjunct professor at Albany Law School and teaches Veterans’ Law.
Humanitarian Achievement Award
Edward P. Swyer ’18H
President of the Swyer Companies
]Swyer is President of the Swyer Companies, a real estate company that owns and manages commercial developments in the Capital District, including Stuyvesant Plaza. Swyer is also a Managing Partner at Selected Properties of the Northeast. His father's construction company, The L.A. Swyer Co., Inc., built the Schaffer Law Library in 1986. Most recently The Swyer Family Foundation helped establish the Community Development Clinic within The Justice Center at Albany Law School.
About the Grand Honors Awards
The Trustees Gold Medal, first awarded in 1966, is the highest accolade bestowed by Albany Law School and is given to an individual who has demonstrated a record of exemplary support and dedication to the advancement of Albany Law School. This award is presented by the Board of Trustees from nominations provided by the National Alumni Association Board of Directors. The distinguished list of Trustees Gold Medal honorees includes Warren M. Anderson ’40, Domenick L. Gabrielli ’36, Hon. Robert J. Sise ’49, Prof. David D. Siegel, Donald R. DeAngelis ’60, Hon. Harry J. D’Agostino ’55, Peter M. Pryor ’54, James N. Benedict ’74, E. Stewart Jones Jr. ’66, Edward P. Swyer, Daniel P. Nolan ’78, the Hon. Bernard J. Malone Jr. ’72, and the Hon. Randolph F. Treece ’76. J.K. Hage III ’78 was awarded the Trustees Gold Medal in 2021.
The Distinguished Alumni Award, created in 1998 to recognize an individual’s continuous record of service to Albany Law School, is the highest honor bestowed by the National Alumni Association Board of Directors. The award criteria include, but are not limited to, outstanding professional accomplishment, sustained engagement, and continual support of Albany Law School. Past recipients include Donna E. Wardlaw ’77, Hon. Randolph F. Treece ’76, Hon. Joseph C. Teresi ’71, Hon. Mary O. Ricci ’83, Hon. Victoria A. Graffeo ’77, VADM Barry M. Costello ’81, Peter C. Kopff ’75, Frank L. Fernandez ’80, Hon. Katherine M. Sheehan ’94, Hon. Thomas J. Vilsack ’75, Lisa A. Whitney ’71, Stephen P. Younger ’82, Hon. Bernard J. Malone Jr. ’72, Hon. Michael J. Garcia ’89, Hon. Leslie E. Stein ’81, and Dale M. Thuillez ’72. Hon. Ryan T. Donovan ’01 received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2021.
The Donald D. DeAngelis ’60 Excellence in Alumni Service Award, created in 1989, recognizes outstanding dedication and commitment to alumni, to the National Alumni Association, and to Albany Law School. It was named in honor of Donald D. DeAngelis, Class of 1960, who served as the first president of the National Alumni Association Board of Directors, a member of the Albany Law School Board of Trustees, and an associate editor of the Albany Law Review, among other contributions to the law school. Recipients join a notable list of past honorees, including: Richard D. Parsons ’71, Prof. Francis H. Anderson ’47, Dean Martin H. Belsky, Daniel P. Nolan ’78, Dianne R. Phillips ’88, John J. Yanas ’53, Hon. Erik E. Joh ’70, Prof. Michael J. Hutter Jr., Berta Hernandez-Truyol ’78, Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo ’82, Hon. Bernard J. Malone Jr. ’72, Donna E. Wardlaw ’77, Richard A. Reed ’81, Robert G. Lyman ’69, William E. Redmond ’55, Mary Ann A. Cody ’83, Barbara D. Cottrell ’84, John M. Bagyi ’96, Harold C. Hanson ’66, Larry P. Schiffer ’79, Ruth E. Leistensnider ’88, Keiki-Michael Cabanos ’97, Amy J. Kellogg ’02, and Robert A. Rausch ’94. and Thania F. Fernandez ’85. Patrick K. Jordan ’02 received the DeAngelis Award in 2021.
The Outstanding Young Alumni Award, first presented in 1990, is given to alumni who have graduated within the past 10 years and have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to Albany Law School through consistent volunteerism and engagement. Previous honorees include Louis Cristo ’84, Stephen P. Younger ’82, Richard J. Miller Jr. ’89, Lee H. Wasserman ’83, Barbara D. Cottrell ’84, Gregory V. Serio ’86, Patricia E. Salkin ’88, Hon. John L. Sampson ’91, Christopher R. Lyons ’88, Hon. Glen T. Bruening ’89, Cynthia A. Platt ’89, Gina M. Stevens ’90, Monica L. Kreshik ’94, Hon. Richard M. Platkin ’93, Patricia D. DeAngelis ’94, Molly A. Wilkinson ’96, Hon. Christine M. Clark ’96, Keiki-Michael Cabanos ’97, Hon. Ryan T. Donovan ’01, Laura M. Jordan ’03, David A. Rozen ’10, Javid Afzali ’12, Matthew J. Laroche ’10, Adam W. Silverman ’08, and Samantha G. Howell ’10 and Emily C. Chapman ’13 (Drazan). Renée L. Behrens ’12 received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2021.
The Humanitarian Achievement Award, created in 2019, recognizes the extraordinary humanitarian contributions of an individual in the community who dedicates their time and legal expertise to improve quality of life and fight indifference, intolerance, and/or injustice through providing pro bono services, engaging in activism, supporting legal education, improving the delivery of legal services, and beyond. Previous honorees include Hon. Elizabeth A. Garry ’90, M. Sherry Gold and the Gold Family, and Lillian M. Moy.