April 10, 2009

Law student named Franke scholarship recipient

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Misty Leigh Edwards, a third-year student in the Southern Illinois University School of Law, is the inaugural recipient of the Lisa K. Franke Scholarship.

Edwards, who is from Campbell Hill, received the award during the law school’s 2009 awards ceremony Thursday, April 9, at the Carbondale Civic Center.

A $100,000 endowment funded last fall by HeplerBroom LLC created the scholarship to honor Franke, who was a partner and trial attorney with the Metro East-based law firm prior to her death in December 2007.

“I am both honored and grateful to be receiving the award,” said Edwards, who graduates in May and will take the bar exam in July. “I hope I can live up to Lisa Franke’s legacy.”

“The HeplerBroom gift is very special to us because it will help students contain their law school debt in a significant way,” Dean Peter C. Alexander said. “The scholarship is made even more special because it honors an outstanding lawyer, Ms. Lisa Franke.”

The award was among 167 awards, certificates and scholarships presented to law students at the annual ceremony. Franke’s parents, Arnold and Roseanne Franke of Edwardsville, attended the ceremony.

Edwards is the daughter of Melody Wittenborn of Campbell Hill. Edwards and her husband, Brian, have a three-year-old son, Brenden. Edwards earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology in May 2002 from SIUC, with a minor in administration of justice.

For four years prior to law school, Edwards worked as a foster care caseworker, and part-time as a crisis worker at a domestic violence shelter. She also worked as a probation officer in Jackson County for two-and-one-half years.

Edwards participates in the law school’s domestic violence clinic, which represents people seeking orders of protection. She earned the Judge James O. Monroe Jr. Writing Award for demonstrating excellence in writing or research programs as part of their law school studies; the National Association of Women Lawyers Award; Phi Kappa Phi Award for being in the top 10 percent of her class; and an academic excellence award for third-year law students ranked in the top 10 of their class at the end of spring semester 2008. The National Association of Women Lawyers Award goes to a student who demonstrates academic achievement and a commitment to contribute to the advancement of women in society, according to award guidelines.

Edwards’ varied activities and commitment to each of them is reminiscent of Franke, said Theodore J. MacDonald, Jr., a partner with HeplerBroom LLC. Franke received a bachelor’s degree from SIUC in 1979, and her law degree from the law school in 1982.

“Lisa would have been very proud that Ms. Edwards is the first recipient of this scholarship,” MacDonald said. “Like Lisa, Misty Edwards appears to have a full plate as a mother and a wife while pursuing her legal career. And yet she still devotes time to those who are in need of extra attention. Lisa always made sure that she was there for her family, while at the same time working extremely hard as a lawyer. She truly had a firm grip on what was important in life, and it sounds like Ms. Edwards is cut from the same cloth.”

Studying for the bar exam is a full-time job, Edwards said. The scholarship will help defray living expenses during that time and negate the need to take out any private loans, she said.

After the bar exam, Edwards will be working in the worker’s compensation department for the St. Louis-based firm Boggs, Avellino, Lach & Boggs LLC. Beth Boggs, the firm’s managing partner, earned her law degree magna cum laude from the SIU School of Law in 1991, and she received a 2008 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Dede K. Zupanci is an associate with HeplerBroom LLC, and she worked closely with Franke in the firm’s medical malpractice area. Zupanci earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in radio-television from SIUC in 1992. She later earned her law degree from St. Louis University School of Law.

Zupanci said she recalls Franke working with Mercy Ministries in St. Louis, a faith-based organization that provides free services to troubled young women.

“She always believed that everyone should be given a chance to better themselves and was a strong proponent for helping young women become strong, independent and happy,” Zupanci said. “She also was involved with her church’s missions to Ecuador. She traveled there with her sons and helped the people in a small community there build houses.”

Despite their living conditions, what amazed Franke the most “was that despite the fact that, by our standards, these people had nothing, their first instinct was generosity,” Zupanci said.

“She recalled how grateful the residents were to the church group for building these modest homes that they shared all that they had with the group,” Zupanci said. “She was particularly touched by one little girl who really attached herself to Lisa, and the day before they left, the girl presented Lisa with a necklace -- and this from someone who had really nothing to give.

“Lisa’s mission in life was for those around her to be happy, and to share her gifts of compassion, intelligence, and zest for life with those who needed it,” Zupanci said.