Volume 18 • Issue 2

Alumni Profiles

Illustration by Joi Lakes ’01

Joi Lakes ’01

Balance—finding it, embracing it and enjoying it—is a way of life for Joi Lakes ’01. Lakes began her quest for balance during her years at Southwestern. “I was involved in a lot of activities that didn’t obviously complement one another, but I really needed the diversity to stay sane,” she explains. While at Southwestern, Lakes combined her coursework with a weekly cartoon in The Megaphone, Web page building for the Pre-Law Society and Alpha Delta Pi, and running a campus television station with a few friends. She graduated from Southwestern intending to pursue a career in entertainment law to combine her personal interests with her professional goals.

After graduating from New York University School of Law, Lakes spent a year as a law clerk for a federal district court judge sitting in the Southern District of New York. While clerking, Lakes realized that she needed to spend more time on the right-brained activities she enjoyed. Lakes began a blog about two things that interested her personally, sewing and music. “I knew I needed to do something very different from the law after work,” Lakes says. “Writing about sewing is about as far from writing about the law as it gets.”

Over time, the focus of the blog began to center on craft and design. Through her blog, Lakes joined a group of local crafters and helped found a chapter of the Austin-based Craft Mafia in New York City. At the behest of her fellow Craft Mafia members, Lakes began selling the clothing, handbags and accessories she designed at craft fairs and events. Eventually, Lakes took her goods to the Web and created an online store based on her blog, “Stereoette.”

Since completing her clerkship and joining the litigation department at the New York-based law firm Proskauer Rose LLP, striking a balance between work and creativity has remained important to Lakes. However, life as a junior associate carries time demands that make having outside interests difficult. Lakes notes, “I like having the business online because I can make things when I have time and control what I am committing myself to.” Lakes also found that her job and hobby are more compatible than one might think. “I am interested in copyright, trademark and advertising law, and I think that what I learn by working in those areas has a real relevance to entrepreneurship.”

The commonalities between her job and outside interests don’t end there. “Problem-solving is the one thing that I find most enjoyable about law. I enjoy researching and trying to find an answer. I like finding a unique construction of words, having a goal and trying to persuade others to my opinion.” The same love of problem-solving extends to her sewing. “A large part of drafting a pattern or making a garment or bag involves putting the puzzle together.”

Lakes is not sure where her law career and business will take her. She states, “Right now, I am trying to learn as much as I can about the law and about what excites me creatively. Where it leads, I do not know. We’ll see how that manifests itself.”

Check out Lakes’ Web site at www.stereoette.com.

Photo by R. Bryant Hill

Pete Kennedy ’85

Pete shares his remarks from the Thinking Ahead: The Southwestern Campaign kick-off event held in Austin, Texas.

I just turned 44. I’ve now lived exactly half my life after graduating from Southwestern. But, those four years still stand out as a transformative time for me, and I’m glad to have an opportunity to talk a little about the University I’d like to relate two experiences I’ve had since graduating that made me proud to have gone to Southwestern, show that its students are still being taught well, and that its faculty continue to look past its limestone buildings to the greater community.

For several years, I taught a class at The University of Texas School of Law. The course had a paper as the major requirement. To “comfort” my students that the writing assignment would not be so bad, I described Walt Herbert’s expository writing seminar at Southwestern—where a grey-haired Hawthorne scholar reads your fumbling efforts at essays out loud and then invites criticism from the whole class, after offering his own. Most of my law students cringed at the description, but one smiled. She had attended Southwestern, had taken Herbert’s seminar and, of course, turned out to be one of the best writers in my class.

Then, a few years back, I helped represent a small Ethical Culture congregation in Austin. The congregation had been denied a religious tax exemption because Ethical Culture does not require all of its members to believe the same thing about God, or indeed to believe in God. When I read the Texas comptroller’s claim that no one is “religious” unless he or she believes in a “Supreme Being,” I remembered Dr. Robert Lee’s lessons at Southwestern about Eastern religions and went to the Religion and Philosophy Department for help. Laura Hobgood-Oster and Elaine Craddock, both associate professors of religion, volunteered to be expert witnesses, and both gave generously of their time and knowledge by testifying in depositions and in court.

Hobgood-Oster explained that not even all Western religions have creeds—required belief systems—and she gamely tried to explain Christian existentialism to Judge Paul Davis. Craddock described the lack of a Supreme Being in some branches of Buddhism. Judge Davis’ decision—which reversed the comptroller and granted the tax exemption—relied heavily on their testimony and even included some “independent study” on Native American religions.

I’m glad to see that Southwestern has continued its tradition of small classes, focused learning and commitment to teaching —and practicing—a values-based education, and I’m more proud each year to call Southwestern my alma mater.