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Donors among us: Sean Hartfield JD ’01

July 08, 2013

This story is the second in a series of profiles about Lewis & Clark community members who volunteer their time or donate dollars to create a long-term positive impact. Read our first story about Daniel Blasher ’13 and Heidi Hu ’85, and look for our next feature on Professors Emeriti of Mathematics Greg Fredericks and Roger Nelson.

Judge Roosevelt Robinson JD ’76 had just finished speaking when the first-year law student walked up, shook hands, and surprised himself by saying the first thing that came to mind: “Those are the hands of a farmer!” His classmates were aghast. The judge laughed aloud as he pulled the student in closer. He knew a tribute to hard work when he heard one.

Retelling the story of his first encounter with the distinguished jurist, Sean Hartfield JD ’01 smiles, grateful for the bond that developed between these two men of different eras. Where Sean fondly recalls spending summers on his grandmother’s east Texas farm, picking peas and learning about life, the judge grew up in the Jim Crow South, helping his great-grandmother sharecrop a 40-acre farm in Georgia.

Now practicing civil rights law, Sean takes pride in mentoring young attorneys just as Judge Robinson and others mentored him. “When I was unfocused and losing interest in law school,” he says, “the judge was always frank in his advice and never ceased to leave me inspired.”

After Judge Robinson retired in 2002 because of declining health, colleagues and friends established a scholarship at the law school in his honor, noting especially “his legacy of inspiring ordinary people to do extraordinary things.” He died in 2004. Sean, who donates to the Roosevelt Robinson Minority Scholarship, says, “It’s one of those little ways we can all make a difference. My gift pools with others and grows the scholarship.”

Sean has also made a bequest provision in his will that will further strengthen the scholarship’s endowment. “Supporting the scholarship allows me to do with others what I could not otherwise do alone,” says Sean. “Making our gifts in the name of Judge Robinson is not only a great opportunity, it is an honor.”

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This content originally appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of The Chronicle