May 19-25, 2000
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Sullivan Award winners show deep commitment to caring
Rewards of public interest law lure a fisherman
Here's the youngest 'Hoo
Wagner exemplifies value of mentoring

Rector unearths love for human evolution

Dyslexia forced graduate to create own path for success
Boiler passes a special test
Already a pioneering online journalist, graduate plans to take on TV reporting
Student's mentoring program takes root
Medical student with passion for public health earns second master's degree
Groundskeeper has watched U.Va. and its landscape grow
Help wanted: not just for high-tech fields, but for teaching jobs, too
BUCKS' vision to give back to community will continue
Watson discovers teaching and takes history to the Web
Seeing double
Heard's degree painted with broad strokes
May graduate's dream shows how education transforms lives
Joe Geever
Stephanie Gross
Joe Geever

Rewards of public interest law lure a fisherman

By Robert Brickhouse

Joe Geever quit school at the end of the 11th grade and, like many others in his small California fishing com- munity, eventually went to work on the ocean as a commercial fisherman.

But the supply of fish began to dwindle, and the offshore fishing industry there went into the tank. Geever, then in his mid-30s, came east to visit his sister and look for work.

"I'd been kicking myself for not getting an education as a kid," he recalls, so he took some courses at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Then, "I just got hooked on it."

Still thinking a lot about the problems of the fishing industry, he transferred to U.Va. and received his B.A. in economics. By now set on some kind of public service career, he entered the University's School of Law, because "law school seemed to me a way to make a difference."

He has never deviated from that goal. Last year, because of his commitment to public service, he was named the recipient of the school's first Linda A. Fairstein Public Service Fellowship. This week, still without a high school diploma, he'll receive a law degree at age 46.

The course work has been intense, he says. In the summers he has worked with the Charlottesville-Albemarle Legal Aid Society, and in a low-income housing clinic, and with a lawyer handling civil rights cases. "It's been rewarding work," he says. "There's a big part of the population that doesn't understand the law and doesn't get legal assistance."

Geever has also made time to work as a drug and alcohol detox technician with a mental health agency and to organize a self-help group for addicts in a Staunton prison.

But Geever's main public service interest remains linked with fishing and the water. "I'd been around the ocean since I was a little kid, he says. This summer he will take a clerkship with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in Silver Spring, Md., where he worked last summer on fisheries law, and he hopes to be able to continue in a position there or in a related agency.

Eventually, he says, he would like to be able to help the fishing industry directly. "In a word, it's in trouble," he said. Fish populations are declining from over-fishing, pollution and the impact of development on coastal habitats.

A long-range hope of his is to help mobilize fishing communities to become more involved in environmental issues to protect their areas and their work. "This is a valuable resource that's being depleted. You just assume it will be there forever and now species are being threatened with extinction."

Geever is happy that the Law School has steadily expanded its offerings in public interest law and public service opportunities for students. A student-organized public service conference this year highlighted numerous public-interest law career paths, from the local to the national level, that alumni have followed.

However, the rewards of public service work are not primarily financial, Geever makes clear. A critical factor enabling him to continue his studies has been the Law School's offering a low-interest, long-term loan-assistance program for graduates going into public interest fields.

See press release on The Rewards of Public Interest Law Lure a Fisherman


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