Dean's blog - Angie McCaffrey

Dean's blog - Angie McCaffrey

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Last week we lost Professor Angie McCaffrey to cancer.

She was a member of the Hamline law faculty for 25 years, and since 1987 had directed our law clinics.

Most lawyers do not appreciate their capacity to make a difference-to improve the lives of clients and others who they encounter in the practice of law. Angie's legacy is broad and deep.

In my tribute today, I will simply relate two examples of the work that she did for clients. The first story was shared with me this weekend by Ann Juergens, the co-director of clinics at William Mitchell College of Law. Ann was Angie's closest friend, and I thank Ann for the following account.

Angie's mother was a German refugee who fled when the Russian army occupied her homeland at the end of World War II. So Angie brought to her clinic work a special understanding for the loss and hopes of the displaced. Sometime in the mid-1990s, an elderly Hmong man came to Angie seeking her help to become a U.S. citizen. After the Vietnam war, many Hmong soldiers and their families came to Minnesota, worked, paid taxes, raised families, made their home here. However, they had difficulty becoming citizens. Because they came from a culture with no written language, learning English was much more difficult.

Angie could have told this client "sorry, unless you learn English in your old age, I can't help you." Most lawyers would have done that. Instead, Angie and her clinic students proposed a change in the federal immigration law to waive the English requirement for elderly Hmong veterans. Angie organized and lobbied for five years. With the help of the late Congressman Vento and Senator Wellstone, the legislation passed and in 2000 President Clinton signed the Hmong Veterans Naturalization Act.

This trademark of persistence and passion for service to the displaced was also demonstrated in her work for another-this time a very young man-seeking American citizenship. Wes Alcenat is a native Haitian whose father was brutally murdered by Haitian soldiers when he was six years old. Wes dreamed of being reunited with his grandparents who had fled to Minnesota. While Wes witnessed the horrors of the military dictatorship in his homeland, he learned that "St. Angie" and the students in her General Practice clinic were working to make his dream come true. After almost ten years of effort, Wes was reunited with his grandparents and became an American citizen in 2005.

Angie's work for these two clients remind me of Eleanor Roosevelt's statement in 1948 in support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

"Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home-so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person, the neighborhood . . . the school or college . . . the factory, farm or office. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere."

Angie did much of her public service in the small places close to home, but her legacy will live long and broadly across the globe.

In Angie's name, we also want to expand our support of students who are dedicated to public service. We've established the Angela M. McCaffrey Public Law Scholarship, an endowed fund which will provide an annual scholarship for Hamline law students who demonstrate a commitment to practice in the public sector. We are honored that the Angie's family has accepted this fund for memorials to Angie.

We will miss Angie deeply.

Thank you. See you next week.


Posted by Zoe Miron at 08/25/2010 08:51:39 AM