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Family First

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Rothman Scholars come together to honor benefactor

By: Diane Krieger

Though no blood tie connects this remarkable clan of Rothman Scholars, its members seemed thrilled just to be in the same room. Some had never met before. And when they did meet, it felt like a family reunion.
 
“Tonight was an absolute delight,” says Colton Cray (JD 2017). “It was such fun to finally meet the older Rothman Scholars. I’ve read their bios and seen their pictures. A few I’ve talked with over the phone.”
 
Cray is the 2014 Rothman Scholar — one of 15 USC Gould alumni and current students who can trace their academic lineage to the illustrious Frank Rothman (JD 1951).
 
This was their first-ever reunion. Scholarship recipients don’t normally feel such kinship with their benefactor. But the late Frank Rothman was no ordinary benefactor, and this is no ordinary scholarship.
 
“We always call ourselves the Rothman Family,” Cray explained. “That’s how we consider it.”
 
‘DO THE VERY BEST’
 
Named for the fabled sports and entertainment attorney, the unique merit-based scholarship was first awarded in 2002
Frank Rothman's grandson Adam (pictured second from right, front row) joined Dean Guzman and the Rothman Scholars for a reunion in the spring.
and has gone to USC Gould’s top entering 1L every year since then. In addition to a three-year, full-ride tuition benefit, Rothman Scholars receive annual $2,000 stipends and first-year summer internships in the Los Angeles offices of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
 
According to Frank Rothman’s son, Steven, the prize pays tribute to his dad’s lifelong devotion to USC Gould and his call to “do the very best we are capable of.”
 
The first reunion was an intimate affair, hosted this spring by Dean Andrew Guzman at the Jonathan Club in Santa Monica.
 
Cray, now a second-year associate with Skadden, had driven across town for the gathering.
 
Others traveled much farther.
 
M&A attorney Andrew Elken (JD 2009) arrived from New York that afternoon and would head back early the next morning. “I was going a million miles an hour at work when I got an e-mail from a reunion chair and Chloe Reid [director of development at Gould]. Of course, the Rothman Scholarship means so much to me that I booked a flight immediately,” said the Princeton graduate, now a partner with Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP.
 
Elizabeth Kimmelman Schwartz (JD 2007), who co-chaired the reunion, had flown in from Philadelphia. “This program means a lot to me,” she says, smiling brightly. The other co-chair, Jamie Heine (JD 2013), had come from Washington, D.C., where she’s a litigator with Covington & Burling.
 
COOL CAREERS
 
The first Rothman Scholar, Douglas Strasnick (JD 2005), had come from North Carolina.
 
Like Rothman himself, who went from winning major court battles for the NFL to running MGM studios to spearheading the antitrust division at Skadden, the Rothman Scholars tend to exceed — and defy — expectations, sometimes charting unusual career paths.
 
Take Strasnick. A Duke grad, at USC Gould he was a finalist in the Hale Moot Court Honors Competition and, like Rothman, went on to work in sports and entertainment law. Today, he lives in Chapel Hill with his wife and child and works with UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina, the local PBS affiliate, on their product/corporate strategy and business development.
 
Or take Kyle Barrett (JD 2012), now a senior attorney with the San Diego-based lllumina Inc., a global leader in genetic sequencing instruments. He’d studied biology and health policy at Duke and used his USC Gould education 
to position himself for his current role with this multi-billion-dollar life sciences company.
 
There’s entrepreneur Amanda Rubenstein (JD 2011), who runs an Orange County-based academic test prep agency, AR Academics. A University of Pennsylvania grad, she started her thriving business in 2008 — the same year she entered law school.
 
“What I love about USC Gould is that all my friends have really interesting careers. That’s very special about this place,” says Kimmelman Schwartz, another UPenn grad. She worked as a litigation associate at Dechert LLP before transitioning into a role as a university advancement executive with Bryn Mawr College. Now, she is the director of alumni and parent engagement at George School, an independent day and boarding school in Pennsylvania.
 
TRY EVERYTHING
 
One of the biggest perks, the Rothman Scholars agree, is having the Skadden first-year summer associate gig locked
in. From the late 1980s until his death in 2000, Frank Rothman had built up the firm’s Los Angeles offices, and the scholarship bearing his name is closely tied to it.
 
“To go through law school without worrying about tuition expenses or getting a job — it really allows you to focus on your work and your passions,” says Cray, who took extra courses at the USC Marshall School of Business while attending USC Gould and spent his final year studying abroad in Lyon, France.
 
Cray calls his Skadden internship the best summer of his life. “The work exposure was amazing. They rotated me, so I tried everything. And they treated me like the guest of honor every night.”
 
He returned for a second summer in 2015, and upon graduation, joined Skadden’s corporate team, following in the footsteps of Rothman Scholar and commercial litigator Abraham Tabaie (JD 2008).
 
But Cray and Tabaie could have gone anywhere.
 
“The Rothman Scholarship carries a lot of weight,” said Elken, a Manhattan-based corporate partner with Cravath. “People in New York and D.C. know Frank Rothman’s name. It opens a lot of doors. It is truly an honor to be a part of his legacy.”
 
Along with the benefits come responsibilities. Each current scholar mentors the ones who come after. They also serve on the selection committee, interviewing the year’s candidates and voting for their choice.
 
Ariel Prince was the 2017 pick. She has already internalized the family creed.
 
“It’s an honor and an opportunity to do the best you can,” says the UC Berkeley grad. “My goal here is to try absolutely everything I can get my hands on, really stretch myself to take classes outside my comfort zone and see what else is out there.”
 
Frank Rothman would be pleased.

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