Beth Beavers, J.D. ’20

Named the 2021 Judge John W. Oliver Fellow at the UMKC School of Law annual Oliver Fellowship Program Luncheon on April 11, 2022.

Beth Beavers knew going into law school that she wanted to become a public defender. She knew it wouldn’t be the most lucrative path but felt strongly about public service.

It is that dedication that led Beavers (J.D. ’20) to be named the 2021 Judge John W. Oliver Fellow at the UMKC School of Law annual Oliver Fellowship Program Luncheon on April 11, 2022.

The Oliver Fellowship Program encourages highly qualified UMKC School of Law graduates to pursue post-graduate careers in public service despite the dual disincentives of low salaries and high student debt.  Thanks to the generosity of family and friends of Judge John W. Oliver, a leading jurist who served on the federal bench in Kansas City from 1962 until his death in 1990, the Oliver Fellowship Program provides financial assistance (up to $5,000 over three years) to one graduating law student from each class.

Beavers, who now works for the Missouri State Public Defender in the Harrisonville office, said being named the Oliver Fellow is a huge honor, and the monetary reward has allowed her to focus more on serving her clients.

“I treat my clients like human beings. I don’t see them as a set of facts. … I don’t see them as whatever they’re accused of, or someone who should be punished for the rest of their lives over a bad thing they’ve done. I see them as people, with stories, families, lives, and feelings,” Beavers emphasized.

Past recipient, Abby Judah (J.D. ’16) who currently works for Legal Aid of Western Missouri, also spoke, discussing how the fellowship has positively impacted her career in public service.

David Oliver, Judge Oliver’s son, noted that his father would be so proud to see the work of the fellows and that the program is more important today than ever.

Robert Levy, who served as a law clerk to Judge Oliver from 1971 to 1973, said Oliver’s characteristic trait of optimism had an enormous impact on those around him. Levy shared that along with Judge Oliver’s optimism, the traits of perseverance he witnessed from Alvin Sikes, and the optimism of self-confidence he learned from his close friend, Ron Goldsmith, have been his three guiding principles that give him hope for the future.

“We needed a generation that understood what John Oliver stood for,” he explained in creating and perpetuating the Program. “And it’s important to carry on his legacy.”

Beavers is indeed doing just that. She left the audience with one last thought: “In the end, you’re only left with your good deeds to speak for you.”

Published: Apr 13, 2022