Washington D.C. attorney returns for Reunion Weekend awards ceremony

For Reunion Weekend April 20-21, Jennifer Morrissey ’88 had a lot of catching up to do.

After graduating with a BA in English, Jennifer received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in France. She then earned a masters in linguistics from Stendhal University in Grenoble, France, an MA in International Economics and Law from Johns Hopkins University and her JD from Georgetown University.

After law school, Jennifer worked with HypoVereinsBank in Italy and the World Trade Organization in Switzerland before joining the firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton LLP. Today Jennifer is an attorney with Dentons LLP in Washington D.C., serving as Counsel for their Global Energy practice area.

Throughout her career, Jennifer has been guided both personally and professionally by the Dominican values that surrounded her as an undergraduate.

In addition to her 40-60 hour-a-week job, she serves as a volunteer coordinator and teacher for her local elementary school’s art enrichment program, works with a youth theatrical group, serves as a member of the Case Screening Committee for the Mid Atlantic Innocence Project, and helped found and served on the Board of Directors of a program in D.C. that offers parenting and job skills for teenage parents. In her spare time she enjoys sailing with her husband, attending her son’s soccer games, and working with her daughter’s theater group.

“The liberal arts education that I got at Dominican gave me essential tools to succeed in my career - critical thinking, clear writing, and an appreciation that the footnotes matter,” Jennifer says.

On April 21, Jennifer received the Distinguished Alumni Achievement award in Guzman Lecture Hall prior to a ceremonial lunch on the Meadowlands Hall lawn. She was joined by Sister Patricia Lyons, O.P., Distinguished Alumni Service Award recipient Susan Gilardi ’68; Darcel Sanders ’09, who received the Outstanding Recent Graduate Award; and Dr. Margaret Golden, who will receive the Sister M. Aquinas Nimitz, O.P., Award.

Alumni Reunion Weekend is an opportunity for alumni to reconnect with friends and honor the outstanding recipients of this year’s Alumni Awards. Highlights of the weekend include the 50th Anniversary Golden Circle Dinner on Friday night honoring the Class of 1968, reunion Mass, the anniversary luncheon, and a beer garden and concert on Saturday afternoon.

For a complete schedule of events, visit the Dominican Alumni Relations webpage or follow this link: https://bit.ly/2IH6Ztj.

Jennifer has deep ties to Dominican. Her mother, Anne Werts Morrissey, graduated in 1964.  Jennifer’s aunt, cousin, and grandmother also attended Dominican. Jennifer’s grandmother, Virginia Vaughan Werts ’36, who shared a dorm room with Sister Nicholas, was related to Sister M. Thomas Vaughan ‘19, Dominican's third president. Jennifer’s great aunt was Sister Judith Vaughan ’45.

Accepted at UC Berkeley and Santa Clara University, Jennifer chose Dominican in part based on a conversation she and her mother had with former Dominican President, Sister Samuel Conlan, O.P., while Jennifer was in high school in Pasadena.

“Sister Samuel put the college decision in perspective when she reminded me that if I ended up somewhere that was not the right fit, I had the ability to change direction and go somewhere else,” Jennifer recalls. “With that statement, she gave me the freedom to choose the school that felt right to me.”

Dominican was indeed the right fit. She majored in English in what is now the School of Liberal Arts and Education with an emphasis on writing and theater.

“I always liked writing and I loved acting. I always thought I would do something that involved a lot of writing. My career path has not exactly been a straight line, but writing has probably been the most consistent thing along the way,” Jennifer says. “People I work with today are sometimes are surprised when I say I was a theater student, but I use the writing and theater skills every day in my work. Writing is a discipline that forces you to organize your thoughts and express them clearly.  Theater teaches you not only to communicate verbally - and nonverbally - but to adapt to changing situations on the fly.”

Jennifer thrived in the small classroom/small campus atmosphere at Dominican. She appreciated the access and close relationship with teachers. Her French professor urged her to apply for a Fulbright scholarship, even though Jennifer was far from fluent in French. She was a fast learner as Jennifer soon after found herself teaching in an inner-city school in rough neighborhood with no other Americans nearby.

Before leaving Dominican, Jennifer had a reaffirmation moment. She had a chance encounter with a stranger at a local supermarket. She and a friend were both wearing Dominican sweatshirts.

“An elderly man in line ahead of us turned around, noted the logo on the hoodies and said we were so lucky to be able to go to school there,” Jennifer recalls. “I loved my years at Dominican, but it is only with time that I was able to appreciate how right he was. The unparalleled educational experience goes without saying, but there is so much more to it."

Now, 30 years later, Jennifer is returning to campus with same feeling. A reunion is the perfect place to share it with longtime friends and classmates.

“I am still in touch with many of the people who went to Dominican with me, whether they finished or not," Jennifer says. "So many have gone on to do extraordinary things, and we all look back fondly on our time together. It seems that even a short time at Dominican was valuable."


April 16, 2018