EMU’s 2022 alumni awards will be presented at the Oct. 7-9 Homecoming and Family Weekend celebration.
Recipients include Dr. Joseph Gascho ’68 and Camila Pandolfi ’12.
When Amy Rosenberger ’85 received word she was the recipient of the Alum of the Year Award for 2022, she thought she had misread the letter.
“I had to read it twice,” said Rosenberger, who graduated with a BA in English and minors in sociology and theater arts. “I never expected to receive such an honor, and when I think of those who’ve been named in prior years, it’s more than a bit overwhelming .”
She may have been incredulous about receiving EMU’s honor, but members of the selection committee were not. They, along with Rosenberger’s colleagues, clients, and law professionals recognize the positive impact this labor and employment lawyer has made for more than 25 years.
Her most recent honor is among the most prestigious: In 2021, she was elected as a Fellow of The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. The non-profit professional association honors leading lawyers nationwide for achievement, advancement, and excellence.
“Being elected as a Fellow of The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers is one of the greatest honors a labor and employment lawyer can achieve,” Rosenberger said, “and I am humbled to be included in this distinguished group.”
A partner in the Philadelphia law firm Willig, Williams & Davidson, Rosenberger lists the following career highlights
· Representing labor unions and employees including government service, healthcare, K-12 and higher education.
· Supporting workers and unions in arbitration and litigation; organizing drives and collective action; and pursuing fair contracts.
· Teaching skills to workers to negotiate confidently with employer representatives.
· Serving on the appellate team that obtained the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s affirmance of a $4.04 million plaintiff’s verdict in an employee’s breach of contract claim.
· Enforcing an interest arbitration award for a corrections officer bargaining unit before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board and prevailing on appeal, resulting in recovery of more than $3.6 million to the affected employees.
· Serving as president and board member for the Philadelphia Chapter of Labor and Employment Relations Association.
· Member of the AFL-CIO Union Lawyers Alliance (formerly Lawyers Coordinating Committee) since 1995, serving on the board of directors for three years.
· Recognized by The Best Lawyers in America, 2016 to present.
· Selected to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers list, Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters), 2017 to present.
Rosenberger enjoys the variety of responsibilities in her work. “It’s a mix of litigation, negotiation, strategic planning, education, and by its nature, the law is always evolving and so there is always something new to learn and to adapt to.”
Learning how to navigate and adapt to the traumatic challenges of the pandemic were issues Rosenberger and many of her clients dealt with in 2020. Essential workers, including educators, health care and transit employees, faced a barrage of concerns, such as contacting the virus and bringing it home to their families, as well as working long hours in stressful conditions.
“I think we are only beginning to see the impact of all of this on our workforce,” Rosenberger said. “There are many who are changing careers as a result, or who have retired earlier than they had originally planned, and we are seeing the impact in worker shortages in all sorts of fields.”
Typically, Mennonites do not choose a career in law, Rosenberger said. “When I went to college, and when I graduated, I knew that I wanted to find work helping others, but I wasn’t sure exactly how. The thought of becoming a lawyer never occurred to me. I don’t think I ever met a lawyer until I was an adult.”
Rosenberger credits EMU’s Washington Study Service Year (WSSY), now the Washington Community Scholars’ Center, for giving her a year of “immense personal growth,” she said, adding that being taken out of her comfort zone and being exposed to different societal and political issues “opened my eyes to a world of options for meaningful work that I hadn’t previously considered.” The core curriculum of WSSY still informs her work as an attorney — “especially the sociology coursework that explored concepts of servant leadership and psychology curriculum that focused on interpersonal relations.”
After graduation, Rosenberger worked for a few years in legal support staff roles, but still wasn’t thinking of law as a career option. “It was really when I went to work for a firm that represented unions and employees that I saw a legal career as something that fit with my values, and that I would find personally and intellectually rewarding.”
In 1995, Rosenberger completed her education at Northeastern University School of Law. Competition in a traditionally male-dominated career could be challenging for female attorneys starting out at that time, she said, but she had an early advantage. “I found a position right out of law school, in a firm [Willig, Williams & Davidson] that is majority women-owned, and I’ve worked there ever since.”
The more senior women attorneys were “excellent advisors,” Rosenberger said of her mentors. “They invested their time and energy in training me and identifying opportunities for me to develop skills and expertise as well as helping me to find leadership roles within our profession. I have tried to follow their example to ‘pay it forward,’ both within and outside my firm.”
So how does a successful lawyer relax from her busy life of service? Rosenberger enjoys traveling (especially to national parks), spending time with family, and gardening. “I find it relaxing and meditative to work in my big backyard vegetable garden, to harvest food and preserve it.”
However, no matter how demanding her career is, serving others gives value to her life. “Often the greatest joy in my work comes in what may seem like the small victories, but not to the employee involved,” Rosenberger said, noting examples of her experiences helping employees get pay increases or overturning unfair discipline that resulted from favoritism. “Working with labor unions allows me to do that, because under a union contract, there are more avenues to ensure fairness for all employees than in the non-union workplace.”