Posthumous Honor


Photos by John Meiu

Scholarship serves as lasting tribute to Detroit Law grad

By Linda Laderman
Legal News

When University of Detroit Mercy School of Law (Detroit Mercy Law) graduate Robert Warchuck died unexpectedly last August, his friends, family and the school wanted to do something to honor the 35-year-old former U.S. Marine’s memory.

That desire came to fruition when the Robert A. Warchuck Memorial Scholarship at Detroit Mercy Law was established for students who are veterans of the U.S. military.

Warchuck, who graduated from Detroit Mercy Law in July 2015, served two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Bahrain.  With his military service behind him, he returned home to enroll at Wayne State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree.

Warchuck’s family and former professors were among those in attendance at a January reception at the law school to share memories of the man whose Marine buddies called “The Motivator.” 

“The scholarship comes to us from the generosity of the Warchuck family and friends,” said Detroit Mercy Law Dean Phyllis Crocker. “We are proud to honor Robert’s legacy with this scholarship.”

The first scholarship was awarded to James Dick, a first year law student and a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Crocker said Dick served with the Coast Guard, where he was awarded the Coast Guard Achievement Medal for outstanding leadership.

Dick served part of his tour with the Coast Guard’s Security Response Team, a specialized unit trained in advanced counterterrorism skills and tactics.   

“While maneuvering the hectic life of a first year law student, James also owns a boxing gym. After graduation he wants to practice veteran’s law so he can help his fellow vets with their legal needs,” Crocker said. “It’s fitting that he is the first recipient of the scholarship, honoring a man who had the nickname of ‘Motivator.’”

In addition to the scholarship, Crocker presented Warchuck’s diploma to his parents. A memorial plaque also was unveiled at the gathering. The plaque will hang above one of the study tables in the law school’s library, where, according to Crocker, Warchuck could often be found.

“We chose this spot because so many of the students who spoke of Robert remembered him here – studying hard, always with a smile for his classmates,” Crocker said.

Julia Belian, Warchuck’s first year property professor, and the mother of a Marine, told the group how surprised she was by Warchuck’s response when she called on him in her class.

“Unlike every other first year law student who is called on, when his card came up he had no trouble standing up and reporting. I thought, goodness what is his background? That’s interesting. When I found out he had been in the Corps I realized that answered most of my questions.“

“Our older son is a Marine and I have come to respect the education they receive. One of the qualities Marines teach always showed up in Mr. Warchuck. He was willing to let go of what he thought he knew and take up something new. He was teachable,” Belian said. “Some things you see with your eyes. Other things you see with your heart. I think that’s the legacy Mr. Warchuck left for me.”

Richard Krisciunas, Detroit Mercy Law director of Externships and Warchuck’s criminal clinic and trial practice professor, said Warchuck had a unique ability to connect with others.

“He wasn’t the smoothest, he wasn’t polished, but he had credibility. People believed him. (In trial practice) the kids in the class sit there as jurors. He had them eating out of the palm of his hand. ” Krisciunas said.

“I thought, when he finished my class, this guy is going to be one of those of those guys that wins million-dollar lawsuits in personal injury cases because he had that connection with the jury – it’s a likeability contest,” Krisciunas said. “He would’ve been a hell of a lawyer and he’s really going to be missed.”

Following the reception, Crocker talked about the effect Warchuck’s death had on faculty, administrators and students. Said Crocker, “when a graduate dies so recently after graduating it is devastating for the law school community. We saw Robert grow and we knew his great potential to be a passionate lawyer. We miss not only Robert as a person, but also the positive difference he would have made in the lives of his clients and our communities.”