October 21, 2010
Charles Calleros and Kevin Gover, professors at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, will receive national awards from the American Bar Association for their work in promoting diversity in the legal profession.
On Feb. 12, the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession will present the 2011 Spirit of Excellence Awards to Calleros and Gover. The awards luncheon will take place during the ABA’s mid-year meeting, Feb. 9-15, in Atlanta.
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In the award’s 16-year history, there have been three such winners from the College of Law, including Rebecca Tsosie, Executive Director of the Indian Legal Program, who received it in 2002. The Spirit of Excellence Awards celebrate the efforts and accomplishments of lawyers who work to promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession. They are presented to lawyers who excel in a variety of professional settings, personify excellence on the national, state or local level, and have demonstrated a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession.
“These are the premier awards from the ABA recognizing those who are true national leaders in diversifying the bar,” said Paul Schiff Berman, Dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. “Moreover, it is apparently unprecedented – two people affiliated with the same organization have never before won in the same year. This is both a great achievement for Charles and Kevin, and a great testament to the school’s commitment to issues of diversity in legal education and the profession.”
Calleros, who joined the faculty in 1981, has been interested and active in outreach programs since before becoming a law professor. His resume is flush with awards and accomplishments, from receiving the 2010 outreach and mentoring award from the Committee on Women and Minorities in the Law of the State Bar of Arizona to serving on the Minority Affairs Committee of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), and participating in the ABA/LSAC Pipeline Diversity Conference in 2005.
That conference inspired Calleros to bring a multilevel mentoring program of the National Hispanic Bar Association -- which connects high school students with pre-law undergraduates, law students and local attorneys -- to Phoenix just months after its national launch.
“The natural tendency of law schools is to compete for the best college seniors, including those in the limited pool of candidates from underrepresented communities,” Calleros said. “By reaching down to high school and even earlier, however, pipeline programs seek to increase the size of the diverse pool of highly qualified applicants to higher education in general, and – we hope – eventually to law school in particular. In the process, these programs forge relationships between the law school and its natural partners -- attorneys, other university programs, K-12 schools and community organizations.”
Since 2007, Gover has served as director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. In addition to being on the law school’s faculty, he was the co-executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute and an affiliate professor in the American Indian Studies Program at ASU.
Early in his career, Gover formed a law firm in New Mexico, which grew into one of the largest Indian-owned law firms in the country, and practiced law with Steptoe & Johnson, where he headed the Indian Practice Group.
From 1997-2001, Gover served as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs under Interior Secretary and former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt. He concentrated on upgrading Indian law enforcement, rebuilding decrepit Indian schools, reforming trust services and overhauling the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ management systems.
A member of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Gover is on the governing boards of several non-profit educational institutions.
Calleros was modest about receiving the award. “I was simply the easiest ‘point person’ to nominate among many at the law school and in the bar who have contributed countless hours of times to the mentoring and outreach programs that attracted the attention of the ABA,” he said.
As a result of Calleros’ leadership, much collaboration has occurred at the law school, including an annual mock trial academy for high school and middle school students, annual law library exercises for students from South Mountain High School, participation in ASU summer institutes for high school students, and the Street Law and Marshall-Brennan programs at South Mountain.
“Imagine the effect on diverse high school and middle school students attending one of our outreach programs,” he said. “They are sitting in seats normally occupied by law students and thinking to themselves, ‘I belong here. I can do this. I see law students and attorneys who look like me, and others who don’t but who want me to succeed. This is a realistic goal, if I work hard’.”
One of the law student participants in Calleros’ mentoring program extended the school’s outreach to elementary students in Goodyear, a community west of Phoenix, who were paid a visit by law students last fall.
“The kids were so excited by the visits that they clamored for a field trip to the state courts and legislature,” Calleros said. “Our program made that field trip possible by securing a grant from the diversity office of the State Bar of Arizona for buses to take several of the classes to the capitol. These students from an outlying town were not accustomed to such attention and viewed a trip to the capitol as a day of special inspiration.”
Speaking of inspiration, Calleros says he sometimes thinks of his late grandmother, an immigrant from Zacualco, near Guadalajara, Mexico, and his late father, who never graduated from high school.
“He was an amazingly hard worker, and he gave our family the advantages of a modest middle-class upbringing in California at a time when public schools were adequately funded,” Calleros recalled. “He was filled with pride to see me graduate from college and then from law school, and then to teach and publish. But I suspect he would have felt special satisfaction for my work with our team on outreach programs.”