First recipient of Robinson scholarship saluted


By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

A first year student at Wayne State University Law School, Nicolas Tlocynski was in select company recently at the posh Detroit Athletic Club.

That night he was surrounded by a “Who’s Who” of the greater Detroit legal community, all there to honor the late Jim Robinson, former dean of Wayne State Law School in whose memory a scholarship fund has been created.

The first recipient of the scholarship award is Tlocynski, a graduate of Central Michigan University who grew up in Muskegon.

“I am motivated to make sure that I am always giving my best efforts in the classroom, since that was one of the hallmarks of his success,” Tlocynski said of Robinson, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and a 1968 honors graduate of Wayne Law. “He always helped others to be the best they could be.”

Robinson, who died of gastrointestinal cancer in August 2010 at age 66, enjoyed a brilliant legal career that included stays with major firms in Detroit and Washington, D.C.

Those career stops were sandwiched around public service appointments as U.S. attorney in Detroit and assistant attorney general with the Department of Justice. In 1977 at the age of 34, he was appointed U.S. attorney by President Jimmy Carter.

From 1993-98, he headed Wayne Law, a role now held by Dean Robert Ackerman, one of the principal speakers at the October 18 reception.

“While he traveled to many places and enjoyed tremendous success, Jim never forgot his roots,” Ackerman told the crowd of more than 125 at the DAC. “He was very appreciative of the education that Wayne Law gave him and he knew that his education was a key component of his success.”

John Reed, former dean of the University of Colorado Law School and a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan Law School, lauded Robinson for his “integrity” and willingness to provide “counsel and support” to others.

“Jim was a very honest man,” Reed said. “He approached his work with the utmost integrity. He was always interested in helping others to grow and excel in their endeavors. I would like to challenge all of you assembled here tonight to make sure that you are reaching out for good causes and to help others achieve success as a tribute to Jim.”

Robinson, who served as president of the State Bar from 1990-91, and his wife, Marti, created the endowed scholarship at Wayne State as a way to “give back” to the school that was dear to their hearts. The October 18 event was the first of an annual celebration with the proceeds used to supplement the scholarship in Robinson’s name.

The goal, according to Michael Silverstein, development officer at Wayne Law, is that the event initially will serve as a fund-raiser for the scholarship until the “endowment reaches its goals.”

Until then, Silverstein said, “this celebration of the life and career of Jim Robinson will act as a warm reunion of old friends, brought together for a good cause.”

Planning for the inaugural event was spearheaded by the Scholarship Fund Committee, an eight-member group led by Robinson’ wife, Marti, an attorney and former candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court. Other members of the committee included: Tom Cranmer, of Miller Canfield; William Hochkammer and Bill Winsten, both of Honigman Miller; Thomas Kienbaum, of Kienbaum Opperwall; Richard Rossman, former U.S. attorney in Detroit; Joe Papelian, of Delphi Corp.; and Silverstein, of Wayne Law.

Mrs. Robinson, in her opening remarks to the crowd, expressed her appreciation for the “wonderful gathering” and for the “great affection” for her husband that was evident by the turnout.

“Jim was not only a former dean, but he was also a proud alum,” she said of his love for his legal alma mater.

Such sentiment for the school also may apply for Natalia Santanna, a third year law student at Wayne. Santanna has been a three-year recipient of another scholarship sponsored in Robinson’s name. The Gershenson Trust sponsors several scholarships at the law school, with each award named after a former leader of the school.

Said Santanna of the scholarship: “It has helped me to be able to focus on my studies and when I do have free time, I can volunteer and support things that I am passionate about. I know that he (Robinson) had great passion for his work and I appreciate this scholarship allowing me to pursue my passions.”

Santanna is among those involved in the 313 Project, a nonprofit that was started at Wayne Law and is dedicated to “fostering the participating of the legal community in the revitalization of Detroit.”