University of San Diego School of Law
Advocate Fall 2019 Issue

Learn & Be Curious

When I welcomed our new class of first-year law students this August, I greeted them with a combination of envy and wonder. I was envious, I told them, because I recognized all the important and impactful things they could and would do with their legal educations. And I told them I wondered just what they would do, confident that they, like so many graduates of USD School of Law, would find varied, meaningful and, in some cases, unique ways to use their legal educations to make our society more just and more prosperous, and our world a better place to live. This issue of the Advocate highlights some of the unique ways our graduates are using their USD law degrees to pursue careers that are truly on the cutting edge—as high-tech changemakers, entrepreneurs and builders of world-class companies, and as innovative practitioners in rapidly evolving legal fields. When you read the stories describing what Kim Koro, ’86 (JD), is doing as president of Qualcomm’s Government Technology Division to ensure wireless security for government operations; Denise Hickey’s, ’94 (JD), work supporting Celgene’s advances in gene therapy; Van Nguy’s, ’04 (JD), role in the development of self-driving cars at Waymo; Matt Fersch, ’06 (JD/MBA), advising Amazon on its complex and global tax issues; and Vic Merjanian’s, ’10 (JD), entrepreneurship in developing lifesaving emergency communication technology for the innovative company he founded, many of you will ask the same question I did: which of them has the coolest job? If it is not one of them, turn to the story of our two “high flier” alumni, Kurt Robinson, ’84 (MBA), ’87 (JD), and Tim Goetz, ’85 (JD/MBA), who lead, as president and CEO and general counsel and CFO, respectively, Robinson Helicopter, the largest manufacturer of civilian helicopters in the world. Among the many alumni who support high tech and innovation as practitioners in leading law firms is a notable trio: Andrew Serwin, ’95 (JD), who is an internationallyrecognized expert on privacy and cybersecurity; David Jordan, ’02 (JD), a highly prolific patent prosecutor of patents in artificial intelligence, including computing, human-computer interactions and artificial neural networks; and Erin Gibson, ’03 (JD), a patent litigator representing companies in high-profile patent disputes resulting in landmark rulings. Stories of what these alumni have done with their legal educations truly exemplify the motto in the photograph on this magazine’s front cover taken at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters: “Learn & Be Curious.”Shaka Johnson, ’03 (JD), who has also spent his career in the technology sector as counsel at Gateway, Sanyo, Facebook and Sony Electronics, told our graduates at our 62nd commencement, that, as much as technical expertise, the personal qualities embodied in the six words “Be positive, be kind, be you” are essential to professional success. There are many stories in this Advocate of students and alumni who live by these words while they follow varied paths in achieving professional success. We see notable leaders emerging among our current students, like Jilliane Jackson, ’20 (JD), and Kemberly Kantor, ’21 (JD/MSRE), and recent graduates including Roger Bains, ’19 (JD), winner of a prestigious national transactional law competition, and our three 2018 Rising Star Recent Alumni Award winners, Megan L. Donohue, Frankie A. DiGiacco and Peter Stockburger, all 2009 graduates. The message of positive thinking given to our graduates by Shaka Johnson marks the careers of both of our 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award winners, San Diego Superior Court Judge Carolyn M. Caietti, ’83 (BA), ’86 (JD), especially during the years she served as presiding judge of juvenile court and led efforts to reform the juvenile justice system, and criminal defense lawyer Knut S. Johnson, ’86 (JD), whose career has been dedicated to serving indigent defendants. Last year’s Advocate featured some of the many jurists who are graduates of our law school. This year, in the Class Action section we celebrate the appointments of two of our alumni as the newest two magistrate judges in the Southern District of California (Michael Berg, ’81 JD, and Allison Goddard, ’00 JD, and five new Superior Court judges, two in Los Angeles (Jennifer Cops, ’05 JD, and Daniel Crowley, ’87 JD, and one each in Riverside (Emily Benjamini, ’92 JD), Yolo (Peter M. Williams, ’95 JD) and San Diego (Rohanee A. Zapanta, 98 BA, ’02 JD) counties. We also note the naming of Larry A. Burns, ’79 (JD), as chief judge of the District Court for the Southern District of California, the first time an alumnus has held the gavel since the Honorable Judith Keep, ’70 (JD), who was featured in last year’s Advocate. A highlight of the past year occurred in February when Chief Judge Burns swore in Robert S. Brewer, Jr., ’75 (JD), as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California (the third USD graduate to serve in that role). It was a great day for recognizing the contributions that alumni are making to the rule of law in San Diego and beyond. The number of alumni noted in the Class Action section for being named “top,” “best” or “super” lawyers or receiving awards for excellence in their areas of practice is a further testament to how well we train our graduates to practice law. But we also see how successful our graduates are in endeavors outside the practice of law, exemplified by the promotion of Erik Greupner, ’04 (JD), to president of business operations for the San Diego Padres; Eugene A. Patrizio, ’95 (JD), being named CEO of Memorial Medical Center in Modesto; the appointment of Rebekah Goshorn Jurata, ’07 (JD), as special assistant to the president for financial policy at the National Economic Council; and the service of Matthew L. Abbot, ’15 (JD), as commanding officer of a U.S. Navy fleet logistics support squadron, to cite a few other alumni beyond those in our feature stories. Training our graduates for such a variety of challenging careers requires that we continue to innovate and expand our curriculum, adapt to new teaching methods and technologies, and have the resources and facilities to stay competitive. At events from the swearing in of new members of the bar to investiture of new judges, holiday parties and reunions, I have heard many alumni echo the words of Kurt Robinson in our feature story: “I couldn’t do my job if I didn’t have a legal education.” Great appreciation is also repeatedly given to beloved members of our distinguished faculty for excellent and inspirational teaching. At USD, great teaching and great scholarship have long supported each other. The impressive array of recent faculty books, articles, talks and other scholarly activities noted in the Faculty Footnotes section demonstrates why our faculty continues to rank among the very highest in the country for scholarly impact (a remarkable 22nd among all law schools by the most recent SSRN count). We are increasingly reliant on the generosity of our alumni to give us the resources to recruit and retain faculty of this high caliber and to support their research and teaching. On a more somber note, the In Memoriam section records the losses of two beloved members of our faculty: Jorge Vargas, a specialist on Mexican law and international environmental law, who served on our faculty from 1983 to 2016, contributing to our growing reputation in the field of international law, and the Honorable David Laro, senior judge of the U.S. Tax Court, who taught tax as an adjunct professor for more than 20 years and was instrumental in building our nationally ranked graduate tax program. Among alumni, we also note the loss of three pillars of the San Diego legal community: Gerald (Jerry) McMahon, ’64 (JD); Michael Thorsnes, ’68 (JD); and Craig Higgs, ’69 (JD). All three were renowned trial lawyers who became named partners of prominent San Diego firms and always gave generously of their time, talents and treasures to USD School of Law. What a privilege it was to get to know each of these legends in our law school’s history. And what a privilege it is to witness their legacy being built upon in so many ways, including by innovative alumni pursuing careers on the cutting edge.

Stephen C. Ferruolo
Dean, USD School of Law