University News

Accomplished Alumni to be Honored by Western New England University School of Law

Published: November 02, 2021 | Categories: All News, Alumni, Law
front of Blake Law Center

Western New England University (WNE) School of Law will hold the annual Law Alumni Awards Dinner on Friday, November 5 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, MA. The event, hosted by the WNE Law Alumni Association and sponsored by MassMutual and Robinson+Cole, will recognize the professional accomplishments of law alumni with the dissemination of four prestigious awards honoring Dorothy Varon L'95, Frank Fitzgerald '68/L'73, Kelly Heuser Bonafé L'14, and Talia Landry L'15.

The 2021 Dean's Alumni Excellence Award will honor Dorothy Varon, lead counsel for the Corporate Law division at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). This is award is given at the discretion of Dean Sudha Setty in recognition of alumni who have a record of service to the school, community, state, nation, or world that demonstrates the core values of the School of Law.

Varon has led the pro bono program at MassMutual since 2006 and is also currently in her second term as a board member of the MassMutual Foundation, has served on the SJC Standing Committee for Pro Bono for a number of years, and was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to the Massachusetts Judicial Nominating Commission where she served for nearly eight years.

"Dorothy Varon's service to the legal profession and to the greater Springfield community is exemplary," said Dean Sudha Setty. "Dorothy has had an incredibly successful career in private practice, first as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Elizabeth A. Porada, then at the Attorney General's office, Robinson Donovan, P.C., and at MassMutual. Throughout, she has been a leader on encouraging and supporting access to justice initiatives."

Learn more about Dorothy Varon, 2021 Dean's Alumni Excellence Award recipient.

The 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award will honor Frank Fitzgerald, attorney and founder of Fitzgerald Attorneys at Law. This award is given to alumni who have made significant contributions, not only to the legal profession, but to society as a whole while exemplifying leadership, ethics, and integrity.

An active member of the Massachusetts legal community since 1976, Frank Fitzgerald, Trustee Emeritus of Western New England University School of Law, is recognized for the many achievements in his storied career within the legal profession and also for the significant impact he continues to make in western Massachusetts communities through his extensive community outreach, engagement, and service.

Fitzgerald is also active through several local and national charitable organizations including the Ronald McDonald House, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Aspergers Association, Downs Syndrome Foundation, and the American Cancer Society. Additionally, Frank is active in the local and national golfing community, serving as a volunteer rules official with the United States Golf Association and the Massachusetts Golf Association, and is also the founder of the Mutt & Jeff Golf Scholarship Tournament, a 30-year successful event and fundraising initiative to support students attending local technical and community colleges.

Learn more about Frank Fitzgerald, 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.

The 2021 Ascending Alumni Award will honor Kelly Heuser Bonafé and Talia Landry. This award spotlights the achievements of alumni who graduated from the School of Law within the past ten years who have shown leadership, drive, and potential in their chosen fields and/or in the community.

Kelly Heuser Bonafé is acting senior attorney for the Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia field team of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). Through her work at KIND, she contributes to a national strategic effort to provide pro bono legal representation for refugee and migrant children across the country.

Bonafé was nominated for the Ascending Alumni Award by The Honorable Michael Wu L'83 for her professional efforts to public service. "Every day she does well beyond the call of duty to positively impact the lives of people who face significant legal challenges and who have minimal financial resources," he said. "Her professional skills and adaptability are a testament to the quality of a WNE education. She is a skilled, dedicated, and compassionate advocate of her clients, exemplifying the finest qualities of a WNE School of Law alum."

Learn more about Kelly Heuser Bonafé, 2021 Ascending Alumni Award recipient.

Talia Landry is a litigation associate at Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury & Murphy, P.C. She previously served in numerous legal capacities at Bacon Wilson, P.C., including as an intern in the Estate Planning Department, a paralegal, a legal assistant, and then as a litigation associate.

Landry was nominated for the Ascending Alumni Award by Lenore Montanaro L'15 for mentoring and serving as an example for young attorneys and WNE School of Law students. "Talia is a person of substance who is making a positive impact on many in western Massachusetts," she said. "In her work as a probate attorney and general practice litigator, Talia continues to carry what few hold: kindness for others, a strong sense of self, and compassion for the marginalized."

Learn more about Talia Landry, 2021 Ascending Alumni Award honoree.

Additional information about the 2021 School of Law Awards Dinner can be found at