UMBA Annual Scholarship & Awards Banquet
The Utah Minority Bar Association celebrated its Annual Scholarship & Awards Banquet on October 29, 2004. The UMBA honored some of Utah’s best lawyers, activists and students dedicated to serving minority interests. This year, UMBA’s Honoree of the Year Award went to Maynard Phyl Poulson who, along with Henry Adams and Judge Ray Uno, drafted the Utah Anti-Discrimination Act and introduced it as a bill and was influential in its passage by the Utah legislature. Mr. Poulson also headed the Utah Anti-Discrimination Division. Upon accepting the award, Mr. Poulson told the audience, “I did what my heart told me to do.”
The Distinguished Attorney of the Year Award went to Sylvia Pena who has, for more than a decade, made the 300 mile round trip to Ft. Duchesne several times a month to provide legal services for the minority and underprivileged population living there. Mrs. Pena also works as a contract attorney for Utah Legal Services and has been instrumental in the creation of several programs. Currently, Mrs. Pena’s is leading a comprehensive study that will determine the legal needs of Utah’s low-income population which, when complete, will be a valuable guide for this state’s legal community and policy makers.
Governor Olene S. Walker received the Pete Suazo Community Service Award. Governor Walker has been one of the state’s most accessible leaders and has shown sensitivity to the needs of the Utah’s minority population. As Utah’s first female governor, Governor Walker has spearheaded many important initiatives including education programs, budget security measures, healthcare reform and workforce development. At the banquet, Governor Walker reflected on her time as Utah’s leader and told the audience that she has loved being governor. “This state is great because the people are willing to volunteer,” she said.
The Keynote Speaker at the event was Lawrence R. Baca, Deputy Director of the Office of Tribal Justice, United States Department of Justice. Mr. Baca was one of the first American Indians to graduate from Harvard Law School and was the first American Indian ever hired through the Department of Justice’s Honor Law Program and the first Indian ever promoted to Senior Trial Attorney status at the Department. Mr. Baca told the audience that while minorities have made impressive inroads in the legal community, he has never appeared before a minority judge in all his years of practice.
This year’s scholarship recipients are Julio Carranza, a second year student at the J. Reuben Clark Law School and Jeffrey M. Merchant, a second year student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.
The Utah Minority Bar Association also bid farewell to its current leadership, President Ross Romero, Secretary Bibiana Ochoa and Treasurer Vanessa Ramos-Smith. Next year Sean Reyes will take over as UMBA President. He will be supported by Cheryl Mori-Atkinson as Vice-President, Brent Orozco as Secretary, and Rex Huang as Treasurer.