Stetson Lawyers Alumni Association recognizes award recipients for service and dedication

Lori Baggett, bottom right, received the Outstanding Alumni Representative Award during the 2020 Stetson Lawyers Alumni Association Awards presentation on June 18.
Lori Baggett, bottom right, received the Outstanding Alumni Representative Award during the 2020 Stetson Lawyers Alumni Association Awards presentation on June 18.

The Stetson Lawyers Alumni Association (SLAA) presented awards on June 18, 2020, to six individuals who have made a positive impact in the community and supported Stetson University College of Law.

SLAA has honored alumni accomplishments with awards for more than 25 years. The ceremony typically takes place in conjunction with the annual Florida Bar Convention, but this year was held virtually. The award recipients are Lori Baggett, June Level, Amy Rigdon, Seymour Gordon, Chris Sprowls, and Joseph “Jay” Landers Jr.

Outstanding Alumni Representative Award

Stetson Law alumna Lori Baggett is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Alumni Representative Award, an honor designed to recognize dedication and service to the Stetson Lawyers Alumni Association through involvement in local alumni activities.  

A 2002 graduate, Baggett is a member of the Stetson Lawyers Alumni Association Board. She hosted a number of alumni events at Carlton Fields, including a chapter reception and a welcome reception for Dean Michèle Alexandre.  She also served on the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) Reunion planning committee and recently established the Baggett Family Scholarship Endowment to provide need-based scholarship assistance to an African American student. 

“Shirley Chisholm has one of my favorite quotes,” Baggett said when accepting her award. “She says, ‘Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of being here on earth,’ and I certainly view being a member of the Alumni Association and giving back as the embodiment of that statement, so I’m very honored by the award. Thank you very much. And I look forward to continuing to serve.”

Baggett is managing shareholder of the Tampa office of Carlton Fields, the third-largest law firm in the Tampa Bay area with 99 local attorneys and more than 300 nationwide. She represents companies in labor and employment law issues, with an expertise on workplace safety and health matters, and is one of a handful of Florida lawyers with OSHA 30 certification.

Distinguished Service Award

June Level provided a pre-recorded acceptance speech from her home.
June Level

The Distinguished Service Award is presented to a non-alumnus of the College of Law in recognition of their significant, meritorious and continuing contributions to support the College of Law. This year’s recipient is June Level. 

“It was a surprise, a joy, and a delight to learn that I had received it,” June Level said in previously-recorded remarks. “Thank you, Stetson Law School. I am privileged to be associated with you, but even more than that to receive this award.”

To honor the life and memory of her late daughter, Meredith E. Level, a 1994 graduate of the College of Law, June Level recently established the Meredith E. Level Endowed Scholarship that provides financial resources to a second or third year female student at the College of Law.

June Level spent most of her career in education, including teaching in multiple states, working as the Media Consultant for the Kansas State Department of Education, teaching children’s literature at Emporia State College, and serving as the Children’s Youth Services Director for the Martin County Library System. She is an active member of the American Library Association. 

President’s Award

Outgoing SLAA President Amy Rigdon
Amy Rigdon

The President’s Award is presented to the outgoing president of the SLAA in recognition of their term of service. This year’s recipient is Amy Rigdon. 

Rigdon is a “Double Hatter,” earning her bachelor’s degree from Stetson University in 2005, and her J.D. in 2008. During her term as president, she led the board through a time of unprecedented change, including welcoming a new dean and the College of Law’s transition from classroom instruction to online learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  She also led the board in developing new fundraising initiatives and created a series of events to encourage student leaders to remain involved following graduation.      

“I am humbled and honored by this award,” said Rigdon. “It has been my absolute pleasure to serve as president of the Stetson Lawyers Alumni Association for the past two years.”

Rigdon is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Latham & Watkins, where she represents fund sponsors in fundraising and operating traditional private equity funds as well as non-traditional investment funds, including special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) and collective investment trusts.

Paul M. May Meritorious Service Award

Seymour Gordon received the Paul M. May Meritorious Service Award.
Seymour Gordon

The Paul M. May Meritorious Service Award recognizes an alumnus for showing continued support for the College of Law through the contribution of both time and gifts.  This year’s recipient is Seymour Gordon. 

Gordon is a 1960 graduate of the College of Law and has been active in the local alumni community ever since. He taught classes at Stetson Law as an adjunct Professor and served as an alumni mentor for 1L students. He and Dean Bruce Jacob worked to organize a joint 50-year reunion for the Classes of 1959 and 1960.  Gordon and his wife, Susan, have also given back to the College of Law by establishing the Seymour and Susan Gordan Endowed Scholarship. 

“Stetson has enabled me to have sixty wonderful years of practicing law,” Gordon said in previously-recorded comments. “It has enabled me to be a professional. It has enabled me to support my family and also to be of service to my community. For all of this, I do thank Stetson.”

Gordon practices in the area of real estate, commercial law and estate planning and was a managing partner of Gay & Gordon for most of his career. The St. Petersburg Bar Foundation honored him with the Hero Among Us Award for his extensive service to the community.

Distinguished Alumnus Award

State Rep. Chris Sprowls received the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
State Rep. Chris Sprowls

The Distinguished Alumnus Award is given to an alumnus that is recognized as being outstanding in his chosen profession and for his service to humanity, which has brought honor to himself and the College of Law. This year’s recipient is State Rep. Chris Sprowls, a 2009 graduate of the College of Law. 

“You know, I learned so much as a student at Stetson,” Sprowls said in a recorded statement. “I learned not just about what it means to be a great advocate, but I learned that one of the most important things is to learn how to ask the right question. I learned from Bernie McCabe, a mentor of mine, one of our alumni, and a former recipient of this award, that when you ask the right question, never to be afraid of the answer. That is part of the legacy of what we learned here a Stetson. I’m grateful for that education, for this award, and for all of the mentors we’ve had along the way.”

Prior to being elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2014, Sprowls served as an Assistant State Attorney, where he handled dozens of jury trials, many involving serious felonies such as murder, kidnapping, and child molestation. In his first session in the House, Sprowls passed legislation to assist craft breweries, legislation geared at reforming the Public Service Commission, and a bill to protect property owners from losing their homes at the hands of out-of-state corporations. Sprowls was re-elected to the Florida house in 2016 and this fall will become the first College of Law alumnus to serve as the Speaker of the House. 

Ben Willard Award

The Ben Willard Award recognizes an alumnus who expends that extra effort to prevail for the benefit of the citizens of Florida. The award also recognizes an individual whose humanitarian achievements have brought distinction to themselves and the College of Law. This year’s recipient is Joseph “Jay” Landers Jr.

Landers is a “Double Hatter,” earning his bachelor’s degree from Stetson University in 1964, and his J.D. in 1970. He served 20 years as a Stetson University Trustee, including four as Chair. 

“Thank you for this honor,” he said. “The main thing I wanted to do is use this as an opportunity to say thank you to Stetson. As was mentioned, I went to Stetson undergraduate and law school, and it truly made a difference, both of them in different ways, in my future career and life. I was quite an idealist in undergraduate school, and Stetson nurtured that.”

Landers spent an early part of his legal career in state government, serving as aide to Florida Secretary of State Tom Adams and then chief cabinet aide and principal environmental advisor for Gov. Reuben Askew. In 1974 he was appointed executive director of the Internal Improvement Fund (the state land management agency), and then first secretary of the newly-established Florida Department of Regulation. Later, Landers agreed to serve as interim executive director of the Florida Department of Natural Resources. 

He left government in 1979 to join a Tallahassee law firm before co-founding his own firm, Landers and Parsons. His clients included Walt Disney World, the City of Orlando, and the artist Christo. In 1995, he resigned from his law practice to create a niche patient finance company, USMed.  Ten years later JPMorganChase purchased the company and named Landers CEO of ChaseHealthAdvance. He retired in 2007.