Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Alumni Invest in the Next Generation

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"I am standing on the shoulders of others,” says 1L Chris Martin, recipient of the Wayne O. Veatch, Sr., Scholarship.

At first blush, 1L Chris Martin and Wayne O. Veatch Sr. '35 seem to have little in common.

Martin grew up in a low-income, single-parent household in South Central Los Angeles, where, even today, only 41% of African American males graduate from high school. His mother worked as a telephone operator. He was bused to an upper-middle class neighborhood for school, traveling two and a half hours to arrive bleary-eyed each morning, in pants too short for him.

He learned to keep his slang for his neighborhood, and spoke Standard English at school, and was teased for it in both worlds. Inspired by a high school teacher, he found his leadership skills and became a community organizer while attending UC Santa Barbara. His ambitions, his mother, his Christian faith and his musical talents kept him grounded.

Wayne O. Veatch SrWayne O. Veatch Sr. grew up on a ranch near the small town of Cottage Grove, Oregon. He was a descendant of pioneers who came West on the Oregon Trail. He attended a one-room schoolhouse, and, being the sole student that year, graduated at the top of his eighth grade class. He went to high school in Cottage Grove by horse and buggy with his elder sister, and then commuted on horseback when she graduated. He was president of his senior class, and after graduating returned to teach at the one-room schoolhouse to help his sister afford to go to University of Oregon. Then came his turn.

He held odd jobs through college at U of O, and after graduation signed up as an ordinary seaman on a steamship bound for China. He came back to the U.S. after the start of the depression and found work as a claims adjuster for an insurance company in San Francisco, making $112.50 a month. He found out his boss, an attorney, made more, so he signed up for law school. It was 1931.

Both young men found their way to UC Hastings College of the Law, but at different times, and under very different circumstances. Thanks to Veatch, a scholarship fund connects both men, the success of the elder fulfilling the promise of the younger.

Veatch ‘35 worked his way through UC Hastings, which was then a night school, as an insurance claims adjuster. He would travel to his assignments by cable car, reading his law books along the way. He went on to become a successful lawyer in Los Angeles, defending personal injury cases. He was very involved with his community, the Rotary Club, the Boy Scouts, and UC Hastings alumni activities, including service on the Board and Executive Committee.

His son Wayne Jr. ’76 followed him into law and into UC Hastings, as did two nephews, Stanley Clark ’67 and David Clark ‘75. Before his retirement from the practice of law, in 1994, at age 89, he established a scholarship for a “worthy and deserving first-year student from the greater Los Angeles area” in the name of his firm, Veatch, Carlson, Grogan and Nelson, now known as Veatch Carlson.

Martin, on the other hand, had no one in his family who attended graduate school, and few financial resources to draw on. But as the recipient of the scholarship Wayne O. Veatch Sr., he is able to attend UC Hastings.

Each year, the Veatch scholarship award helps students like Martin afford, at least in small part, a legal education. “It’s gratifying to have someone invest in me in this way,” said Martin, a first-year student. “To think that someone would see something in me, to believe in me, is humbling.”

Martin said he hopes to go into public service and possibly politics. A law degree seemed like a good place to start. He has already worked for a Los Angeles city council member, and this summer will work at the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office. “Ultimately I want to go back to South Central, and be a light to the community there. I want to show kids like me they can attain the same success I am attaining,” Martin said.

“But I can’t get there by myself. I am standing on the shoulders of others.” Martin has gotten involved in student government at UC Hastings through the Associated Students at UC Hastings (ASUCH), and is active in the Black Law Students Association. He has put his musical talents, in gospel and R&B, to work as well. He sang at a UC Hastings board meeting. At the public memorial for Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in an embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya, he sang the national anthem and “God Bless America.”

Wayne Veatch Jr. ’76 said his father loved practicing law, especially the camaraderie of litigation in the days when it was a more civil affair. Veatch Jr. studied electrical engineering and worked as an engineer for Boeing, IBM and Honeywell before attending UC Hastings. He practiced products liability litigation before “returning to his roots” as in-house counsel for various hardware and software tech companies in Silicon Valley.

Veatch Sr. passed away in 2001, at age 95, but his legacy and impact on the Los Angeles community continues, through Martin.

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