Many people hope to leave a mark on the community through their professions, but few actually do. A new scholarship in the School of Law will thank a local attorney for leaving such an impression.
Public service became Lee Falke’s work when he took a job as assistant prosecuting attorney in Montgomery County, Ohio, nearly 60 years ago. Eight years later, he was elected county prosecutor, a position he held for 27 years. Falke earned respect from constituents, law enforcement and the legal community for his just, fair, diligent and principled leadership.
He served terms as president of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the National District Attorneys Association and, in 1975, established a victim assistance division, one of the first in the country, to help victims of violent crime. Falke has also served as a mentor to young professionals. Many have gone on to distinguished careers as judges, including Dayton Municipal Court Judges Bill Wolff and Carl Henderson, and Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Kessler, who was the longest-serving judge on the court when he retired in 2007.
“Falke is known for his unique hiring practices,” said Larry Lasky ’77, a Dayton attorney who initiated the scholarship. “Many chief prosecutors require employees to be of the same political party. Falke hired someone of either party as long as they could try a case, tell the truth, be kind — and win.”
Lasky worked with Falke for more than 25 years and credits his success to their time spent together.
“Falke is not afraid to do what has to be done. He fired me twice and hired me three times. Altogether, I spent 26 years in his office and became a better lawyer because of it,” Lasky said.
A UD student for three years — long enough to become a two-time letterman in baseball — before transferring to Ohio State his senior year, Falke hired many UD School of Law students throughout his career.
“I tried to hire people who got good grades and seemed like they would be enjoyable to work with. At one time, I felt like I hired more students from UD than anywhere else around because so many of them posessed those traits,” he said.
Being in the spotlight is not something Falke enjoys, but he is honored and humbled to have a scholarship created in his name.
“I hope to use this as an occasion to show my appreciation to some of the people who got me here,” he said. “Also, when I worked as prosecutor, it seemed like many students did not fully appreciate the role of a prosecutor. I hope this scholarship will help students see prosecutors as the lawyers in the white hats, not the black hats.”
Falke’s career is a testament that prosecutors can do a great deal of good, something Lasky knows and others see, too.
“Falke made me a much better lawyer than I would have been on the street or on my own,” Lasky said. “His office had a very collegial atmosphere that taught people a lot and allowed them to do great things. I wanted him to see just how many lives he’s touched.”
Nearly half of the lawyers Falke employed who have held or currently hold public office also have a UD connection:
Hon. Sharon Ovington ’81 (LAW) – U.S. District Court
Hon. Barbara Pugliese Gorman ’74 (PSY) & ’77 (LAW) – Montgomery County Common Pleas Court
Hon. John Kessler – adjunct professor, UD School of Law
Hon. Dennis Langer – part-time faculty, UD School of Law
Hon. Judith Bene King ’69 (SOC) & ’77 (LAW) – Domestic Relations Court
Hon. Nick Kuntz Jr. ’65 (PMT) – Juvenile Court
The late Hon. James Cannon ’78 (LAW) – Dayton Municipal Court
Paul Roderer Sr. ’64 (HST) – Dayton City Commission
Mark Owens ’81 (LAW) – City of Dayton, Clerk of Courts