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Penn State Law honors exceptional alumnus and former dean during reunion weekend

Penn State Law recognized two of its community members with awards at a luncheon on Saturday, Oct. 28, part of its annual reunion celebration.
James Houck | Penn State Law

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. –  As part of its annual reunion celebration, Penn State Law recognized two of its community members with awards at a luncheon on Saturday, Oct. 28, in the Lewis Katz Building. The two honors, awarded annually to alumni or friends who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to the continued success of the law school, were created in 2016 to mark the 10-year anniversary of legal education on Penn State’s University Park campus.

Receiving the Penn State Law Leadership Award was retired Navy Vice Admiral James W. Houck, Distinguished Scholar in Residence and former interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs. This award honors an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership, commitment, and dedication to Penn State Law. The recipient’s actions culminate years of service and reflect the school’s values of professional integrity and community service through exceptional merit, honor, and influence within the legal profession.

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to honor Admiral Houck,” said Penn State Law and School of International Affairs dean, Hari Osofsky. “The future of Penn State Law rests on Admiral Houck’s leadership of Penn State Law through the separation of Penn State’s law schools, and the programs and collaborations he built.”

Houck joined Penn State Law in 2012 after a 32-year career in the United States Navy, which culminated in his appointment as the 41st judge advocate general of the Navy. From 2013 to 2017, he served as interim dean of the unified Dickinson School of Law and the School of International Affairs, and then interim dean of Penn State Law in University Park for the school’s first two years. As interim dean, he oversaw the separation of the unified Dickinson School of Law into two separate and distinct law schools, Penn State Law and Dickinson Law, located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  Now back on the faculty full time, Houck continues to focus on national security law, and is the inaugural director of Penn State’s new Center for Security Research and Education, which incorporates 10 Penn State colleges, schools and research units to focus a broad range of academic endeavor on society’s most critical threats.

“The essence of leadership is not something that can be taught. It is demonstrated through both experience and example.  Jim Houck is a model of leadership. No one is as deserving of this year's Leadership Award as Jim,” said D. Brooks Smith, chief judge of the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, adjunct professor, and chair of the Penn State Law Board of Advisers. “At a critical time in the young life of Penn State Law, Jim Houck was there—providing a steady hand when it was needed most. His was a form of servant leadership, and we are a better law school today because of his efforts.”

This year’s winner of the Penn State Law Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes an individual’s extraordinary service to Penn State Law to directly benefit its alumni, students, and the community, is Zachary Brecheisen, a 2012 graduate of Penn State Law. The award honors a person who has made exceptional contributions of time, talent, or other assistance for the benefit of the Penn State Law community.

“Zach Brecheisen embodies the qualities that our Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes through his professional accomplishments and service to Penn State Law and the community, including support for our students to attend the Lavender Law conference and leadership in our new alumni society,” said Osofsky.

Brecheisen is an associate at Jones Day in Pittsburgh, where he works in all aspects of domestic and international mergers and acquisitions. He is a member of the board of directors of the Penn State Law Alumni Society, and also serves on the executive committee of the American Constitution Society’s Pittsburgh Chapter.

“From the time he was a student to now, as a big law attorney, Zach has always taken leadership roles to help students,” said Amanda DiPolvere, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid. “I know that whether it’s an admitted student event in the middle of January or a phone call to a student who is in need of mentorship, I can count on Zach’s help.”

Penn State Law’s Awards Luncheon is part of an entire weekend of reunion festivities to celebrate Penn State Law and the legacy of legal education in University Park.

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