168th Commencement: Watch Live
The path one takes to become an Albany Law School student is different for everyone. Some enroll straight out of college while others may take a few years to gain work experience. Thomas Boland's path can be characterized by his selfless commitment to his country, his family, and his goal of obtaining a high-quality legal education.
Boland ’20 enlisted in the United States Air Force in 2006. Following basic training he enrolled in the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, California, where he underwent a 47-week course to learn how to speak Russian, as well as "Russian Arms Control Speaking Proficiency Course"—also 47 weeks—which according to Thomas is the most rigorous language course offered at the DLI.
While in the Air Force, Thomas served as an airborne cryptologic linguist as well as an interpreter/sensor operator, a role in which he took part in numerous airborne missions pursuant to the Treaty on Open Skies with French, British, Romanian, Norwegian, and German Open Skies teams over Russian and Ukrainian territory.
The Treaty on Open Skies—designed to enhance mutual understanding, confidence and transparency among its participants—allows for unarmed aerial observation flights over the territories of its signatories. Thomas collaborated with NATO partners and the Russian Federation to implement the treaty in the U.S., Europe, and Russia; provided logistical in-country support and Russian interpretation to treaty verification teams in six different nations; and developed a training curriculum for incoming linguists and non-Russian speakers.
Thomas was also selected as a U.S. representative to the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, where he instructed incoming European diplomatic teams on Russian culture and how to use an interpreter. For his work, Thomas was awarded the Joint Service Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Aerial Achievement Medal for outstanding mission support to the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy during flight operations.
After an exemplary career in the Air Force, and with a wife and two young children to support, Thomas enrolled at Albany Law School.
"It's never too late to begin a new path in life," he said.
Thomas' academic career at Albany Law School has been just as laudable. He is a member of the
Albany Law Review and worked as a summer associate at Seward & Kissel LLP, focusing on corporate litigation. In January, Thomas, with teammate Jordan Fruchter '20, won first place in the 18th Annual Law Student Tax Law Challenge—J.D. Division, a high-profile national competition held at the ABA Tax Section Midyear Meeting in New Orleans.
"I didn't expect the faculty to be so approachable and generous—sharing their time and experience," Thomas said of his time at Albany Law School. "They were always available when I needed clarification on a topic covered in class or advice on career options."
His advice for prospective law students?
"The benefit to committing all that time and energy is that studying the law can open doors you never knew existed," Thomas said. "A graduate who had worked as a litigator for years before starting a lucrative real estate business told me, 'With a law degree, you can do anything except practice medicine.'"