We are very pleased to announce and congratulate the following recipients:
Judge Mary Bacon forged a long and highly successful legal career that she could not have dreamed of decades ago as a young college dropout and mother of four children.
In 1949, at the age of 19, Mary Baker left school to marry Bob Bacon. She returned to college while raising her kids, completing her degree at Georgia State University in 1967, and enrolled in law school in 1969; there were fewer than 10 women in her class. After graduation, she hung her shingle outside a one-room office in a converted motel off the Katy Freeway, where she developed a thriving family law practice. She also enthusiastically engaged with the Houston Bar, including serving as editor of The Houston Lawyer and as president of the Association of Houston Women Attorneys.
In 1981, she was appointed as associate judge to state District Judge Henry Schuble. Two years later, Gov. Mark White appointed Bacon to the 338th Criminal District Court, where she served until retiring in 1998 (although even after her retirement, she was often seen ordering her signature quad-shot latte on her way to the courthouse to serve as a visiting judge). In 1999, Gov. George W. Bush appointed her to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, where she focused on furthering employment education for female prisoners.
Bacon never wavered from her view that everyone who appeared in her courtroom was entitled to the same respect she was afforded on account of her gavel and elevated chair. She credits her superb staff and the excellence of the Houston defense bar for making her years on the bench such a pleasure.
Bacon is grateful to the Law Center for helping her launch her vibrant professional career. She is proud of her namesake award, which was endowed by her children and provides an annual cash award to Law Center students who are raising families. She is pleased that the Law Center's class of 2019 is nearly half women; she hopes that they and their fellow graduates enjoy their careers as much as she has.
Bill Jackson credits his Law Center training, and plenty of hard work, for his success today in the field of environmental litigation. And that knowledge and skill — along with that same work ethic — are evident in the tireless effort he has put in over the years supporting the school.
"My education and time at the Law Center formed the foundation of my legal career and provided me the tools I needed to succeed in practice," said Jackson, co-chair of Kelley Drye & Warren, LLP's national Environmental Practice Group and the managing partner of its Texas offices. "I worked through my second and third years of law school, and that experience, together with the practical skills and learning that the Law Center afforded me, taught me the value of hard work and prepared me well for the practice of law."
Since graduating in 1992, Jackson has represented both public and private sector clients in many of the most significant environmental and natural resource damages matters in the country. In 2015, he led the team that the Texas Lawyer named as the "Specialty Litigation Group of the Year" for environmental litigation in Texas.
Jackson's volunteer work on behalf of the Law Center is equally impressive. He currently serves as president-elect of the University of Houston Law Foundation Board. He is also chairing the Foundation's Law School Building Committee and is serving on the executive committee of the University of Houston's $1 billion capital campaign. He is a former president of the University of Houston Law Alumni Association. In his decade on the Alumni Board, Jackson also spearheaded various philanthropic efforts benefitting the Law Center, including chairing the A.A. White Society. In 2014, Jackson chaired the 38th Annual Law Gala and received the Dean's Award for outstanding service to the Law Center.
This fall, Jackson was an adjunct professor at the Law Center, teaching a class on the law of natural resource damages liability. Previously, he served as a guest lecturer in environmental law and as an adviser to the University of Houston Law Center's Environmental & Energy Law & Policy Journal. While in school, he served as an associate editor of the Houston Law Review and was awarded the Harold Sellers Scholarship as the top student in his first year section.
"I continue to volunteer my time for the Law Center, because the law school is an important part of Houston and our entire community," he said. "We all need to have the Law Center serve as a hub for legal excellence and an institution that fosters legal learning and leadership. I want to help the University of Houston in its $1 billion capital campaign and to see a new Law Center building as part of that effort."
Greg King is a managing partner at EnCap Flatrock Midstream. He joined the firm in 2015, bringing more than 30 years of experience in the energy industry and significant expertise and contacts in the liquids side of the business.
King served as president of Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE: VLO) from 2003 to 2007. As Valero's president, he helped develop and execute a strategy to build the largest independent refiner in North America. During the same period, he also served as a member of the board of directors of Valero, LP (now NuStar Energy, L.P.).(NYSE: NS). Mr. King started working for Valero in 1993 and served the company in various roles before he was named president, including general counsel and chief operating officer. He is a member of the board of directors of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, LLC.
King sits on the board of directors of the University of Houston Law Foundation and is also actively involved with a number of charitable organizations. He serves as the chairman of Focus on the Family, a national, faith-based organization headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO.
King earned his J.D. at the University of Houston Law Center in 1985 and practiced law as a partner at Bracewell LLP's Houston office from 1985 to 1993. He received a B.B.A. in finance from the University of Texas in 1982.
Gary W. Orloff maintains a diverse business transactions practice at Bracewell LLP, with specific emphasis on the energy industry. An experienced securities lawyer, Gary has particular expertise regarding complex mergers, acquisitions and divestitures and represents boards and committees with respect to governance. He has been fortunate enough to lead some of the largest business transactions in energy and is equally proud of his pro bono representation of veterans through Houston Volunteer Lawyers. While a student at the law school, Gary served as a notes editor of the Houston Law Review and, after graduation, repeatedly served on the Houston Law Alumni Association Board of Directors. His philanthropic support of the Law Center includes his membership in the A.A. White Society. He was one of the founding members of the Corporate Counsel Section of the State Bar of Texas and served as chair of both that section and the Corporate Counsel Section of the Houston Bar Association. He has also served on the executive committee of the board of the Anti-Defamation League and the boards of the Salvation Army and Houston Grand Opera. Orloff is recognized by, among others, Chambers and Legal 500. He is also a fellow of the Texas and Houston Bar Foundations.
State District Judge Randy Wilson is a 6th generation Texan. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Bates College of Law, where he graduated first in his class. He was an editor of the Houston Law Review and a member of the championship International Moot Court team. He was a partner at Susman Godfrey from 1980 to 2003, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in a wide variety of commercial and personal injury disputes. Wilson has been board certified in civil trial law since 1988 and is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. In 2003, Gov. Rick Perry appointed him to be judge of the 157th District Court in Harris County. The Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists twice selected him "Trial Judge of the Year." He was specially appointed to serve as justice of the Texas Supreme Court to hear a securities suit. The legal directory Lawdragon selected Wilson as one of the "500 Leading Judges in America." He writes frequently in law journals on trial presentation issues and substantive legal issues. In addition, he is active in the community, having served on the board of directors of The Star of Hope advocating for the homeless and LifeHouse of Houston, a Christian maternity home.
Michelle Gray is a founding partner at Fogler, Brar, Ford, O'Neil & Gray LLP, a lean trial firm. She represents both individuals and corporations, plaintiffs and defendants. She has tried cases to juries and arbitrators. Her areas of practice include ethics and legal malpractice, construction disputes, dealership disputes and general commercial litigation.
Gray is on the board of the Houston Young Lawyers' Foundation and is a past board member of the Federal Bar Association and the Houston Law Review. She is active as a Friend of Child Advocates, and for the past two years, she chaired the Houston Young Lawyers' Adopt-an-Angel program. For the past two years, Super Lawyers has named her a "Texas Rising Star."
Prior to starting Fogler Brar, Gray was an associate at one of Houston's top litigation boutiques and clerked for U.S. District Judge David Hittner. She graduated from the Law Center at the top of her class and is a highly supportive and engaged alumna through her involvement with the Annual Law Gala & Auction, Student Scholarships and Awards and the Law Annual Fund. While in school, she served as editor-in-chief of the Houston Law Review and was a member of the Order of the Coif, the Order of the Barons, Mock Trial, The Advocates and the Association of Women in Law.
Ricky A. Raven is a member of the Reed Smith Complex Litigation Group and serves as co-leader of the Mass & Toxic Torts team. He is a trial lawyer who focuses on products liability and mass tort litigation. For the past 25 years, he has had first-chair trial responsibilities on behalf of Honeywell International, Inc.'s national trial team in multidistrict litigation involving Bendix brakes. He is also a member of the national trial team for Union Carbide Canada involving its personal watercraft litigation. Being assigned to national trial teams, Raven works effectively with numerous local counsels across the United States and North America. He has first-chaired more than 115 jury trials to verdict. In 1998, a trial verdict decision in Jefferson County, Texas, was designated one of the Top 10 Verdicts in the United States by National Law Journal. Raven has represented major chemical companies in federal litigation across the United States arising under the CERCLA and RCRA Superfund statutes. These matters involved all facets of Superfund litigation, including issues relating to the identification of principally responsible parties, selection of remedy, cost recovery and contribution. A former criminal prosecutor, Raven maintains a significant white collar criminal defense practice. He has successfully defended the largest shopping mall owner in the United States and its senior management in a criminal prosecution involving environmental pollution. Raven has conducted internal investigations for many Fortune 100 corporations where he reported his findings directly to senior management and the board of directors.
Eva Guzman was appointed to the Supreme Court of Texas in 2009, making history as the first Latina to sit on the state's highest civil court. The next year, she became the first Hispanic woman elected to statewide office in Texas and was re-elected in 2016. A proud Texan, Guzman strives for excellence in her work on our state's highest civil court and believes "a judge's highest duty is to uphold the Constitution."
She previously served as a justice on the Houston-based Fourteenth Court of Appeals and as judge of the 309th District Court in Harris County. Now in her 16th year on the bench, Guzman consistently receives high marks in judicial evaluation polls as well as accolades from professional, civic and law enforcement groups.
As the Supreme Court's liaison to the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Guzman works to expand access to justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texans. She also chairs the high court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families, working with leaders across the state to help those most vulnerable. She also serves with other institutions within the legal community as a member of the board of trustees for The Center for American and International Law; the Duke University School of Law Board of Visitors; the board of trustees of South Texas College of Law Houston; the executive committee, Appellate Judges Conference-American Bar Association Judicial Division; and as an adviser to the American Law Institute.
Before taking the bench in 1999, Guzman had a private law practice in Houston for 10 years. She holds a B.B.A. from the University of Houston, a J.D. from South Texas College of Law and an LL.M. from Duke University School of Law.
Michael A. Olivas is the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law and director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at the Law Center. On Feb. 1, 2016, Olivas assumed the presidency of the University of Houston- Downtown on an interim basis until May, 2017. He holds a B.A. (magna cum laude) from the Pontifical College Josephinum, an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Ohio State University and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. He is the author or co-author of 15 books; his most recent, "Suing Alma Mater," deals with higher education and the U.S. Supreme Court. It was chosen as the 2014 winner of the Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law, given annually by the Education Law Association. "Perchance to DREAM, A Legal and Political History of the DREAM Act" is forthcoming.
In 2011, he served as president of the Association of American Law Schools. He is a member of the American Law Institute and the National Academy of Education, the only person to have been elected to both honor academies. From 1989-1993, he served as a trustee of the College Board; from 1993-1997, he served as a trustee of The Access Group, Inc., the major provider of loans for law and graduate students in the U.S. and Canada. Both the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston have honored him with lifetime achievement awards. He has served as a director on the MALDEF board since 2002. He has a substantial and varied legal consulting practice, including representing faculty, staff, institutional and state clients; serving as an expert witness in federal and state courts; and joining litigation teams in educational, finance and immigration matters.
He also hosts a radio show, "The Law of Rock and Roll," on the Albuquerque, NM National Public Radio station, KANW, and lectures on entertainment law.
Decades ago, our founder Frank Andrews envisioned a firm where every individual practiced law in a manner "that the firm would have always the full confidence of clients and the trust of all people."
We are proud to say that the more than 60 talented graduates from the University of Houston Law Center currently working at Andrews Kurth Kenyon continue to live up to the firm's founding goal. In addition to seeking and hiring talented UHLC alumni, the firm has partnered with the school in many endeavors, including the following highlights:
Andrews Kurth Kenyon has offices in 11 locations around the world, and is proud to be recognized as a firm that manages complex legal matters in all major industries and areas of business law and litigation.
Our people are also deeply connected to their communities, and not only do we understand the value of partnering with the Law Center, we also participate in and contribute to all types of service projects. It is, therefore, particularly meaningful to Andrews Kurth Kenyon LLP to receive the University of Houston 2017 Law Gala Award.
George Levkoff never practiced law, but he credits the Law Center for an important part of his education for business and life. He was born on Manhattan Island in New York and lived his first 18 years within two blocks of his birth hospital. He went on to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and the University of Houston Law Center. The next 15 years, Levkoff was a United States government bond trader in Los Angeles, and for the past 19 years a pinot noir winemaker in Healdsburg, Calif. This year will mark the 15th vintage for the george wine company, where he is the founder and sole full-time employee. Levkoff hadn't had a passport for 30 years and is now pouring his wine at dinners all over the world. At the Law Center, he says he was fortunate to take multiple courses from Professor Richard Alderman in contract law, Professor Ira Shepard in tax law, and Professor Stephen Zamora in international law. He says teachers at this level of academia obviously possess mastery of the subject matter but few have the ability and understanding of how to instill self-motivation of the untrained mind to recognize issues, options, remedies and solutions from a legal point of view. Levkoff donates wine for Law Center events to honor professors.
Judy Blissard, a partner in the Houston office of Vinson & Elkins LLP with almost 30 years of legal experience, has a broad-based income tax practice, advising clients on tax planning and various types of M&A and financing transactions. Her principal areas of practice are business transactions and domestic and international tax planning. She represents both public and privately held companies, including private equity funds, in a number of significant business transactions, corporate spin-offs and other divestitures, and the purchases and sales of assets and entities. She serves as tax counsel to numerous U.S. and foreign issuers and underwriters on debt, equity offerings and securities offerings, including issues of convertible debt, contingent payment debt instruments, preferred and common stock offerings and production payment financings.
Blissard graduated from the University of Houston Law Center cum laude in 1987 and was a member of the Order of the Barons and the Order of the Coif. Since her time at the Law Center, she has continued to be a strong supporter and advocate for her alma mater. Judy is a member of the Law Center's premier gift club — the Dean's Society, and has supported the Law Annual Fund for almost 30 years. During the past three years, she has served as the Law Annual Fund's 100% Challenge captain for Vinson & Elkins, helping to secure 100 percent participation in giving by UH Law alumni within the firm.
When the University of Houston Law Center needed a good lawyer, Tony Buzbee answered the call. Serving pro bono as lead counsel, he and a team of UH in-house and local attorneys protected the school's name and brand in a federal trademark infringement lawsuit last year.
It wasn't the first — and won't be the last — time the principal of The Buzbee Law Firm has supported his alma mater; he has served as an adjunct professor and guest speaker, hires UHLC graduates and contributes financially.
"UHLC is an integral part of my success," Buzbee said. "The knowledge I gained there, the friends I made and the supportive network of other graduates; there is no place like it.
"I am proud when I tell others I graduated from UHLC." Buzbee, a Texas A&M graduate and Marine veteran, is a leading personal injury litigator and one of the most successful trial lawyers in the nation. In the past decade, he and his firm have won hundreds of millions of dollars of verdicts and settlements in dozens of cases involving pipeline and plant explosions, toxic torts, offshore litigation, commercial litigation, products liability, and trademark infringement.
He has been recognized by Texas Lawyer as one of the Top 5 "Go To" Lawyers for commercial litigation in Texas and was named the 2015 "Attorney of the Year." He has been recognized repeatedly as a Texas "Super Lawyer" by Thomson Reuters, profiled in several books, and has appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine.
"It is a great honor to present Tony Buzbee with the Dean's Award," said Dean Leonard M. Baynes. "Tony and his career epitomize so much about the University of Houston Law Center.
"He grew up in the small town of Atlanta, Texas, the child of a butcher and a high school cafeteria worker. Through the power of his UHLC legal education, he became an accomplished lawyer. I had the chance to witness his skills in the trademark infringement case. He is brilliant! He was able to take a new and difficult legal issue of Trademark Law, for which he has little experience, and master it in a short span of time. He is also a master story teller who helped shape the winning narrative in this case.
"We at the Law Center are very proud of Tony for all his accomplishments and also very grateful that he came to defend his alma mater when we needed him the most."
Dona Cornell, UH System vice chancellor for legal affairs and general counsel, agreed: "Buzbee's energy and enthusiasm for UHLC as well as his advocacy in our protection of the UHLC's name and brand was phenomenal." Although this is not an area of law he regularly practices, he left no stone unturned and had a full command of the issues which led to a fabulous result."
Buzbee graduated from the University of Houston Law Center summa cum laude in 1997. While a law student, he was the managing editor of the Houston Law Review, was elected class captain by his peers and selected for membership in the Order of the Coif, Order of the Barristers and Order of the Barons. Buzbee was also state and regional mock trial champion.