Judge John W. Oliver Public Service Scholar Celebration

Students, staff, faculty, and alumni gathered at the School of Law on April 6 for an annual luncheon celebrating the Judge John W. Oliver Public Service Scholar Program.

The Oliver Fellowship Program encourages highly qualified UMKC 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 loan repayment assistance of $5,000 over three years. The Program is funded by the Judge John W. Oliver Foundation, a donor-advised fund of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.

Robert Levy, who served as a law clerk to Judge Oliver from 1971 to 1973, addressed luncheon attendees, sharing anecdotes of his time clerking for Judge Oliver. Levy described the Judge’s personal and professional impact, always reminding him attorneys are very often the last line of defense for clients who so often do not have anyone else speaking for their best interests.    

2022 was an especially exciting year for the fellowship as the law school was able to award two highly deserving students instead of only one. Morgan Parker and Genesis Miranda were the 2022 award recipients, both of whom shared remarks at the luncheon. Morgan Parker began her career last May at Legal Aid of Western Missouri, representing domestic violence survivors in divorce and custody actions. She explained that she came to law school with the sole purpose of obtaining a degree to serve children and families in need, with hopes that it will help address the school-to-prison pipeline. She chose UMKC Law specifically for its commitment to supporting students and the community.

The second award recipient, Genesis Miranda, returned home to Chicago, IL after completing her UMKC Law degree. There, she has begun the meaningful work of making a difference in her community where she is currently clerking for Judge Ramon Ocasio III at the State Court of Cook County. Genesis shared that while growing up on the south side of Chicago, she watched many friends turn away from troubled home lives into to the streets of Southwest Chicago for refuge. She lost friends to gang violence, addiction, and incarceration. It was through her lived experience that she committed to becoming an attorney who will work to uphold clients’ constitutional rights, as well as an advocate who understands the importance of second chances. 

Both Parker and Miranda shared that thus far, the financial piece of the award has already made a marked difference in the early stages of their career, helping them cover everything from bar fees to courtroom attire.  Parker explained, “I knew that having a career in public service would be difficult, for many reasons but especially with the lower salaries on top of having student debt. I am so fortunate to have been chosen to be part of the Oliver Fellowship. I am incredibly thankful to Judge John Oliver and his family for their generosity in helping UMKC graduates like me do what I am passionate about.  The work I do now is so rewarding and fulfilling and it is exactly what I set out to do over three years ago. I am very appreciative of UMKC and the Oliver Fellowship and the funds it has provided me that aid me in continuing to do the work.”

Published: Apr 25, 2023