One hundred thirty-plus years after Kate Stoneman made history as the first woman admitted to the New York bar, she continues to inspire others to break new ground. Albany Law School paid tribute to its first female graduate, Class of 1898—and to today’s pioneering women—during the 25th Anniversary Kate Stoneman Day this spring.
The celebration featured the presentation of Kate Stoneman Awards to individuals who, like Stoneman, are committed to seeking change and expanding opportunities for women. Numerous past recipients were on hand to fete this year’s honorees: New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, Patricia E. Salkin ’88, and Kelley Ross Brown ’91.
During their acceptance remarks, all three acknowledged the progress that women have made and called on attendees to help with the work that remains.
Underwood, the keynote speaker and Miriam M. Netter ’72 Stoneman Award recipient, was the first woman to lead the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office, the first woman to serve as New York’s attorney general, and the first person to bring a nursing infant to a Supreme Court argument. She urged the audience “to bring into the courts and the boardrooms, the executive suites in business and in government, and the academies and all the institutions of our society, all the voices—not just token representatives; to hear the voices of the people who are present and those who are not; and to build the bridges that are needed to unite rather than divide our large and diverse state and our even larger and more diverse nation.”
Salkin, a former faculty member, associate dean, and director of the Government Law Center at her alma mater, Albany Law School, was the first woman to serve as dean of Touro College’s Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. Now she is provost of the college’s graduate and professional divisions. A mentor and philanthropist, Salkin has established scholarships at Albany Law School and Touro College “to support access to education for those who follow us, so that they too can be the Kate Stonemans of tomorrow. … When you lift another woman up, there is no telling how high she will fly.”
Brown, the third woman to make partner at Woods Oviatt Gilman in Rochester, was the first who didn’t leave the firm for family reasons. She credited the example of “my own Kate Stoneman,” a mother who was a successful attorney and partner. Brown paid that support forward by spearheading the Women’s Initiative Program at her firm. The initiative has been instrumental in attracting and retaining women associates and partners. “I intend to see those numbers continue to increase,” Brown said.
Special touches for the silver anniversary included the Katheryn D. Katz Student Award, won by Rebecca Wager ’19, who reconstructed Kate Stoneman’s dress as a visual representation of the successes and barriers experienced by women in law. Nihla Zarook ’19 won second prize for her children’s book, Kate and the Elephant.
To read more about the 25th Anniversary Kate Stoneman Day, go to albanylaw.edu/Stoneman2019.