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» McDowell, Michigan University grad awarded Chief Justice Samuel J. Roberts Scholarship
Posted on Monday, July 23, 2012 at 6:50 AM

ERIE, Pa. – A college soccer star with a near perfect academic record is the 2012 recipient of the Chief Justice Samuel J. Roberts Scholarship, the Erie County Bar Foundation has announced.

Courtney Elizabeth Mercier of Erie, who recently earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science, with a minor in German Studies, from the University of Michigan will be awarded the coveted Roberts Scholarship when she enters Michigan Law School in the fall. Mercier, an outstanding soccer player at McDowell High School and Michigan, graduated this spring with a Grade Point Average of 3.988.

She was one of eight aspirants for the Roberts Scholarship, administered and awarded for the Roberts Family by the Erie County Bar Foundation.

While the competition for Roberts Scholarship Awards has always been keen, this year the Chief Justice Samuel J. Roberts Scholarship Committee found the eight applicants were among the strongest pool of candidates since the scholarship was created in 1992.

“Committee members said their job was particularly difficult this year because each of the candidates possessed extraordinary qualities, academic credentials and skills that will lead to successful legal careers,” said Sandra Brydon Smith, the ECBF’s executive director.

Mercier, Committee members determined during deliberations after interviewing all eight candidates, exemplified the many qualities demonstrated during the long and distinguished career of Chief Justice Roberts, the Erie lawyer and judge who rose to lead the Commonwealth’s highest court, becoming one of the nation’s most respected jurists.

The Roberts Scholarship Committee also renewed the scholarship for 2010 recipient Jeffrey Bengel for his third year at New York University Law School, and for 2011 recipient Jon Heintz, for his second year at the University of Notre Dame Law School. The committee cited the academic success of both law school students, who are on track for their scheduled graduations.

Mercier, meanwhile, was selected after she excelled during her interview.

“The committee had a tough job this year, given the academic credentials and potential talent of each applicant,” Smith said. “All members, however, were extremely impressed with Courtney’s undergraduate background, her public service, and with the direction she has set for herself and her future in law.”

In her scholarship application essay, Mercier wrote that since her days as a freshman at McDowell High School, it has been her dream to become a lawyer “and this career path feels just right for me. My years at the University of Michigan have confirmed my presupposition that this is definitely the career path I want to pursue. My experiences have led me to discover a specific place in the field of environmental law where I know I belong.”

Mercier wrote that she developed “a passion for environmental law” volunteering at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in Meadville, shadowing private environmental attorneys in Erie, and interning at the Great Lakes Commission in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“People always talk about the ‘good guys’ versus the ‘bad guys’ in environmental law, but is there not a place in the middle? … This is where I see myself … not the good guy or the bad guy; I’m the practical girl.  ... Although many people lie on two opposite ends of the environmental spectrum, these two extremes are often unrealistic, and if we want to advance both our economy and our environment, these two sides must come into alignment. Otherwise, we’ll reach disaster on both ends.”

While grades, class standings, standardized test scores and financial need are all weighed when considering Roberts Scholarship awards, motivation, personal interviews, community service and broader interests are also taken into consideration by committee members.

Each year, the Chief Justice Samuel J. Roberts Scholarship Committee meets to interview and consider for scholarship assistance first-year law school students, as well as scholarship renewals for previous recipients. While there is no mandate that scholarship recipients return to Erie County to practice law, the committee encourages local law careers whenever possible.

Serving on the committee are Daan Braveman, president of Nazareth College, Attorneys Bradley K. Enterline, Tina M. Fryling (the first Roberts Scholarship recipient), Dennis Haines, Patrick Michael Livingston, Mary Alfieri Richmond, James Strazzella, Scott T. Stroupe (1999 recipient), John J. Mehler, David M. Zurn, and lay representatives Kathleen Horan of Stairways Behavioral Health, and Jeff Pinski of Edinboro University.