Vanderbilt in Washington

Dear alumni and friends:

Dean Chris Guthrie (photo by Sandy Campbell)

I am continually impressed by the number of Vanderbilt alumni who have made significant contributions in elected office or through their work on the legal or policy staffs of presidents, senators and congressional representatives; federal and state agencies, political parties and advocacy organizations; or firms focusing on campaign finance or election law. This edition of Vanderbilt Law features profiles of a few of the many Vanderbilt Law alumni who have made significant contributions to public policy and as public servants through their work inside the Beltway.

Our cover story features former Tennessee Senators Jim Sasser ’61 (BA’58) and Fred Thompson ’67, who look back on their years of work on the Hill and discuss the pressing need for members of both houses of Congress to work together. You’ll also meet two high-profile attorneys who practice in the political arena: Bob Kabel ’72, who—in addition to his impressive private practice—is the national committeeman and former chair of the District of Columbia Republican Committee, and Jan Baran ’73, who ranks among the top campaign and election lawyers in the nation. Bob is a leader in the Log Cabin Republicans; Jan is the author of The Election Primer for Corporations, published by the American Bar Association. John Ryder ’74 is currently serving as general counsel to the Republican National Committee, a position formerly held by Jan.

A number of Vanderbilt law graduates have served with federal agencies in important roles. Phyllis Fong ’78 now serves as inspector general at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and has spent much of her career in government service; her husband, Paul Tellier ’78, recently retired from a career at the Internal Revenue Service. Meredith Brinegar Cross ’82 recently returned to WilmerHale after directing the Securities & Exchange Commission’s Division of Corporation Finance in the wake of the financial collapse. Meredith is married to John Cross ’81, who recently moved from a position at the Department of Treasury, where he provided oversight to the municipal bond market, to head the SEC’s newly formed Office of Municipal Securities.

Mike Russell ’84 (MA’84) helped establish the new Department of Homeland Security in the years following the September 11 attacks, ultimately serving as majority staff director and chief counsel of the House Committee on Homeland Security. After Rob Strayer ’00 worked on a team investigating the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, he accepted a job supporting the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee and then joined the staff of Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. Aaron Cooper ’00 has rejoined Covington & Burling after seven years on the staff of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. Samar Ali ’06 (BS’03) recently left her position as an assistant commissioner in Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development to work as a policy adviser.

These represent a small sample of the Vanderbilt Law alumni who live and work in Washington. Their stories illustrate the many paths Vanderbilt graduates have followed and the important contributions they make to public policy, the political process, and as public servants. Hundreds more of our graduates work at federal and state agencies; as legal counsel, prosecutors and defenders; as congressional representatives (New Jersey Republican Leonard Lance ’77 and Indiana Republican Luke Messer ’94), state representatives and city council members; and in numerous other elected, government and public service positions.

Our faculty also make notable contributions to public life, and we’ve included a profile of Professor Ganesh Sitaraman, who served on the campaign staff of Senator Elizabeth Warren and then helped organize her policy staff after her election. Ganesh teaches a Law and Policy seminar and won the prestigious Palmer Civil Liberties Prize last fall for his book, The Counterinsurgent’s Constitution: Law in the Age of Small Wars.

I hope you will enjoy learning more about the important contributions Vanderbilt Law graduates and faculty have made to public policy and the political process. I particularly like the message these stories have for prospective and current students: A Vanderbilt law degree is an excellent foundation for a successful legal career in both public law and private practice.

Warm regards,
Chris Guthrie
Dean and John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law

Vanderbilt Law Magazine Winter 2014