Global Law Faculty Member, Ugandan Educator Celebrated at Annual Awards

Renee Martin-Nagle, Mark A. Nordenberg, Ron Brand, and Ariel ArmonyOne scholar is a pioneer of international legal education who has trained domestic law students to practice abroad and taught international lawyers the ins and outs of the American legal system.

The other, a Uganda native blinded by disease at age 4, earned a master’s in education degree at Pitt and returned to his home country to establish a school for blind children.

Both of them — Ron Brand and Silver Oonyu (EDU ’12G) — were honored earlier this month with Sheth International Achievement Awards, an annual honor given by Pitt’s University Center for International Studies (UCIS) to a current faculty member and a Pitt alumnus who graduated within the past 10 years. The awards served as a kickoff to Pitt’s International Week, a celebration of Pitt’s global learning and engagement.

Brand is academic director of the Center for International Legal Education in Pitt’s School of Law. His work is mainly twofold — helping to prepare juris doctor students for an international career and guiding foreign-trained lawyers through the master of laws degree (LLM) so that they can return home with a full knowledge of the U.S. legal system. More than 250 students from 68 different countries have earned an LLM at Pitt. 

Law Dean Amy J. Wildermuth said these international students frequently include women scholars experiencing their first opportunity to travel globally and to be treated on equal terms with their male colleagues.

Renée Martin-Nagle was one of Brand’s first students and nominated him for the Sheth Award. 

“He was young, fresh, energetic and honest,” she said of the law professor who made a lifelong impression.

Oonyu in a bright yellow shirtThis year’s other Sheth awardee, Oonyu, who as a blind child was unable to receive special education classes, is the founder of the Silver Memorial Inclusive Learning Center School—the first school of its kind in the Teso region of Uganda. Though unable to be present because of timing in obtaining a visa, he spoke to those gathered via a video. (Pitt is working with authorities on behalf of Oonyu so he can visit the U.S. and receive his award at a later date.)

Oonyu’s award was accepted by Renée and Richard Goldman Dean of the School of Education Valerie Kinloch, who called him an “outstanding alumnus.”

Kinloch described how Oonyu was picked on and bullied as a child and how he dreamed of opening a special school for blind children. While earning his Pitt degree, he developed relationships that would become instrumental in establishing the Silver Memorial Inclusive Learning Center, which today enrolls approximately 200 pupils.

“Students attending his school get opportunities to focus on how their lives can be enriched and improved through the power of education,” said Kinloch. “They are cared for and encouraged to dream big. They become the types of people who have a major impact on the entire world.”

Jagdish N. Sheth (KATZ ’62, ’66) a marketing educator for whom the award is named, also addressed the gathering via video. He called Oonyu “awe-inspiring” and credited Brand for “giving a global perspective to the law discipline.”

To UCIS Director and Vice Provost for Global Affairs Ariel C. Armony, the issues of global learning and engagement are at the heart of the University’s mission.

“This is an era marked by closing borders, but as a global community, we lead by the doctrine that our world is an interconnected one,” he said. “We are defining to the world exactly what it means to be a global university.”

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