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December 13, 2011

Lindbergh Porter ’81 was bestowed the 2011 Alumnus of the Year Award at the USF School of Law’s Holiday Luncheon on Dec. 1.

Lindbergh Porter '81 at the Annual Holiday Luncheon.

“Lindbergh Porter embodies the best of all that we have been, the best of all that we are, and stands as a beacon of hope for all that we can become,” Dean Jeffrey Brand said.

Porter was raised in one of America’s poorest counties in rural Mississippi where he attended grades one through 12 in schools that remained racially segregated despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. With 16 other classmates, he received a scholarship to the University of Illinois, where he earned his undergraduate degree before attending the USF School of Law.

“We are a long ways today from Holmes County, Miss., as we celebrate a law school that is 42 percent students of color. But the lesson of Lindbergh’s journey is critical to the enormous challenges we face…(as) judges, lawyers, and legal educators charged with the awesome responsibility of using the law to promote the common good,” Brand said. “Lindbergh’s struggle and the struggle of his time teach us that our path is neither certain nor straight, that education is the linchpin of progress, and our noble profession…can truly make a difference in the world.”

A partner at Littler Mendelson P.C., Porter represents employers in wage and hour, class actions, wrongful termination, and discrimination cases. He is a member of the firm’s diversity and inclusion committee, and has been named one of the top four employment attorneys in San Francisco by The Recorder. Porter is dedicated to volunteering and has received the Charles Houston Bar Association Community Service Award and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Community Service Award.

Clara L. Porter, Lindbergh’s daughter and a third-year student at the law school, said her father strives to emulate the mission and values held by USF.

Clara Porter 3L introduces her father.

“He has always been proud of USF’s efforts and achievements and its commitment to diversity and in fostering a rich culture of collaboration and a sense of fraternity among its students,” she said. “My dad is my hero and I am honored to be a part of such an esteemed community that champions the dedication and essence that I see in him.”

Upon accepting the award, Porter said that he did so symbolically on behalf of all those who are dedicated to equal opportunity.

“Whatever success or accomplishment might happen to be associated with my name, the honor of it belongs to all of you and to people everywhere who are committed to an open field and a fair opportunity for all regardless of the circumstance of one’s birth,” he said. “It belongs to the law school for its visionary commitment to educating minds and hearts to change the world. It belongs to (my wife) Mary and to me—it belongs to us because of the commitment of this law school (that) transported us from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the courtrooms of California and the nation….

“I do make just one plea this afternoon and that is that you continue to be ever vigilant, ever compassionate, ever courageous, ever committed, ever engaged in seeing that the poor, the dispossessed, the immigrants, the least among us have an equal opportunity for education by whatever name—special admissions, affirmative action, diversity and inclusion, by whatever name—for it changes lives, it saves our soul, and it will redeem our country,” Porter said.

The Holiday Luncheon received support from event benefactors Littler Mendelson P.C., Ferrari-Carano Vinewards & Winery, and Miller Sabino & Lee, Legal Placement Services; event patron Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP; and event sponsors The Arns Law Firm, Hanson Bridgett LLP, Kaye • ••Moser • • Hierbaum LLP, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein; Trombadore Gonden Law Group LLP, and Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger.