The Gift
of the Legal
The enduring impact of scholarship giving
Each year, Brooklyn Law School awards generous scholarships to both students of outstanding merit and students in need of opportunity. Behind the creation of many of these scholarships is the story of a donor whose life has been touched by the Law School. Through their giving, these donors ensure that a Brooklyn Law School education can continue to change lives.
By Jen Swetzoff
hen Bianca D’Agostaro ’20 graduated from Barnard College with a degree in economics, she applied early decision to Brooklyn Law School, hoping that she would be able to afford the next step in her education.

Receiving the Taubenblatt/Harmon Scholarship, a new scholarship created this year by a Brooklyn Law School legacy family, made a huge difference for her.

“I’m the first person in my family to graduate from law school,” said D’Agostaro, who will join Paul Weiss as an associate in its real estate practice. “The benefits of graduating without student debt just can’t be overestimated.”

Bianca D’Agostaro headshot
Bianca D’Agostaro headshot
“My scholarship let me focus on my studies, get involved on campus, collaborate with other students, hold internships, and work with professors on research…. It has been a blessing.”
—Bianca D’Agostaro
The Taubenblatt/Harmon Scholarship was created by the late Leonard Taubenblatt ’50, his daughter Ellen Taubenblatt Harmon ’79, and his son-in-law Mark Harmon ’78, to be awarded to a deserving student on the basis of academic merit. The couple met on campus while in law school.

“My scholarship let me focus on my studies, get involved on campus, collaborate with other students, hold internships, and work with professors on research, all because I didn’t have to hold down a part-time job,” said D’Agostaro. “It has been a blessing.”

After graduation, she also will be forging her own personal law school connection by marrying Brandon Moreno ’20, whom she met in her Civil Procedure course as a first-year law student.

Scholarship giving is integral to advancing Brooklyn Law School’s legacy of academic excellence and its commitment to making legal education affordable and accessible for talented students. The impact of scholarships ripples across generations, supporting outstanding students who go on to successful careers across diverse fields of the law—and then give back to the institution where it all began.

Howard Hershenhorn ’89 and Louis Grandelli ’90
Howard Hershenhorn ’89 (L)

Louis Grandelli ’90 (R)

The Howard Hershenhorn ’89 and Louis Grandelli ’90 Scholarship, newly created this year by its namesake alumni, is a marker of the strong connection they forged at the Law School. The two met as law students and struck up a lasting friendship. Both went on to become successful trial lawyers in the areas of medical malpractice and personal injury. This new scholarship for students with need was a way to thank the Law School for what it gave them.

“One thing I’ll never forget,” said Grandelli, who runs his own law firm with offices in Manhattan and on Staten Island, “is what the late Professor Jerome Leitner told us at our orientation. He said a lot of your best friends in life will be people sitting in this room whom you haven’t even met yet. And that’s the truth. Some of the people I met at the Law School are still my best friends to this day, including Howard.”

“I’ve always felt a very strong allegiance to the school,” said Hershenhorn, partner at the New York City-based firm Gair, Gair, Conason. The child of immigrants, he came from humble beginnings in Canarsie, Brooklyn, and was the first college graduate in his family.

“I wanted to be a lawyer,” he said, “because I wanted to advocate on behalf of people who grew up like I did, without the benefit of starting out with a Rolodex they could tap into for help.” Today, in addition to his successful legal practice, Hershenhorn also serves as an adjunct professor at the Law School, teaching a course on personal injury and medical malpractice.

“I think giving back to the institution that provided us with the opportunity to accomplish so much is one of the most important things I could possibly do to encourage other people to do the same thing,” Hershenhorn said.

Grandelli agrees. “Our experience at Brooklyn Law School was life changing,” he said. “I learned more in one semester there than in all four years of college. My father used to say you’ll never regret your education, no matter what you do. And that has always stayed with me. I feel very fortunate to be able to help other students have an experience like we did.”

Hershenhorn and Grandelli’s story of giving back is emblematic of the Law School’s enduring tradition of supporting students of merit, regardless of background or need. Generous donors continue to renew this legacy.

In the last year, seven new scholarships have been created. An additional eight were awarded for the first time, including the Susan Greenberg-Thrope ’81 Scholarship, awarded to a student on the basis of academic merit and dedication to serving the community.

“I’ve always been very grateful to Brooklyn Law School for the quality of the education I received there, and what it enabled me to accomplish professionally and personally,” said Greenberg-Thrope, a recently retired senior vice president at New York Life Insurance Company, who established a scholarship last year.

For Greenberg-Thrope, that also meant sharing her expertise and career guidance with students. “Since graduating from Brooklyn Law School, I have spent time mentoring students regarding the myriad opportunities available for them to utilize their law degree,” she said. “My parents instilled in me at a very young age the obligation to give back.”

How to Establish a Scholarship
How to Establish a Scholarship
Donors create scholarships for a variety of reasons: to reward achievement, to help students with financial need, to promote work within their practice area, to help create an opportunity, or to honor a legacy. Whatever your motivations or ability to give, there are many options to create an enduring impact on the future of the legal field.
An endowed gift, which may be made over a period of time or at one time, can establish a scholarship that will impact at least one student per year in perpetuity. For these scholarships, the gift is not spent but is invested; it is the returns on the investment that fund the annual scholarship award.
Endowed Scholarships
Endowed Scholarships
An endowed gift, which may be made over a period of time or at one time, can establish a scholarship that will impact at least one student per year in perpetuity. For these scholarships, the gift is not spent but is invested; it is the returns on the investment that fund the annual scholarship award.
Opportunity Scholarships
Opportunity Scholarships
Gifts that fund opportunity scholarships are spent down immediately, with the potential to help a number of students in a defined time frame.
“I wanted to give others the same opportunity I was lucky enough to have, to pursue a lucrative and very interesting career.”
—Jason Seltzer ’52
To learn more about how you can help the next generation of Brooklyn Law School students, contact Chief Advancement Officer Sean Moriarty at or 718-780-0516.
Donors often establish a scholarship to support students interested in a particular practice area. Jason Seltzer ’52, for example, a retired real estate lawyer and former president of the New Jersey Generals football team, who now lives in Florida with his wife, Helen, recently decided to create a scholarship for students interested in entertainment or sports law, both areas of great strength at the Law School.

“Without Brooklyn Law School,” Seltzer said, “I probably would not have succeeded to the extent that I have. I wanted to give others the same opportunity I was lucky enough to have, to pursue a lucrative and very interesting career.”

These new scholarships enhance the Law School’s already robust roster of scholarships that are instrumental in attracting students with stellar academic achievements, professional accomplishments and service to the community, and passion for the law.

Cory Bernstein ’20 is one such student. After graduating from Tulane University with a degree in legal studies in business, he knew he wanted to pursue the law as a way to help people with mental health issues and disabilities.

“I’ve personally dealt with mental health challenges in my own life,” Bernstein said, “and I knew that I wanted to focus on a related area of public interest law for my career. With everything going on in the world right now, I think there’s going to be an increasing need for this kind of work.”

As a recipient of the Gertrude and Louis Feil Scholarship, endowed by Board of Trustees member Jeffrey J. Feil ’73 in memory of his parents, Bernstein has been able to take full advantage of the Law School’s offerings. In addition to excelling in his coursework, he has completed two internships and an externship, and been named a Prince Scholar and Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellow. He also participated in the Disability and Civil Rights Clinic, helping win a complicated case for a developmentally disabled individual requesting asylum.

“I’ve had a very positive learning experience at the Law School,” Bernstein said. “So many resources and connections have been made available to me, and I’ll always be grateful for that.”

Many successful students find that scholarships play a tremendous role in helping them become the kind of lawyer they want to be by allowing them to concentrate on their studies and lessening the burden of student loan debt.

“All of the Law School’s donors make a huge impact on students’ lives,” said Sean P. Moriarty, chief advancement officer at Brooklyn Law School. “As we all know, a legal education, particularly in New York City, is expensive. But because of the generous support we receive from donors, including alumni, their families, foundations, and firms, we’re able to see a tangible effect in helping to lower the debt burden and open our doors to more students.”

Shanni Lynch headshot
Shanni Lynch ’23 dreamed of attending law school when she was an honors student at Stony Brook University. Lynch viewed the law as an important way to help marginalized people and work toward social justice. But she and her parents were concerned about adding to their already considerable student loan burden. After graduating from college, she applied to the Law School’s part-time program, planning to continue her full-time job as a legal secretary and hoping that financial aid could help cover the remaining costs. The Frederick E. Curry III ’03 Scholarship made that possible, helping her close the affordability gap.

Curry, a member of the Board of Trustees and a partner and practice leader at Deloitte, created the scholarship to help the Law School recruit African American students.

“When I found out that I was accepted with a scholarship, I was ecstatic,” said Lynch, who came to New York from St. Lucia, where she grew up, to pursue her education. “Without the generosity of people like Mr. Curry creating scholarships, it would be so difficult for people like me to pursue their dreams.”

“Our philosophy is to be as generous as possible to as many deserving students as we can,” said Eulas Boyd, dean of admissions and financial aid. “Every dollar makes a difference to our students. And whatever the purpose of a donation, whatever motivates it, we will be the most careful stewards of the financial resources we’re given.”

Growing a Legacy
Setting up a scholarship can be more than a charitable donation—it can be a living memorial to a loved one.

For example, the Philip Silverman ’51 Scholarship was created in memory of a pioneer in the field of aviation litigation by his children, ELLEN SILVERMAN ELIAS and Michael Silverman. A “completely self-made man,” in his daughter’s words, Silverman was the son of poverty-stricken Jewish refugees from Russia. During World War II, he flew helicopters for the U.S. Army Air Forces, the start of a lifelong fascination with aviation. He used the GI Bill to attend Brooklyn Law School, and used his degree to become an assistant U.S. attorney. In the 1950s, his military experience was called on when he was transferred to Washington, D.C., to help found the Department of Justice’s aviation unit. After serving for many years as the chief of the unit, he joined a private litigation practice, from which he retired in 1988.

After their father passed away in 1989, Elias and her brother, Michael Silverman, wanted to find a way to keep their father’s memory alive. Neither had followed their father into the legal profession: Elias, before retiring, was a senior supervising underwriter at AIG, and Silverman owns a successful optometry practice. However, they say that the professional encouragement and support their father gave them was instrumental to their success.

Women's Leadership Network Scholarship
Paying It Forward
The Women’s Leadership Network Scholarship
The Women’s Leadership Network was established in 2017 to bring together distinguished graduates of the Law School with the mission to develop and offer programs and opportunities designed to support and mentor women in the law, facilitate networking, and promote career success. Now, members of the Women’s Leadership Circle, which founded the network, have launched a scholarship initiative to reward students who best exemplify this mission.

“The advancement of women in the law is important to me, and something I’m proud to support,” said Sophia Valiotis ’04, chief legal officer at Alma Realty in Long Island City. “This scholarship is another way we can help law students. As alumnae, I think it’s so important to support the school and give back in whatever way we can, whether it’s with our time or money.”

“If you ever called [our dad] with a problem, or told him your goals,” Elias said, “he would always ask how he could help.” She and her brother created their scholarship for a driven, high-achieving law student in need. “We wanted to do for someone else what the GI Bill did for him,” said Elias. “We want to help support someone who’s going to go out there and do great things.”

Endowing the scholarship carried an unexpected benefit for Elias. “I feel I am walking in my father’s footsteps,” she said. “We have been so embraced by the Law School community. We have a real emotional connection with it, almost like we went there ourselves.” Every year since establishing their scholarship, Elias has made the trip from Florida to attend the Law School’s annual Scholars and Benefactors Celebration and meet the recipient of the scholarship. When the student thanks her for her generosity, she is quick to connect her gift to her father’s values. “This is who I am,” she said, “because this is who my father was.”

Jason Jia headshot
In addition to honoring loved ones, scholarships can be a way to express gratitude for mentors. Recently, Jason Jia ’11, the founding partner of Jia Law Group, a boutique immigration firm, established the Jason Jia ’11 and Barbara Gartner Scholarship, made in honor of Gartner, a Brooklyn Law School ESL writing specialist, to support students whose native language is not English. Jia began his life in China, living with relatives and at boarding school for more than a decade before being able to join his parents in California as a young teenager. This year’s Alumni Association Rising Star (see p. 28), Jia was inspired to give back because his parents always demonstrated a commitment to striving and sacrifice, showing that there’s no contradiction between pursuing one’s own dreams and helping others realize theirs.
“I’d never be where I am now without the incredible teaching, lifelong friendships, and introduction to new ways of thinking that Brooklyn Law brought into my world,” said Jia. “If this scholarship helps even one student accomplish an aspiration that they’d thought might be unattainable, then paying it forward will have been entirely worth it.”
The Law School’s annual Scholars and Benefactors Celebration brings together donors and scholarship recipients to share stories of the tremendous impact of scholarship giving on the lives and careers of students and to renew the legacy of excellence and support for the next generation.