Distinguished Alumni Award

These outstanding graduates demonstrate a sustained dedication to the values of justice, ethics and integrity through distinguished professional accomplishments. Distinguished alumni are nominated by School of Law graduates.

Click here to learn more about recipients prior to 2000.

Hon. Robert McBride '34, 1983 Recipient

The Honorable Robert McBride graduated from the University of Dayton with a Bachelor of Arts in 1932 and from the College of Law with a Bachelor of Laws in 1934. In 1946, he became a judge on the Dayton Municipal Court, and in 1953 on the Court of Common Pleas. After retiring from the Court of Appeals, where he served from 1974 to 1981, Judge McBride sat on occasional panels for several years.

Judge McBride was honored in 1992 as one of the founding fathers of the Ohio Judicial Conference for his 1960 presentation of its founding constitution. He also was a leader in the development of pattern jury instructions, published under the title Ohio Jury Instructions.

Sara R. Levine '30, 1986 Recipient

Sara Rubenstein-Levine was born January 2, 1908. She graduated from Steele High School in Dayton. After one year of pre-law at Ohio State University, she enrolled at the University of Dayton and in 1930 became one of the few women to receive a law degree from the university's College of Law. In the same year, she was admitted to the Ohio Bar, and in 1935 she was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.

Mrs. Levine engaged in a very limited law practice, devoting most her considerable energies to her family's business, Rubenstein's Department Store in Dayton. She retired in 1982. In 1984, the School of Law honored Mrs. Levine and other early graduates with the Juris Doctor degree. Through the generosity of Mrs. Levine, the Rubenstein-Levine Scholarship Fund was established at the University of Dayton in 1984 to assist deserving students attending the School of Law.

Mrs. Levine was a very active member of Temple Israel. She was honored for her charitable and civic interests by memberships in the University of Dayton President's Club, The President's Club at Children's Medical Center and the Wright State University President's Club. She died in 1989.

Herbert Jacobson '34, 1987 Recipient

Herbert Jacobson graduated from the University of Dayton College of Law in 1934 with a Bachelor of Laws. In 1946, Mr. Jacobson became the assistant county prosecutor for Montgomery County. He became the first assistant prosecutor in 1960, and 15 years later he was designated as the chief trial counsel in the prosecutor's office. In 1976, Mr. Jacobson was honored by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association as Outstanding Assistant Prosecutor of the Year. He died in 1990.

William H. Wolff Sr. '31, 1988 Recipient

William H. Wolff Sr. graduated from the University of Dayton College of Law in 1931. He was a judge of the Dayton Municipal Court from 1936 until 1943. Mr. Wolff engaged in the private practice of law from 1931 until 1936 and from 1943 until his retirement in 1992. In addition to his private law practice, Mr. Wolff also served as an Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutor from 1943 until 1951 and from 1972 until 1992. Mr. Wolff passed away in 1994.

Mathias H. Heck '30, 1989 Recipient

Mathias H. Heck graduated from the University of Dayton College of Law in 1930. A number of things have changed since 1930. Tuition for full time students was $180 each semester, and lodging added an additional $100. The University Bulletin noted that the Law Library "contains a sufficient number of federal and state reports and digests besides the standard textbooks and encyclopedias to accommodate the students." What never changed were Mat Heck's attributes of personal character, which attracted the trust and confidence of people around him, and his loyal support of the University of Dayton.

Mr. Heck cultivated these attributes early in life with hard work on the family farm in Trotwood, Ohio. There the family of eight grew vegetables that Mat, while he was in law school, delivered fresh each morning before sunrise to the wholesale markets in Dayton. He attended Madison Township schools, graduating from Madison High School in 1923. Following high school he entered the insurance business. In addition to delivering the family's farm produce, Mr. Heck sold insurance during the day to finance his education at the University of Dayton at night. Graduating as the president of his law school class, he entered the practice of law that same year in downtown Dayton.

In 1933 Mr. Heck was elected the Justice of the Peace of Madison Township. In 1937, he was appointed Assistant Attorney General of the State of Ohio. Mr. Heck was also one of the original incorporators of the Imperial State Bank of Vandalia.

His distinguished legal career includes four terms as Prosecuting Attorney for Montgomery County from 1945 to 1961. In 1946 he successfully prosecuted Bugs Moran, the infamous criminal who fought with Al Capone over Chicago gangland territory. Mr. Heck once wrote: "I chose the office of Prosecuting Attorney as I like people in all walks of life, and I knew I could be of great service to the people of this county be serving them as their dedicated and impartially minded Prosecuting Attorney."

On March 11, 1989, alumni of the University of Dayton School of Law gathered to honor Mathias Heck as its Most Distinguished Alumnus, an award to affirm the career and life of a man dedicated to serving the law, his community and his family. Mr. Heck served on the School of Law's Board of Visitors, on the Alumni Association Board of Trustees, and was a member of the University of Dayton's President's Club. He was also a supporter of the Program in Law & Technology at the School of Law.

Mr. Heck lived a life that earned the trust of the citizens of the Miami Valley, inspired the confidence of those around him, and piloted a distinguished legal career. It was for these reasons that the University of Dayton conferred its highest award, the Honorary Degree of the Doctor of Humane Letters, upon him on May 14, 1994. He passed away that year.

Mr. Heck and his wife of 48 years, Lucille, raised two sons. Mat Jr. is currently Montgomery County Prosecutor, following in his father's footsteps. Dr. Thomas Heck is a physician practicing in Dayton. He also had four grandchildren, Tiffany, Mathew, Christopher and Andrew.

The drama of the law and the preeminent role of justice in our society, qualities that Mr. Heck so clearly embodied for a lifetime, are reflected in the physical character of the Mathias H. Heck Courtroom. His ardent support for the use of technology in strengthening our justice system is also represented by the sophisticated computer, video, and audio technology that is a hallmark of the model courtroom.

Joseph E. Keller '29, 1990 Recipient

Joseph E. Keller was born in Dayton in 1907. His family members were among the earliest settlers in the Miami Valley. Early in his life he and his family recognized the excellent educational opportunities available at the University of Dayton. He first graduated from the University of Dayton Preparatory School in 1924, then earned a law degree in 1929 and finished with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1930. The degree of doctor of jurisprudence was bestowed upon Mr. Keller in June 1935 at Georgetown University. In 1991, the University of Dayton conferred its highest award by presenting Mr. Keller with the Honorary Degree of the Doctor of Humane Letters.

While a student at the University of Dayton, Mr. Keller's ardent interest in journalism persuaded him to serve as editor of The Exponent, the university's literary magazine. His substantial business acumen served him well as the business manager of The Daytonian, the university's yearbook. After winning a $50 award for the best-written student review of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mr. Keller wrote film reviews for the Journal Herald, one of three local newspapers in Dayton. During his freshman year, he won the George V. Naureth prize for excellence in constitutional history.

After graduation Mr. Keller accepted a faculty position at the University of Dayton College of Law where he taught from 1930-1934. In addition to law courses, he taught a journalism course and also served as faculty advisor for the University News, named the best biweekly college newspaper in Ohio. During this same time he served as judge of the Municipal Court of Oakwood.

In 1934 he accepted a position in Washington, D.C., as administrative assistant to the Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission. Here Mr. Keller flourished, employing his formidable knowledge of the law as well as his natural journalistic talents. After leaving government service, Mr. Keller joined a private law practice in 1938 where he remained until founding his own D.C. firm, Keller and Heckman, in 1955. He gained a national reputation as a leading expert in the fields of communications law and private carrier law.

Throughout his life Joe Keller was devoted to his faith, his family, his university and law school, and the others in need. His charitable giving and support was remarkable. Mr. Keller generously gave his time and talent to many, including extensive volunteer work for a number of prominent organizations. For more than 40 years, he was active in the Gorgas Institute of Tropical and Preventative Medicine, serving as general counsel. He also served as general counsel for the Katherine Pollard Maddux Mental Health Association, which addresses the special mental health needs of preschool children.

For more than four decades Mr. Keller lent his considerable talents to the Boy Scouts of America. He received the Silver Beaver Award, the highest scouting award, and the St. George medal, the highest Catholic scouting service award from the Archdiocese of Washington. He is widely credited for his work in racially integrating the Boy Scouts of America in the Washington, D.C., area.

Mr. Keller was also instrumental in establishing the International School of Law, which later became the George Mason University School of Law. In addition, when no bar examination review programs could admit black graduates, he started a bar examination for black law graduates. He often invited law students, particularly those who lived in the Dayton area, to live in his home rent-free if they needed a place to stay while attending school.

Initially declining an invitation by the University of Dayton to be publicly recognized for his generosity to the university, Mr. Keller said, "I've always been interested in helping people to be good lawyers. My roots came from the University of Dayton. It's the only place I feel I ever got an education." University officials finally convinced him to allow the new School of Law building to bear his name, which it proudly does. Sadly, Mr. Keller never saw the completed facility; he passed away in 1994.

Ralph J. Hanaghan '30, 1991 Recipient

Ralph Hanaghan was born to modest circumstances and lived within the shadow of the University of Dayton campus. He was the son of immigrants and was the first member of his family to attend college. Had it not been for the generosity of the university and its law school during the Depression, the direction of his life would have been substantially different.

Mr. Hanaghan practiced law in Dayton for 50 years. He was recognized as a skilled litigator and for his wise counsel to many families and businesses. He died in 2003.

Hon Rodney M. Love '33, 1991 Recipient

The Honorable Rodney M. Love was an active-retired and visiting judge by assignment of the Supreme Court of Ohio. He was also a former congressman for the state of Ohio. Judge Love received his Bachelor of Science in political science from The Ohio State University in 1930 and his Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Dayton in 1933. He practiced law in Dayton for more than 50 years and passed away in 1996.

He was president of the Dayton Bar Association and served on the board of directors for the Ohio Mental Health Association, Community Mental Health and Retardation. He was a past president of the Board of Trustees of the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Committee in Dayton and of the Federal Bar Association. Additionally, he was a member of the Ohio Common Pleas Judges Association and of the Ohio Association of Probate Court Judges, where he also served as president.

Admitted to the Ohio Bar Association in 1933, Judge Love practiced law in Dayton from 1933 to 1945. In 1945 he became Deputy Chief of Montgomery County Probate Courts. From 1945 to 1960, he was a Probate Judge in Montgomery County and a member of the 89th Congress from the 3rd District of Ohio. The Dayton-based law firm of Smith & Schnacke had the honor of his professional expertise as a law partner from 1960 to 1964, and from 1967 to 1969. In 1965 he was the United States Representative for the 3rd District of Ohio and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. From 1969 until his retirement, he was Judge in the Common Please Court in Montgomery County, Ohio.

Patricia H. Roll '78, 1992 Recipient

The wife of John M. Roll, M.D., and mother of seven children, Pat Roll entered the University of Dayton School of Law at age 45. Her generous welcome by students and faculty made these the happiest and most satisfying years of her life. Mrs. Roll was a first-year Moot Court winner, casenote editor of the Law Review, and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

She remained with the School of Law for 14 more years, with her duties ranging from general administration to academics as an Associate Dean to Admissions, Law Library and Career Services. Her greatest pleasure was teaching Legal Research and Writing. Mrs. Roll was a caring source of wise advice and counsel to a generation of law students, faculty, and deans. She passed away in 2004.

Hon. Barbara P. Gorman '77, 1993 Recipient

Judge Barbara Gorman is a 1977 graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law. She received her bachelor's degree from Marquette University in 1970 and her master's degree in psychology from the University of Dayton in 1974. She is currently a judge with the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

After graduating Summa Cum Laude from the School of Law, she worked for Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office in the civil division for nine years and then joined the criminal division in 1986. In 1987, Judge Gorman was the first woman to be named to the general division court. She was nominated as a finalist for the Dayton YWCA's Outstanding Career Woman Award in 1988. In addition, she received an award as one of Dayton's first "Up & Comers for those People under 40." Judge Gorman is a member of the Law Board of Visitors.

Thomas P. Whelley II '77, 1994 Recipient

Tom Whelley has been a consistent and loyal supporter of the law school since graduating in 1977. He is a member of the School of Law’s Advisory Council and teaches civil trial practice at the law school.  

He also serves on the boards of the Dayton Early College Academy and the Law Leadership Institute and has served as president of the Legal Aid Society of Dayton and the Dayton Bar Association, and as chair of the Western Ohio Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Whelley is a partner in Dinsmore & Shohl’s Dayton office He has extensive experience in litigating complex business cases, including shareholder disputes, accounting malpractice, broker dealer actions, and other related fields. Previously, he worked at Chernesky, Heyman & Kress and Thompson, Hine & Flory.

While in law school, he was editor-in-chief of the University of Dayton Law Review.

Arvin S. Miller '84, 1995 Recipient

Arvin S. Miller is the Criminal Clinic Coordinator and Visiting Assistant Professor at the School of Law. He was admitted to the Bar in 1984 after receiving his Juris Doctor from the University of Dayton School of Law and his Bachelors of Arts in 1978 from Miami University. Mr. Miller was an instructor of law at the University of Dayton School of Law for two years and was then assigned as assistant prosecuting attorney for Montgomery County in 1988. During this time he also served as an adjunct professor for the law school. He became a public defender in 1996 before coming back to the School of Law full time in 2004.

A member of the Ohio Supreme Court and Ohio Bar Association Civil Legal Needs Assistance Improvement Committee, Mr. Miller is also on the board of trustees and is a past president of the Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Project. He is also a member of the Carl Kessler Inns of Court and is on the board of directors for the Dayton Legal Aid Society. Mr. Miller was honored by the American Bar Association in 1991 with the Pro Bono Publico Award where he was recognized for creating and developing the Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Project.

A.J. Wagner '77, 1996 Recipient

A. J. Wagner is a 1977 graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law. He is a former Montgomery County Auditor and remains a partner in the law firm Shively & Wagner in Dayton. He is also a past president of the law school's Alumni Association.

Mr. Wagner received his undergraduate degree in elementary education from the Franciscan University of Stuebenville. He has worked as a teacher, probate court referee, and acting judge in the Dayton Municipal Court before establishing a private legal practice. Mr. Wagner has served as a trust officer for Society Bank and is a member of the board of trustees for the Miami Valley Regional Transit authority in 1986. He has also served on the Dayton Civil Service Board.

Involved with other area politicians prior to running for county auditor, Mr. Wagner ran the re-election campaign for Mayor Richard Clay Dixon and served as treasurer for County Commission President Chuck Curran during his state senate campaign. Mr. Wagner has also sat on the Democratic Central and Executive Committees.

Hon. Daniel G. Gehres '78, 1997 Recipient

Judge Daniel Gehres received his B.S. from Manchester College in 1975 and his J.D. from the University of Dayton in 1978.

He is a member of the Dayton Municipal Court, and has served as the Recovery Now docket judge since 2005. He served as assistant attorney general of Ohio, 1978-1982, and in private practice, 1981-1988.

His service to the community includes: Board Member, Dayton S.A.Y. Soccer Board, 1993-Present; Board Member, Miami Valley North S.A.Y. Soccer, 2002.

William H. Frapwell '77, 1998 Recipient

Meyer Dreety '34, 1999 Recipient

For 1934 University of Dayton College of Law graduate Meyer Dreety, the old-fashioned way was still the best way to do business in the legal profession. He drafted wills in pencil and sent them to a typist. He charged primarily by the job rather than the hour, and he built his practice one piece of advice at a time. "It's still a small community," he said. "If you want to build a practice, sometimes you do a lot for nothing. If people come in and want advice, you give them advice and don't charge for it and hope they remember that when they need you for something else."

Building a law practice wasn't easy during the Great Depression. "Before I ever got anywhere, I went through a starvation period of four or five years," he said. Not long after he started establishing his practice, the United States entered World War II; Mr. Dreety enlisted and was assigned to a New Jersey base, where he served as an unofficial legal adviser.

After 14 months, he was promoted to sergeant, sent to officer candidate school and later assigned as a second lieutenant to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. There he would work in the base's legal offices in both active-duty and civilian roles until he retired as a colonel in the Air Force Reserves in 1976 and as a civilian in 1977. As member of the Armed Services Procurement Committee, Mr. Dreety helped draft armed services procurement regulations and helped try a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. He also served on active duty in the Korean War.

When he retired, a former colleague from the base asked Mr. Dreety to mind his Englewood firm while he was away. The attorney then called Mr. Dreety and said he wasn't coming back. Mr. Dreety was out of retirement, working 20 hours a week even at age 90, until he finally retired for the second time in the late 1990s.

Mr. Dreety served as president of the Federal Bar Association from 1971 to 1972. He received the association's Distinguished Federal Lawyer Award in 1973 and the USAF's Meritorious and Exceptional Civilian Service Medals. He also helped establish the Wright-Patt Credit Union and served on its board of directors for more than 40 years. He passed away in 2005.

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