Cheryl Hanna’s Legacy: Statement by VLS President Marc Mihaly | Vermont Law School
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—
SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt., July 30, 2014—
With the passing of Cheryl Hanna on Sunday, the students, faculty, staff and alumni of Vermont Law School lost a dear friend, mentor and colleague. The people of the State of Vermont lost a public citizen and an immensely talented lawyer. And the nation lost an activist for the rights of women—and a force for change.
Most heartbreakingly, her family lost a loving wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.
The very fabric of our community—the VLS community and the Vermont community—is forever changed. In this small and rural school, and in this small and rural state, community truly matters. We lean on, and turn to each other for guidance and support. A strong community needs active, giving people who devote themselves to helping others, who lead by example, who create the bonds that sustain communal life. Cheryl Hanna was just such a person, a lynchpin of the VLS community and of Vermont.
Cheryl was a true teacher, both for generations of students at VLS and for the citizens of Vermont where, via television and radio, with verve, humor and insight, she taught the meaning of the law.
Time and again, VLS students elected Cheryl as their Teacher of the Year. Her classes were in high demand. And we cannot count the number of times Vermonters not otherwise associated with the school have approached us to compliment Cheryl’s exposition of a legal controversy.
Cheryl’s connection to our students transcended the intellectual realm. She saw them as whole people—each and every student mattered to Cheryl—and made sure that her relationships went beyond the walls of the classroom. She was a frequent friend, advisor, and warm listener to students who needed help—or who just wanted the pleasure of her company and her bright, encouraging smile.
Posts on the Cheryl Hanna Legacy page include statements from those who were not in her classes, but who nevertheless received the warmth of her friendship, a loan of a computer, a word of advice, a confidence-boosting pep talk. Above all, VLS students saw in Cheryl what we all seek as we try to invent ourselves in life: a role model, an example of who we want to be and what we want to achieve.
VLS alumni maintained their connections to Cheryl long after commencement, and she to them. In these difficult days we have heard and read words of grief and condolence from hundreds of alumni, many of whom have also expressed their desire to continue “to make her proud” and “make a difference.”
Cheryl cared deeply about many causes and ideals—VLS among them. She gave so much of her contagious energy and thought to the development of this school, both as an idea and as a mission-driven institution. In addition to her teaching, we asked Cheryl to take on an administrative role where she brought her activism, creativity and energy to our admissions efforts and building partner programs, including with the University of Vermont.
Cheryl, with her media savvy and her strategic vision, helped VLS find its voice. I attribute much of our success in finding students who belong at VLS—students who hear our call for leaders, for advocates, for change-makers—to Cheryl’s intelligence and strategic vision. Even as she returned to full-time teaching, she recommitted herself to building upon our partnerships and taking on new initiatives such as Lawyers for America, a program that places students in public service.
Her life was all too short, but she leaves us with a legacy of leadership, scholarship, service and compassion. We—the VLS community, the VLS family—are better for having known her. We are honored to be tasked with sustaining her legacy by following her lead in selflessness and service.
- Marc Mihaly
VLS President and Dean
SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt.