Two Law School Alumni Honored for Public Service at Annual Wien Luncheon

George Wheeler Madison '80 and Hon. Felice K. Shea '50 Awarded Lawrence A. Wien Prize for Social Responsibility

New York, November 16, 2012—Lawrence A. Wien ’27 believed in taking action, his granddaughter Cynthia Malkin Blumenthal said at the 30th annual Lawrence A. Wien Prize for Social Responsibility Award Luncheon.

“His attitude was, if you don’t like the way things are, well, then pick up a shovel and let’s get to work—do something about it,” Blumenthal recalled.

 Cynthia Malkin Blumenthal

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which had a devastating impact on the city and surrounding areas, Blumenthal said Wien’s philosophy is even more relevant.

“My grandfather would be exhorting us all more than ever to pick up a shovel and get to work,” she said, addressing Columbia Law School alumni, faculty, and guests at the Nov. 7 event.

It’s that kind of spirit of service, Dean David M. Schizer reminded the audience, that the Wien Prize honors each year in two alumni who make outstanding contributions to the public good through their legal careers.

“What a difficult stretch of days it’s been in New York and in the surrounding metropolitan area,” said Schizer, the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law and the Harvey R. Miller Professor of Law and Economics. “It does reinforce the point about what our school really is for. We train incredibly talented people. We are so proud of their successes, but we are particularly proud when those successes are directed toward making the world a better place for fellow citizens. This is a long tradition at the Law School, and it’s something that we celebrate at the Wien luncheon every year.”

With so many in the tri-state area still suffering from the damage of Hurricane Sandy, Schizer announced that the Law School had made a food donation to City Harvest to help those most affected by the storm.

Schizer said the Law School is incredibly proud of 2012 award recipients former Treasury Department General Counsel George Wheeler Madison ’80 and retired New York Supreme Court Justice Felice K. Shea ’50.

George Wheeler Madison '80

Madison and Shea join a long list of distinguished Wien Prize recipients, including U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara ’93, Senior U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein’48 of the Eastern District of New York, Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson ’82, and Columbia Law School Professors Jack Greenberg ’48 and Theodore M. Shaw ’79.

Madison was the Senate-confirmed general counsel at the U.S. Department of the Treasury from September 2009 to June 2012, taking the helm at the start of a major economic recession. He oversaw a staff of 2,000 lawyers and worked with President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the drafting, enactment, and implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Before joining the department, Madison was executive vice president and general counsel of TIAA-CREF. In New York, he has been a director on the boards for The Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC.

Shea, Madison’s co-honoree, spent 25 years on the bench as a New York Supreme Court justice, including for the First Judicial District from 1983 to 2000 and as an acting justice from 1977 to 1982. She also served on the Civil Court of the City of New York and as a Family Court judge. From 1985 to 1990, she was presiding justice of the Extraordinary Special and Trial Term of the Supreme Court, supervising and trying corruption cases in the criminal justice system. Shea began her career as a staff attorney at the Harlem branch of The Legal Aid Society. After her retirement from the bench, she returned to the organization as a volunteer. She also serves on the board of the Correctional Association of New York, among other involvements.

Robert J. Jackson Jr.

Both Madison and Shea were introduced by surprise guest speakers. Professor Robert J. Jackson Jr., who worked with Madison at the Treasury Department, introduced his former boss. He led off with an anecdote describing one of his own first tasks on the job: interpreting a statute that required the Treasury Department to review banking executives’ compensation. Jackson said he was concerned about potential fallout based on the department’s ultimate decision but that Madison put him at ease.

“George stopped me and said, ‘Let me worry about the politics; just tell me what the law is,’” Jackson recalled. “That’s the kind of lawyer George Madison is. He believes that fidelity to the law serves those around us best.”

In accepting the award, Madison said he was “privileged and deeply honored to have been called upon by the secretary of the Treasury to serve.”

He added that the training he received as a Columbia Law School student, which emphasized public service, made his decision to accept the post “a no brainer.”

Felice K. Shea '50, left, and Zoe Shea '11

Shea was introduced by her granddaughter Zoe Shea ’11. The younger Shea, an associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in New York, recounted how as a 5th grader she went with her grandmother to court for “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” There, she had the chance to try on Justice Shea’s robe and sit beside her on the bench.

“She taught me that anything is possible through hard work and determination,” Zoe Shea said.

She described her grandmother as a role model, noting that the elder Shea was one of just a few women in her graduating class at Columbia Law School.

Taking her granddaughter’s place at the podium, Shea acknowledged her start in the then male-dominated world of the law.

Felice K. Shea '50

“You could say the women of my generation had public interest thrust upon us because when I graduated from law school in 1950 law firms did not hire women,” she said. But she always knew she wanted to work in public service, she added. At Columbia Law School, “I learned that the overarching goal of the law is to seek justice.” 

Also in attendance at the event were Josefina Consiglio Nualart ’13 LL.M. and J.S.D. candidate Narun Popattanachai ’12 LL.M., the 2012 Wien Corporate Responsibility Fellows. Wien Fellows are selected from the Law School’s current students and have demonstrated a desire to uphold and promote the principles of corporate responsibility. They each receive a one-year scholarship.

Dean David M. Schizer, left, and George Wheeler Madison '80

The Wien Prize is given each year in honor of Wien, a New York lawyer, real estate investor, and life-long philanthropist who died in 1988. An ardent supporter of education, the arts, and nonprofit institutions, Wien’s endowments at Columbia Law School include the Lawrence A. Wien National Scholarships Program, which has provided annual support to more than 500 J.D. students in its 53-year history; the Lawrence A. Wien Chair in Real Estate Law; and the Lawrence A. Wien Prize for Social Responsibility. The prize, established in 1982 at both the Law School and the Business School, is bestowed annually with the participation of the Wien family. Since 1996, in consultation with Wien’s descendants, the award has been bestowed solely by the Law School.