With a shared love for Michigan sports, an appreciation for the power of education, and a philosophy of giving back, Rochelle “Shelley” Alpert, ’75, and Steve Greenwald, ’73, have been thick as thieves since they first met at the University of Michigan.
Alpert and Greenwald were introduced while Alpert was an undergraduate student in LSA (and the School of Education) and Greenwald was immersed in his studies at the Law School. Alpert had already decided to pursue a career in the law as well, following her passion for women’s and consumer’s rights. The couple married in 1974 and largely remember their time at the Law School as a great experience, even if there were a few snags. “To go to the laundry room in the Lawyer’s Club, women had to go through the men’s bathroom—there weren’t many women’s rooms on the Law School campus at the time,” Greenwald recalls.
“It was a different place than it is now, but our life was dramatically changed by becoming Michigan Law graduates and pursuing careers as lawyers. We’re always thankful for the benefit of our education,” Alpert adds.
During a time when the legal field was heavily dominated by men, Alpert and Greenwald purposely sought out a space where they felt both their careers would be equally supported. Alpert recalls being asked by several recruiters whether she thought Greenwald would be able to find a job if they moved away from Michigan. “One firm in particular asked so many questions about my husband, I offered them the opportunity to interview him,” she says. “I’m so glad the legal profession has changed to the point that this should not happen anymore.”
The pair decided to move to San Francisco just before the Silicon Valley tech world began to take off. Alpert specialized in intellectual property law and became a partner first at Morrison & Foerster and later at Morgan Lewis. She has taken on a variety of trademark and copyright cases across diverse industries while remaining committed to pro bono work, which often involves her original interest in women’s rights. Greenwald practices energy law and remains a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine. He misses the days when he represented Detroit Edison (now DTE Energy) and could strategically visit its Ann Arbor offices around football weekends, working on Main Street a few blocks up from Michigan Stadium.
The pair has stayed connected to Michigan by attending football games and their reunions in Ann Arbor, hosting University gatherings, and giving back. They have supported a range of University initiatives, including athletics, but they were especially excited to establish the Alpert-Greenwald Scholarship Fund at Michigan Law, which was born out of their mutual appreciation for education. “When I was at the Law School, I benefited from a full scholarship, which was incredibly important to me. I mean, beyond incredibly important; it wouldn’t have happened without it,” emphasizes Greenwald, who was the first in his family to graduate from college. “To me, it’s the greatest thing in the world to say there’s one student whose life we improved. If you can change one person’s life, you’re doing an awful lot.”
Alpert adds, “Education was the key to a better life from our parents’ perspectives. You did well in school, you made the most of your education, and you strove to be a better and contributing person.”
In addition to their own legacy, Alpert and Greenwald have cultivated a family of Wolverine fans. Their daughter, Elyse Greenwald, graduated from the Law School in 2009 and practices at Latham & Watkins in Century City, California. Their son, Elliot Greenwald, while not a lawyer or Michigan grad, cheers for the maize and blue regardless of the sport.
“Both of us feel like we’ve been blessed to have incredibly interesting careers, both intellectually and in our areas of practice, and have had opportunities to make important contributions,” says Alpert. “That’s a gift that, at least in part, we can attribute to critical skills that we learned at the Law School.” —CLP