The Gene R. Urey Memorial Scholarship
Established in 1999 by family, friends and former students, this scholarship honors the memory of Gene R. Urey, professor of political science at Susquehanna University from 1965-1999, and awards students who demonstrate superior critical thinking and analysis in the study of constitutional law.
2021 Scholarship Participants
Alaina King '21
Arguing on behalf of the Petitioner (Mahanoy Area School District)
Alaina King is a senior Psychology major with minors in Legal Studies, Professional and Civic Writing, and Leadership, from Coal Township. She has been inducted into Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Gamma Mu honor societies and was the 2020 recipient of the Michael and Christina Apfelbaum Prize for academic success and dedication to community service. She is a founding member of ATLAS (Aspire to Lead and Serve) and is a Covid-19 Care Coordinator.
Alaina has applied to law schools in Pennsylvania and will be focusing on family, Constitutional, or criminal law. When she isn't studying for classes, Alaina enjoys volunteering with the American Red Cross providing disaster recovery services, and spending time with her two sisters, Evelyn and Ava.
Larry Czeponis '22
Arguing on behalf of the Respondent (B.L.)
Larry Czeponis is a junior international studies and political science double major with a minor in Philosophy from Mount Carmel, PA. He is also a member of the Honors Program. Larry is a graduate of Our Lady of Lourdes Regional High School in Coal Township.
On campus, Larry is the Junior Representative on the Board of Trustees, a Resident Assistant in the Sassafras Complex, a member of the Student Government Association, and is involved in various other activities around campus. He is also a Democracy Fellow with the Campus Vote Project, which advocates for equitable access to voting and promotes voter engagement and education. Larry is currently studying to take the LSAT and he plans to attend law school after graduation from Susquehanna.
Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.
On September 25, 2017, the ACLU-PA filed suit on behalf of B.L., a high school sophomore who had been cheerleading since she was in fifth grade and was expelled from the team as punishment for out-of-school speech. The case involved a First Amendment challenge to the Mahanoy Area High School’s “Cheerleading Rules,” which prohibit cheerleaders from posting any “negative information” about cheerleading online. B.L. was expelled from the junior varsity cheerleading squad for posting a Snap to Snapchat outside of school hours that school officials believed was “negative,” “disrespectful,” and “demeaning.” Snapchat is a popular social media smartphone app that allows users to post images that are accessible on the platform only for short periods of time—ranging from one second to 24 hours—and are self-deleting. The post for which B.L. was punished was a photo of her and a friend at a convenience store holding up their middle fingers with the text “f--- school f--- softball f--- cheer f--- everything” superimposed on the photo. B.L. posted the Snap on a Saturday, and made it available only to her Snapchat friends.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit previously held that schools cannot punish students for out-of-school speech that does not pose a risk of substantially, materially disrupting school activities. B.L.’s lawsuit challenges the Cheerleading Rules on their face and as applied to B.L. to punish her for the content of her out-of-school speech.
In a landmark decision, on June 30, 2020, a federal appeals court ruled that public schools cannot censor students’ off-campus speech based on a fear of disruption of school activities. The United States Supreme Court will now confront the issue of whether Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which holds that public school officials may regulate speech that would materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school, applies to student speech that occurs off campus.
The Honorable Samuel D. Clapper '68
Sam Clapper graduated from Susquehanna, summa cum laude, in 1968 and received his J.D. degree with honors from the University of Chicago Law School in 1971. After a one-year judicial clerkship with a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, he practiced law in Somerset, Pa. for the next 49 years. He says he is “almost” retired. Sam was a student of Gene Urey and has served as a judge in the Urey Scholarship Competition for most of its 20 years.
The Honorable Abigail C. LeGrow '01
Abigail LeGrow graduated from Susquehanna University in 2001 and from Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law in May 2004 and is admitted to practice law in Delaware and Pennsylvania. From 2011 to February 2016, Abby served as Master in Chancery on the Delaware Court of Chancery. In December 2015, she was nominated by Governor Jack Markell to become a judge on the Superior Court of Delaware. In July 2017, Abby was named to the Superior Court’s Complex Commercial Litigation Division.
The Honorable Michael T. Hudock
Judge Hudock is a 1977 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He has served as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas for the 17th Judicial District. He has served as President Judge since August of 2015. He presides over the 17th Judicial District Drug Treatment Court, DUI Treatment Court, Fast-Track Treatment Court, and Mental Health Court. The Treatment Court serves as a Mento Court for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Judge Hudock is the immediate past president of the Pennsylvania Association of Treatment Court Professionals. He has been an active participant and mentor in the Arlin M. Adams Center for Law and Society’s internship program for many years.
The Honorable Michael Piecuch
Mike Piecuch is the District Attorney of Snyder County. He regularly gives presentations about the criminal justice system to attorneys, law enforcement officers, school students and community groups. He has taught as an adjunct professor at the Widener University School of Law and as a guest lecturer at Susquehanna University.
Mike and his family live near Selinsgrove, and he's active in various community organizations. He received his undergraduate degree in Government and American Studies from Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, PA). He earned his law degree with honors from Albany Law School (Albany, NY).
The Honorable David B. Wonderlick '01
Dave Wonderlick graduated from Susquehanna University in 2001 and from William and Mary Law School in Williamsburg, VA, in 2004. Dave is a partner at Varela, Lee, Metz & Guarino, LLP in Tysons Corner, VA, where he specializes in construction law and government contracts. Dave has litigated cases involving disputes on major construction projects across the country and around the world and is a frequent author and speaker on construction law topics. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
- Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, no scholarship competition was held.
- Donovan Gayles '20
- Anthony Wojciechowsky '20
- Shannon Costa '18
- Martin Hooper '18
- Ashley Machamer '17
- Gabrielle Pollard '17
- Maribeth Guarino '17
- Jacqueline Keenan '16
- Emerson Waite '15
- Christopher Warden '16
- No scholarship event held.
- Bryon Chowka '13
- Morgan Klinger '14
- Hannah Molitoris '12
- Matthew Wyman '13
- Jason M. Wilson '12
- Allison B. Gordon '12
- Anita (Lake '10) Berry
- Morgan B. (Specht '11) Wagner
In recognition of the special 10th annual event, we turned the tables a bit. Instead of student participants, two seasoned Urey Scholarship Competition Judges - Bruce W. Ficken Esq. '70 and Samuel D. Clapper Esq. '68 - presented the case to a Judges panel of past participants - Joshua D. Funk '05, Ryan D. Gleason '04, Neal R. Lesher '08, David B. Wonderlick '01.
- Danielle N. Jubic '10
- Tyler Van Kirk '08
- Tracy (Januzzi '07) Penfield
- Neal Lesher '08
- Steven Heverley '06
- Patrick Henry '08
- Joshua Funk '05
- Brian Habermehl '06
- Elizabeth Amato '06
- Thomas Sutcliffe '06
- Ryan D. Gleason '04
- Mary (Lent '04) Taylor
- Greg Wallinger '02
- Tara (Yutzy '04) Collier
- Garrett Bissell '01
- Amy Purcell '02
- Abigail (Myers '01) LeGrow
- Dave Wonderlick '01
Gene R. Urey (1939-1999)
Gene Raymond Urey, professor of political science at Susquehanna University from 1965-1999, touched the lives of a great many people. Students and colleagues at Susquehanna grew to become close friends of Dr. Urey and his family. In 2001, friends and family members established the Gene R. Urey Memorial Scholarship Fund to celebrate his passion for teaching, for working with young people and for the study of the Constitution of the United States of America.
There are countless stories – from ridiculous to sublime – in which Gene’s unique wit and humor made indelible impressions. He often went the extra mile for his students, usually unbeknown to them (just as he preferred).
Perhaps two quotes from his former students best tell his story:
“I knew … what Gene did for me would change my life, and it did.”
“He cared for me in class. He cared for me after graduation. He cared …”
Gene’s untimely death in 1999 was heartbreaking for all those who knew and loved him. Susquehanna University is privileged to continue his legacy through the scholarship program that bears his name, and recognizes and rewards those students who, through the study of constitutional law and American government, have become critical thinkers, insightful analysts and articulate speakers.
Shortly after I came to campus, 55 years ago, I found that Gene Urey was my advisor and I was instructed to meet with him to discuss the future. I told him that I was prelaw but that I also had a strong interest in theater, radio and television. He told me that he was the prelaw advisor and that we would spend some time working on those plans together. He already knew that I was on the basketball team. We then discussed my course ideas for second semester. When I laid out my ideas for second semester I told him that I wanted to take Intro to Philosophy. He replied and as I remember it he said "OK" but in a way that I didn't pick up on. He approved the schedule and second semester began but not before he decided to take over the management of my Grant In Aid. For the first semester I had to disinfect the men's locker room three mornings a week at 8:00 am. I barely survived that. For the second semester the Poli Sci department took over and told me to report to the department table at the Chapel-Auditorium. I did that to find that my job was to sit there and when students came up to the table and asked to take a particular course I was to hand them an IBM card for that course. That was it. That was my job. For the entire semester. In a few days I went to the first class of Intro to Philosophy and the entire class was Juniors and Seniors. That should have been a wake up call. It wasn't. I really struggled and got the worst grade of my career at any level. After finals I ran into Gene near his office. He asked me "How did Philosophy turn out?" He then gave me a look. I knew that he knew and he knew that I knew he knew. I learned that semester that he took care of his people and that he wasn't going to tell me what to do but that there was would be hints along the way. They would be subtle. I learned how to read them. I didn't miss any after that.
- John Klemeyer ’70
I was already a student at Susquehanna when Gene Urey joined the political science department. Freedom of speech was apparently more prevalent on college campuses in those pre “cancel culture” years. Although Gene may have been surprised to find that not all students were liberals (and that word then, like “conservative”, was more descriptive than pejorative) he was open-minded and welcomed all views provided you could offer a rational basis for your position.
If you could endure the hike to the third floor of Steele Hall, you could always have a polite debate (and if you were a coffee drinker—I was not—likely a cup of coffee as well) with Gene and, often, Jim Blessing too. In class too, all opinions, even unpopular ones, were welcome, but you had to be able to defend your position. Gene was a great sounding board for student-initiated “campus reform.” We did not, however, discuss Dr. Seuss.
As I look back 50 years, Gene, and the Susquehanna faculty in general, knew what tolerance for differing opinions meant. Society in general seems to have forgotten that today. I hope the Susquehanna community has not forgotten Gene’s example.
- Sam Clapper '68
In early 1970, I was a 21 year- old senior at Susquehanna. The Vietnam War was not yet winding down and I was very draft eligible. I also had a young wife with a baby on the way. While I always wanted to be a lawyer, at this particular time law school had become my sole viable option.
In March of 1970 when the Dickinson School of Law rejected my application for admission, I was devastated, although not entirely confident that I deserved a different disposition. Gene, however, never hesitated, going to extraordinary measures and jeopardizing at least one important relationship, to make sure I was admitted. In the process, he made it crystal clear that whatever doubts I may have had about my ability to be successful, he had none.
Typically, Gene said little to me about the efforts he made on my behalf.
I learned of what he did years later from one of those at Dickinson who he berated on my behalf, I knew then what Gene did for me would change my life, and it did.
I always told Gene that I owed him a lifetime favor. I know there are others similarly indebted. With Gene’s sudden departure, we now have confirmed what we always suspected: these are profound debts that could never, and will never, be repaid.
- Bruce W. Ficken ‘70