Alumna Spotlight: Rhea Law, Named USF Alumni Association 2018 Distinguished Alumna, Traces Beginnings of Success to A USF Business Degree
By Keith Morelli
TAMPA (August 28, 2018) -- Rhea Law has found a way to fit a week's worth of work into a single day and she's been doing it for four decades. Reflected in her pages-long resume are gubernatorial appointments, community and military involvement and accolades from near and far. That's not including her full-time job as an attorney and executive at a high-profile law firm.
Currently, Law heads the Florida offices of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, where she also serves on the board of directors and chairs the diversity committee. The national law firm operates 17 offices in nine states. Founded in 1850, the firm is one of the longest standing law firms in the country. But her leadership role there represents only a fraction of what she does and the recognition she has earned over the years.
Most recently, she was named a 2018 Distinguished Alumna by the USF Alumni Association and will receiver her award at a banquet next month. She's quite familiar with USF, as some of her first jobs after her 1977 graduation with a management degree included managing research and development grants and contracts.
"I remember walking across campus in sand with sandspurs clinging to my hose," she said. "You get the picture, uphill, both ways."
Since then, the university has grown incredibly, from just under 14,000 students to more than 50,000; from five colleges to 14 and from $10 million in research and innovation funding to $375 million. Still, Law said, her days at the early USF Tampa campus helped mold her career and life. Two years after graduating USF, she earned a law degree from the Stetson University College of Law.
"We are all a combination of all of our experiences and my time with USF has left me with a wide variety of experiences that have benefited me for my entire career," she said. "Because of my business background, I was quickly able to take on administrative responsibilities with a law firm and ultimately became the president and CEO."
Though her life has taken her in many directions, she remains rooted in the university.
"I can truly say that I bleed green and gold," she said, "from my early days with USF administering research and development grants to serving as a member of the USF University Research Foundation and the board of directors for the Institute of Environmental Studies."
She is a founding member of the board of directors of the USF Law Alumni Society, served on the Presidential Search Committee that hired Judy Genshaft and received a gubernatorial appointment to serve two terms on the inaugural USF Board of Trustees, where she spent five years as vice chair and four years as the first (and only) female chair.
Currently, she chairs the board of directors for the Health Professions Conferencing Corporation with the USF Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation and provides legal counsel for the Tampa Innovation Alliance.
Law also has a room full of awards she has received over the years including being named this year as an "expert voice" for the Miami Herald's Top 50 Florida Influence Project, being inducted as a 2018 honorary member of the USF Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors in recognition of her support to innovation at USF and now a USF Distinguished Alumna, an award that will be presented on Oct. 18.
Last year, she was named Lawyer of the Year in The Best Lawyers in America publication and was identified as one of the top 25 influential business players in the Tampa Bay area by the Tampa Bay Times. In 2016, Law was the recipient of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Dottie Berger MacKinnon Women of Influence Award and was named as an inaugural member of the Power 100 published by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
In 2015, she was the recipient of the Most Powerful and Influential Woman Award in the Florida Diversity & Leadership Conference. The list goes on.
"I have dedicated almost 40 years to the practice of law in the areas of environment, land use and higher education," she said. "In addition, I've identified and grown other passions: community building, economic development, public policy and academic innovation."
Her reaction when she learned she was named a Distinguished Alumna:
"Woo-hoo," she said. "What an honor."