Ohio State Bar Foundation 2017 Annual Awards Dinner

October 06, 2017


Columbus, OH (Oct. 6, 2017) — The Ohio State Bar Foundation (OSBF) honored four deserving attorneys at their Annual Awards Dinner, October 6, 2017 at the Nationwide Hotel and Conference Center in Lewis Center, Ohio.

OSBF President, Andrew C. Storar, opened the evening with recognition of the many Foundation members who have invested their time and resources into furthering the OSBF mission. Storar also spoke to the crowd about the importance of the dinner theme, “All Rise,” and how it related to the award winner’s dedication to service and drive to create change in their communities.

“We chose the ALL RISE theme for this event for obvious reasons – it’s no secret the phrase is common to the legal profession, but what is a secret, are the many ways lawyers work for the betterment of their communities, their neighbors and sometimes, even for total strangers.

We’re here tonight to honor those secret acts of kindness. To share the stories of these amazing attorneys and how they help others rise from their struggles – to show you that when one individual cares enough to do something, others will rise,” Storar said.

Honorees are listed below followed by award criteria:

2017 Ritter Award Winner: Retired Honorable Evelyn Lundberg Stratton of Columbus with Vorys

After spending the first nine years of her legal career as a trial lawyer, Stratton, knowing she could impact more people, ran for judge. She won her race and was the first woman elected to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court in 1989. She quickly learned that in cases where mental illness has influenced a defendant’s criminal activity, there might be a more effective way to serve the defendant. In 1996, Stratton was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ohio and during her tenure, she transformed the way Ohio’s courts manage cases with mental illness as a contributing factor. “I gave more than 100 speeches the first time I ran for the Supreme Court, I would only talk about convening mental health and criminal justice professionals to initiate changes in the court system. While having a unique opportunity to spread the word, I could be the voice for the voiceless,” Stratton shared. After the success of mental health specialty courts, Stratton turned her attention and advocacy to developing veterans’ courts. As president of the Ohio Military and Veterans Legal Assistance Project, she works to expand and support the statewide referral system that connects veterans and military families to pro bono lawyers, bar associations, legal aid and law school clinics.

The Ritter Award is the highest honor awarded by the Foundation. This award is given for a lifetime of service and recognizes the accomplishments of the honoree in attaining and promoting professionalism, integrity and ethics in the practice of law.


2017 Ramey Award for Distinguished Community Service: Stephen F. Tilson of Galion with Hottenroth Garverick Tilson & Garverick Co.

Past Ohio State Bar Foundation President, Stephen F. Tilson is known for his depth of compassion, honor and courtesy. Former Ohio State Bar Association and Foundation President Steve Chappelear, wrote in his nomination, “Steve has truly spent his entire life in service to others. He puts service above self. He holds himself to the highest standards of ethics, civility, collegiality and professionalism. To see Steve in action is to see the very best standard for all lawyers to be.” Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Tilson was exposed to social injustice at an early age. His father, Dr. C. Everett Tilson, was a minister and an activist in the Civil Rights Movement who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tilson says it was the actions of his father and Dr. King that influenced his choice to put others above self – he says that they “…taught me that we all share a common humanity.” Whether he is mentoring young juvenile offenders, working with Ohio’s Mock Trial, We the People or the Youth for Justice programs, he is happiest helping others find their way. He also serves on the Board of Editors for the Ohio Lawyer Magazine and mentors young lawyers through the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Lawyer to Lawyer mentoring program. Tilson says that the work he completes in his community including, leading the School Parent Teacher League, campaigning for school levies, serving on the Galion Community Center YMCA, the Crawford County Community Mental Health Board, the Galion Area Chamber of Commerce and the Crawford County Business/Education Advisory Council, have been some of the highlights of his volunteer work.

The Ramey Award for Distinguished Community Service is given to an Ohio attorney whose career has been exemplified by: dedication to the goals and values sought to be furthered by the Foundation; a lifetime of service to the public and to the community; and integrity, honor, courtesy and professionalism. This service must be outside the recipients’ practice of law and must be given without compensation.

2017 Outstanding Program or Organization Award: Sisters In Law, Toledo

Sisters In Law is a program within Mom’s House of Toledo, a childcare center helping low-income, single moms break the cycle of poverty by providing them with intervention and wrap around services needed to achieve their educational goals. Sisters In Law was born from the increased frequency of legal issues that were derailing moms and making it almost impossible for them to reach their dreams. Through a partnership with a local attorney, Gretchen DeBacker, and the Toledo Women’s Bar, Sisters In Law was born. Today, 22 lawyers volunteer as legal counsel, friends, mentors and life coaches. What began as legal support has blossomed into friendships and fun. A key component of Sisters in Law is that they recognize that support comes in many forms, which is why they host cooking classes, fashion shows and makeovers for work-appropriate looks, even movie nights are included in the fun. As Gretchen says, “We are empowering young women so that they, too, can invest in others, the first being their own children. This amazing ripple effect is unlimited as to the good it will do for generations.”

The Outstanding Program or Organization Award is given annually to a program or organization that promotes dissemination of information about, increases access to, and/or generates improvements in, the Ohio justice system.

2017 Statewide Community Service Award for Attorneys 40 & Under: Michael W. Kelley of Columbus with Donald W. Kelley & Associates

Michael Kelley is a young Columbus lawyer who is as busy with his volunteering as he is in practicing law for the family business, Donald W. Kelley & Associates. Michael’s grandfather, Donald, started the business and it is by his grandfather’s words that Michael lives his life in service to others. Michael remembers his grandfather’s mantra: “What do you have that has not been given to you? – Nothing – so understand your good fortunes.” Board member for Homeport, a Columbus organization working to create dignity, security and opportunity for families through quality, affordable homes and strong community, Kelley is continuously looking for ways to create impact. He also serves on Homeport’s Young Professionals Group, raising money to provide camps and program opportunities for the children of the families they help. Kelley serves on the boards of St. Stephens Community House, St. Charles High School and the Board for Advocating Opportunity, an organization working with survivors of human trafficking. Kelley also volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and is a camp counselor for Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The Statewide Community Service Award for Attorneys 40 & Under is presented to attorneys, 40 years of age or younger, who contribute substantial time and effort in service to a local social service, or a local civic, artistic, or cultural organization. The service must be outside the recipients' practice of law and must be given without compensation.

About the Ohio State Bar Foundation
The Ohio State Bar Foundation is a 501(c)(3) grantmaking organization that works to advance the law and build a better justice system. We believe our democracy works better when people understand the law and have fair and equal access to justice. For more information about the Ohio State Bar Foundation, please visit www.osbf.org.

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