GENEVA, NY – Judith M. Reichler, a Manhattan Family Court judge, was a guest speaker at William Smith College during the Founder’s Day Celebration held on campus January 12. This year’s festivities commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the arrival of the college’s first class of 18 women, who attended the newly formed college in the fall of 1908.
Reichler graduated from William Smith College in 1961 and went on to earn a law degree in 1977. In the early 1980s, Reichler worked for the civil branch of Legal Aid in the South Bronx and became immersed in working with welfare problems and victims of domestic violence, both through direct representation of battered women and as a member of the board of directors of the state Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In the mid-1980s, Reichler was appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo to start and direct the state Commission on Child Support. She became instrumental in drafting and implementing the passage of the historic Child Support Standard Act. In the 1990s, Reichler spent two years as a staff attorney with the National Center on Women and Family Law and more recently has been judging child support and custody cases in New York’s busiest court, Manhattan Family Court. In addition, Reichler works as a volunteer in arbitrating small civil claims and spends one evening each week volunteering to help tenants and small landlords with their cases in Housing Court.
Reichler has written books and scholarly legal articles and has had many of her legal decisions published. She has also written books and pamphlets for persons who can’t afford attorneys, and continually speaks to groups of judges, lawyers, and members of the local community groups from across the state.
“The aim of my work is to help people navigate the legal system, especially where there are family problems, so they can obtain what is their right and improve their lives,” Reichler told the gathering of William Smith students, faculty, and seven decades of fellow alumnae. She went on to explain to the group that her beginnings at William Smith, an all women’s college with a strong interdisciplinary approach, shaped her future by making her open to change.
“I am sure William Smith College shaped my life as much as a pebble dropped in water causes ripples,” she said encouraging the students to forge new paths. “Success requires more than getting on the right track. Sometimes you have to move forward without knowing. A general goal can be accomplished not just by planning but by being open to adventure and of taking a different path, serendipity.” Twice during her speech she repeated, “The test of our progress is not to add to those that have enough, but whether we provide enough to those who don’t have enough.”
Spokeswomen from William Smith Congress, the college’s student government, said they worked to recruit Reichler and two other equally noteworthy alumnae to speak at the celebration because of their lifelong commitments to citizenship, which is the theme of the year-long celebration of the 90th anniversary. Citizenship was selected as the theme in tribute to William Smith, the Colleges’ namesake, who also built a community Opera House and Observatory.
Other alumnae speakers, in addition to Reichler, were Antoinette Vorisek Richardson, Class of 1969, and Patrisha A. Blue, Class of 1977. Richardson, the former Commissioner of the Department of Mental Retardation for the State of Connecticut, is a consultant in private practice who works to find alternatives for the care of children with disabilities in the former Soviet Republic. Blue is the executive director of Community Unified Today, Inc., a non-profit corporation in Geneva that strives to improve housing conditions for low to moderate income residents of Ontario County.
Senior Christina Corodimas, a member of William Smith Congress, said the service to the community that these women have provided exemplify good citizenship. “William Smith certainly would be proud of these three women and of our College today,” Corodimas said.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges are two private, coordinate institutions of higher learning in the liberal arts located along the western shore of Seneca Lake in Geneva, New York. Hobart College for men was founded in 1822 and currently enrolls 870 students. William Smith College for women was founded in 1908 and currently enrolls 966 women. The coordinate system allows the two colleges to share faculty and facilities and provide coeducational classes. However, each college awards its own degrees, has its own dean and admissions office, and maintains its own student government and athletics programs.