Alumni Association President's Message

Hon. Michael J. Riordan photo

Life is a series of discernments and decisions. St. Ignatius of Loyola called these moments “motions of the soul,” which lead us in one direction or another during our time on earth. For many, these motions of the soul are influenced by our faith life, family life, and educational background. 

For me, the major catalysts in my life were my parents, who had little in terms of formal education and material goods when they emigrated from Ireland and landed in Detroit in the 1950s. However, they had a tremendous belief in themselves, in their faith and the value of hard, ceaseless work. These traits, no doubt, were inculcated in them by their parents and the large farming and fishing families in which they were raised in rural County Kerry. Thankfully, they passed down these beliefs and values to me and my siblings. I owe them all I have today because if it were not for their encouragement and their confidence in me, I never would have enrolled at University of Detroit School of Law in the fall of 1987. 

Like most of my law school classmates, I was a first-generation college graduate and the first in my family to attend law school. I knew nothing about the practice of law or how to approach the study of law. Looking back on those intimidating days, I had the extremely good fortune, as did many of you, to meet professors who shaped and nurtured me in the ways of legal scholarship, ethics, and civility. From my first-year professors, Jackie Hand, Pat Keenan, Byron Cooper, Fr. Joe Daoust, S.J., Lee Goldman, and Joan Hollinger, to upper-class mentors, Nick Kyser, Rich Kriscuinas, Leon Lysaght, Larry Dubin, Steve Mazurak, Howard Abrams, Bob Brown, Don Jolliffe, Bernie Dobranski, Richard Seid, Alan Saltzman, Gil Donahue, and Loretta Lewins-Peck, I was blessed to have been exposed to the sharpest of legal educators and the most wonderful of people while at Detroit Mercy Law. It is because of them and the many Detroit Mercy Law alumni who have been friends, advisers, and mentors during my law school and legal career, that I am incredibly honored to be taking the helm as president of the Detroit Mercy Law Alumni Association for the 2019-2020 term.  

When I reflect on my years as a law student, I recall, not only the lifelong friendships I made, but equally as important were the multitude of Detroit Mercy Law alumni who were willing to help me build a foundation for my legal career. Being able to call upon the Law School’s alumni base has been instrumental to me in making many career development and work-related decisions. Now, it is my turn, and your turn, to give back to those who are following us at the Law School. Most especially as Detroit Mercy Law alumni, it now is our responsibility to bring new lawyers into the legal community secure in the knowledge that they have a professional and personal support network just as we enjoyed in the years gone by.

This is a dynamic time to become engaged at Detroit Mercy Law. Through the School’s commitment to providing a hands-on legal education, we are forming students who, from the start of their careers, will know how very important it is to build trust with their clients, to treat them with individual dignity and to really listen, not just hear, their concerns. To that end, the Law School has expanded its range of experiential courses to give our students additional opportunities to go beyond the text and classroom to work, in real-time, with those in the community who most need, but can least afford legal assistance.

As president of the alumni association, I ask each of you to spend more time with us, or if you have been disengaged for a while, come back and be part of the life of the Law School. Meet with our students. Offer mentorship. Reconnect with classmates at Homecoming or at the many alumni events throughout the year. Support today's students who will be your colleagues tomorrow. Most importantly, come back because your commitment will touch our students, the practice of law, and our entire community.

We have more than 8,000 members in our Detroit Mercy Law alumni network. But our power is not just in numbers. It is within each of us who offer support and encouragement to those who are following us through the doors of Dowling Hall. Every day we have a chance to make a difference, collectively and individually, in our law school, to its students, and to its graduates. Make the decision to offer encouragement, insight, and aid to those who may be struggling on the path which we all successfully have walked in years gone by. Through this, we thank those who did the same for us when we decided to pursue our legal educations.

Please reach out to me or any other members of our board of directors. I am looking forward to the year ahead. It is humbling and it is a privilege to be your president.

The Honorable Michael J. Riordan ’90
President, University of Detroit Mercy Law Alumni Association
Judge, Michigan Court of Appeals