Alumni Weekend 2019 Highlights

Yale Law School alumni and their families gathered in New Haven on October 18–20 for engaging academic discussions and social events during the 2019 reunion weekend. 

One of the highlights of the weekend included Saturday's Award of Merit presentation in which Dean Heather Gerken presented the honor to Ben Heineman ’71 and Linda Rottenberg ’93. The Award of Merit recognizes alumni or long-time faculty of Yale Law School who have made a substantial contribution to public service or to the legal profession. 



"Ben and Linda were students in very different eras," said Gerken. "Ben practiced law his entire career while Linda never did in the most formal sense. But I am struck by how much they share and what we can learn from them both. They have spent their careers focused on purpose over process and profits, both inside and outside of the legal profession. They don't just make us proud, they've inspired us to reimagine what a Yale Law School education should look like and where it can lead. And their examples encourage us to never lose sight of the values and commitments that have made this place special for a generation of students."

Ben W. Heineman, Jr. has had a varied career in law, government, business and academia. He was GE’s Senior Vice President-General Counsel from 1987-2003, and then Senior Vice President for Law and Public Affairs from 2004 until his retirement at the end of 2005. He is currently Senior Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Program on the Legal Profession and its Program on Corporate Governance as well as Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. A Rhodes Scholar, editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal and law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, Mr. Heineman was assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and practiced public interest law and constitutional law prior to his service at GE.

Heineman spoke about the importance of the future of legal education and why law students must have the proper training to be leaders in society. 

"In giving deep thanks to the honor that Yale Law School and Dean Gerken have given to us, let me talk briefly not about the past, but about the future, and about what I hope will be a guiding vision going forward for the school, for its graduates, and for the profession as a whole — a vision of lawyers as leaders," said Heineman. "In the roles of wise counselors and accountable leaders, lawyers need better, broader education, training, and experience when facing the profound, multidisciplinary and multidimensional problems that beleaguer our fast changing world."

During her speech, Rottenberg talked about the fortuitous way she ended up on a non-traditional career path, thanks to the intervention of Professor Owen Fiss who encouraged her to spend one summer in Chile as part of the inaugural Yale Law School Linkages program. That pivotal moment charted the path toward leading the global entrepreneurship movement for two decades as co-founder and CEO of Endeavor Global, Inc. With offices spanning the globe, Endeavor rigorously selects, mentors and scales the most promising, high-impact entrepreneurs in 30 countries and a number of underserved U.S. cities. Today, Endeavor Entrepreneurs — 1700 selected from more than 55,000 candidates — generates more than $15 billion in annual revenues and produces more than 1.5 million jobs. 

“Innovator for the 21st Century” (Time), “Silicon Valley Visionary,” “America’s Best Leader” (U.S. News & World Report), and “The Entrepreneur Whisperer” (ABC, FOX, NPR) are among the designations given to Linda Rottenberg. The subject of four Harvard Business School cases, for over a decade Linda was known by another name, la Chica Loca (“the Crazy Girl”), for insisting that high-impact entrepreneurs exist in emerging and developing markets.

"I've realized that so much of what is definitional to me can be traced back to Yale," said Rottenberg. "My connection to Latin America and a love of travel more broadly. My confidence to forge a career others thought was crazy. And my belief in erasing hard lines between sectors to build unique institutions."

Following the Award presentation, alumni were treated to an engaging conversation between Dean Gerken and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor '79 on her life and views on the Court. A packed house of more than 1,400 people turned out to watch the conversation, including a mix of alumni, students, and other members of the Yale community. 


Throughout the weekend, there were also lively panels on Economic Inequality and the Role of Law and Voting Rights and Election Law as well as short, informative discussions led by faculty and alumni called "Amicus Brief" presentations on pressing topics. Other highlights included reunions dinners and brunches for all classes ending in 4s and 9s, a student/alumni breakfast, diversity events, class activities, and time to explore New Haven.