Mitch Baumeister, ’72, one of the nation’s leading aviation trial attorneys, credits Seton Hall Law for providing him with the chance to build a career “working for the little guy.” Over the course of his career, he has assisted the victims and families of those who lost their lives in such airline disasters as the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, the crash of Swissair Flight 111 near Nova Scotia, and the World Trade Center attacks on September 11. Grateful for the opportunity he gained to help others, he has become one of Seton Hall Law’s strongest supporters. He has taught as an adjunct professor for almost 20 years, is Chair of the Board of Visitors, and with his wife, Lynn, has assisted in numerous fundraising activities. Along with donating the funds to renovate the Law School cafeteria, he and Lynn recently contributed $100,000 to create an endowed scholarship as part of the Seton Hall Law Rising campaign.
Why is it important for you to support the Law School? “It’s a story people have heard before, but there’s two things I wanted to do in life. I wanted to be a pilot and a trial attorney. I started flying lessons while in high school and earned my pilot’s license when I was in college. Then when I returned from Vietnam, it was time to realize my second dream. Rutgers would not consider me because it had closed its admission process. So, I walked over to Seton Hall Law and, thus, began my introduction to the individual attention and consideration Seton Hall Law gives to all of its students. The Law School gave me a chance to have a career where I could help others.”
Why did you choose funding an endowed scholarship as part of your giving? “Today we live in tough economic times when tuitions are high and there is extraordinary competition for jobs. There are great students out there with limited financial means who need a chance to realize their dreams. I attended Seton Hall Law on the G.I. bill and the Law School also reached out to me and offered me a partial scholarship. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing that someone’s life has been changed by receiving an opportunity to succeed. What motivates us is the smile and the sparkle in the eyes of the people who have been helped when they tell us how happy they are that they have been given a chance. We all have a responsibility for helping others in whatever way we can, and that’s a quality Seton Hall Law fosters.”
What message would you like to share with other alumni? “Alumni giving and participation are critical to the health of the Law School. As 1Ls, we entered into a lifelong relationship with Seton Hall Law School. Now is our opportunity to reach out and support the Law School in whatever way we can. I’m so proud of how Seton Hall Law has developed and continued to improve its reputation, the quality of its legal education, its commitment to students, and its desire to make an impact on the law and public policy. Building upon that level of excellence is a cooperative endeavor. It requires an extraordinary faculty, an administration that works tirelessly on behalf of students, and alumni who give back unselfishly of their time and money to help steer the Law School ahead.”
What advice would you offer to law students? “I remember as a student at Seton Hall Law one of my professors told me to find my passion in the law and to follow that. After I graduated, I was working at a premier aviation firm but I felt I was not getting enough on-your-feet experience. After talking with several former professors and alumni, I decided to leave so I could enter public service even though it meant a 50-percent pay cut. I served as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan and then was appointed as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Getting that experience was invaluable. I also learned that sometimes you have to take two steps back financially to take nine steps forward in your career. People told me, and I always believed it, don’t follow the money. Follow your passion and pursue it tenaciously and you’ll be successful. Keep your focus on what lights your fire.”