The 1990s

Somehow, in moving my web page into Adobe Dreamweaver and entering the new millennium, I lost track of some gems from the 1990s. In some part I am reluctant to claim any portion of the lives people made for themselves a decade or more after they left me. And I hate to be the person who rests on the laurels of those who made it "big" in some way. Yet at the same time I hate letting go of people who were so special to me.

Al Carpenter isn't pictured here. He died of a pulmonary embolism before he ever finished my LSAT class. He had broken a leg playing varsity football for NC Central, and was on his way to my house for tutoring when he was stricken. I rarely talk about this event, but it deserves to be marked. He and his family struggled to rise above the fate of black people in the south, and he was so close to succeeding. I have hardly any memories predating that event, because the passing of such a fine young man marked me so fiercely that it erased many earlier memories, and is part of the reason I devoted myself to disadvantaged and minority students thereafter.

David Woodruff still surfaces from time to time, referring people to me and my web page fifteen years after entering UNC's law school. He couldn't believe I was having him write his essay about Louis Farrakhan, and was even more shocked when he was not only admitted with that essay, but given a scholarship.

Melissa Volpe deserves to be remembered here as my truest compatriot -- a New Yorker who was as fully out of her element as I was. My favorite Melissa story is about the time she brought a classmate home to New York over spring break. They were off to a club when the classic car-jacking scene occurred: while they were stopped at a red light, some dude pointed a gun in the window and said, "Get out of the car." Melissa took a quick look left and right for cross-traffic, told him what to do to himself, and floored it!

Melissa and I devised a system of national auto license plates, color-coded like karate belts:

  • white plate, no expressway driving
  • yellow plate, right lane only, not during rush hour
  • black plate -- get out of the way!
She and John McCaskill are intertwined in my memory. Her family had invited me to stay with them when I was planning my annual trip to New York for Gay Pride (a/k/a the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade). At the last minute I called and asked whether I could add a second guest. John, a 400-meter hurdler, had been given mainstream answers to questions, which serve no purpose at all to a minority, when he stopped by Penn Law School during the Penn Relays, so I invited him along to talk to admissions officers pre-and post-parade. The Volpes extended us their hospitality. We walked in the door, Melissa trotted down the stairs, they stared and, almost in unison, pointed at each other and shouted, "You!" Apparently they had been antagonists in a political philosophy class. John McCaskill accompanied me to New York, around 1995

Why this walk down Memory Lane? Maybe because I'm old enough to indulge; maybe because people so often ask how I came to be the person I am, and those first years in North Carolina were crucial to my consciousness of the interplay of race, ethnicity, and demographics in the admissions process and in society.

But I have much more than memories left me. I have a living legacy of people who have marked the world, some in larger ways than others, but each in ways that I remember fondly and with a smile at stray moments.

Kwame Jackson was made famous by Donald Trump's TV show, but I have far fonder (and better) memories of the college senior who called me "Miss DeLoggio, Ma'am." Catch me totally off the record someday and I'll regale you with stories of sweet tea, southern manners, and some too-risque-to-print apocrypha.

Connie Davis Powell was as much a pride to me as Kwame was; she had every bit as much fire in her as he had cream. Her rise from a tiny North Carolina town to a professorship at Baylor is proof that the determined little girl who marched herself into the local NAACP office at nine years old to complain about racism in her grade school is still marching through life with that same determination, tempered by the infectious New York laugh that matched my own from Philly. (New York? Well, not all of her family lived in North Carolina.)

Michael Bryant Hicks was the quietest and most thoughtful of the three. (Yes, they were all my clients in the same year or two -- 1995 or 1996, so they overlap in my memory.) What Kwame accomplished with a charmer's wit and Connie with determination, Michael accomplished with quiet assessment and quieter action. He has found the life he wants for himself, and is sharing it with his adopted newborn son, Marleigh Desmond.

Jaime Kowey Shean was my ray of sunshine in bleaker moments - another Philly girl! Half Italian, half Lebanese, we shared a fondness for anchovy pizza that we could only ameliorate by buying the pizza and anchovies separately and reheating in my oven. Her ability to balance a career, a marriage, and the upbringing of three beautiful children was foreordained by her cheerful disposition.

Nikki James was always quietly competent, school and work marking her with a more serious demeanor than many of my other clients. Her persistence against a background of disadvantage and financial turmoil made her (then and now) one of my favorites.

Ansel Brown had the unique privilege of being rejected by Emory and admitted to Harvard. I will be kind enough not to print his opinion of this disparity. Ansel may not have been the only one to pray for my immortal soul, but he was the only one to kneel in my living room to do so.

Those were all local clients, before the advent of the internet and my wandering the countryside virtually via "message boards" and literally by teaching LSAT prep courses.

Lance and Robbert were in my first out-of-town LSAT class; with their help, I learned that Los Angeles had more to offer than the Walk of the Stars.

Abdias attended my LSAT class in Houston. The temperature never went below 95 the whole time I was there. I got in a day early and went to the zoo, but all the animals were lying very still in the shadiest spot they could find. I shortly left to do the same. That was my first trip to Houston, and apparently scarred me permanently; I've never grown to like that city, despite having met many fine people from and presently in it.

Allan Mesia found me on the internet; when V.P. Walling invited me to lecture at the University of South Florida in Tampa, I made sure to visit Allan in Clearwater for a home-cooked Peruvian dinner!

Rafael Aguila was a client at the same time as V.P. and Ansel; they made an impressive trio at the DC Law Forum in 1998, eventually attending Northwestern, Michigan, and Harvard, respectively.

Jim Kirk found me and found his way out of Mannford Oklahoma. After attending Hofstra Law School, he joined the military (don't make me swear to it, but I'm pretty sure he's in the Army) to pursue his earliest love, flying. In between the two, he joined me at virtually every New York dinner I hosted.

Kenn Bailey opened my eyes yet again to the narrowness of my assumptions when he told me he was from the ghetto of Tacoma, Washington. "There's no such thing!" I naively asserted. Kenn's essays convinced me I was wrong, and were part of the chain of events that led me from North Carolina to Seattle, WA, where I now reside. When I met Kenn at the Chicago Law Forum the year after he started law School at the University of Illinois, we hugged so fiercely that the other clients couldn't believe we'd never met before!

First and last is Eric Voigt. Eric's the reason I started this page. I was content to let the 1990s fade away, Kwame or no Kwame, when Eric finally sent me a pic. I uploaded it and assembled a page, but I knew no one would ever see it without a link from someplace else.

Along with another picture of Eric, I found a handful of photos from the 1990s, so I've added one more page of fond memories.

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