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Remembering a Friend

We write this letter in tribute to our dear friend, Debbie Lerner, JD ’84, who died of breast cancer on Feb. 12, 2001. She was 42.

Debbie’s legal and professional accomplishments were many. In law school, she was an editor of the Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif. Perhaps more impressive is that we all remember Debbie as the member of our law school section who most ably withstood the lengthy examinations of Professor Seidelson. After law school, Debbie clerked for two years for Chief Judge William C. Pryor of the D.C. Court of Appeals. She then become an outstanding litigator, first at Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro, then at Kelly, Drye & Warren, and finally at King & Spalding.

But Debbie’s significant professional accomplishments are dwarfed in many respects by her dedication to her family, friends, and community. Debbie is survived by her husband, Joel Gross, and their three children, Sarah, Gabriel and Talia, ages 12, 7, and 5. Like many of us in the class of 1984, Debbie struggled mightily to balance both professional and family responsibilities. This task was made more difficult, perhaps, by her chosen specialty of litigation and by the fact that part-time legal work was a novelty to the profession, back when she began that schedule. After being diagnosed with an advanced case of breast cancer some four years ago, Debbie made the difficult decision to leave the legal profession to spend more time with her family, a decision she never regretted.

For Debbie was a superlative mom. The first of our circle of law school friends to marry and have children, Debbie seemed able to change miraculously, at the drop of a hat, from a tough-minded litigator to a soft-hearted, gentle, and loving mother to her children. Debbie’s devotion to her children, which was always readily apparent in our conversations with her, was underscored by the numerous rather gruesome treatments Debbie endured in an attempt to live long enough to see her children grow up.

And, while most of us find it overwhelming to simply raise a family or keep active in our profession, Debbie managed also to make significant contributions to her community. Debbie was an active member of her local synagogue, Woodside Synagogue, Ahavas Torah, while also serving as a member of the early childhood committee of the Board of Jewish Education of Greater Washington and as a trustee of the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, where her children attend school.

But, above all else, Debbie was a truly wonderful individual. Through even her last days, Debbie had a sharp wit, which often left us laughing at current events, public figures or ourselves. Yet, at the same time, Debbie was an unerringly thoughtful friend and gracious individual, hosting numerous wedding showers, baby showers and the like, despite her many other responsibilities.

While the legal profession has lost a great lawyer, her family and friends have suffered the more heart-breaking loss of a wonderful wife, mother, and friend. We will miss you always, Debbie.

Cindy Bar, JD ’84
Eileen McDonough, JD ’84
Laura Polacheck, JD ’84
Mary Qualiana, JD ’84

Smart Growth Community

You asked for alumni who are involved in sustainable growth initiatives. I work in the Office of Air and Radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency. I am the OAR Program Innovation Coordinator. As such I work on a number of environmental innovation projects including smart growth.

Larry Weinstock, JD ’84

I’m the land preservation director at Scenic Hudson Inc., a 37-year-old, not-for-profit environmental organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the scenic, ecological, historic, recreational, and agricultural resources of the Hudson River Valley. Under one roof, we combine land preservation, community-based planning, and environmental advocacy. “Smart growth,” sustainable development, etc., are central to much of what we do. Our land preservation program is unusual for its breadth of initiatives, focusing on: natural and scenic areas, neglected and contaminated urban waterfronts, and farmland protection.

I’m very interested in connecting with other real estate/land use lawyers-turned-environmentalists. Thanks for your piece in the magazine on Smart Growth.

Steve Rosenberg, JD ’82

I am an alum from the GW Law class of 1995 and read the article on Smart Growth in the January issue of the GW Law School Magazine with great interest. I am the director of a new Smart Growth Program in Maryland called Smart Codes, which aims to lower the regulatory barriers to redevelopment of existing buildings and neighborhoods and make the places where we already have developed infrastructure more attractive to live and work.

Johns Hopkins, JD ’95

I am writing in response to your call for Law graduates involved in the sustainability movement. My law school paper for Professor Mitchell on Social Repsonsibility in Large Privately Held Corporations led me to involvement in the sustainability movement. I have worked with The Other Economic Summit since 1996; I edited their daily newsletter for the 1997 conference in Denver, Colo. In 2000, I switched to the Green Party while working on the “Nader for President” and “Dunau for Senator” campaigns.

Ian Wilder, JD ’93

I recently read your article on Smart Growth. I am a 1992 GW law graduate who has taken the last 6 years off to raise three children. In a prior life, I was a telecommunications policy analyst/lobbyist. I live in Montgomery County, Md., and am very involved in the community on a volunteer basis. I have learned a lot about naturalism, development, local politics, and the County’s smart growth initiatives. When I return to work in the next year or two I would like to utilize my prior policy experience toward environmental/smart growth initiatives in Montgomery County.

Elizabeth Sadove, JD ’92

I was very pleased to see the article about Smart Growth and sprawl in the law alumni magazine and to learn of GW’s sustainability initiative. In my solo law practice, I represent groups who are using litigation as one of the tools for fighting sprawl, principally by challenging federally funded highways. My practice also focuses on urban quality of life issues, particularly historic preservation, and I am the attorney representing the groups who have challenged the proposed World War II Memorial on the Washington Mall.

Andrea Ferster, JD ’84

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