Frances B. Sellers Award

Dorothea credits Dale Forsman (C’68, T’75), her youth minister at her Westfield, New Jersey church, for guiding her to Drew, and she says she’s never been sorry for a moment.

To say that Drew has influenced her life is a major understatement.  She cannot say enough about the teaching of John von der Heide, Perry Leavell, “Prof.” Robert Smith, and Julius Mastro.  They all guided her while she majored in history and minored in political science and sociology.  No less important are her memories of Frances B. Sellers’ legendary care and concern with Drew students – “she connected with you every time you came to the Commons.”

Current events of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s inspired Dorothea’s interest in the law, and she earned her J.D. at Rutgers Law School in Newark in 1977.  After four years as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, she briefly worked in private practice as a litigation associate, and then served as an assistant U.S. attorney for civil litigation in the Middle District of Florida from 1983 to 1990.  She received a special achievement award for Sustained Superior Performance of Duty in 1986, and throughout her work in the Department of Justice she received numerous letters of commendation from Federal agencies.

The example of Drew’s professors, especially von der Heide’s, stayed in Dorothea’s mind and inspired a career change.  She joined the Stetson University College of Law faculty in 1990 and became their first tenured African-American professor of law in 1995, teaching federal pretrial practice, civil procedure, federal, state and municipal litigation internships, international human rights law and the law of international tribunals.  Stetson recognized her work with its highest teaching award, the Teaching Excellence Award, in 2005, and she received a Law Review Award for Service as faculty coordinator in 2008.

Dorothea became increasingly interested in international humanitarian law, a subject she pursued at New College, Oxford University in 1995; a number of her publications are concerned with human rights and international tribunals.  She was involved in Stetson’s summer abroad program in international human rights in Tallinn, Estonia in 2001 and directed the summer program in The Hague in 2005.  Since 2004 she has been faculty advisor of Stetson’s American-Caribbean Law Initiative and director of the school’s Tribunal Project.  Currently she also directs Stetson’s Institute of Caribbean Law and Policy.  Consulting for the Virgin Islands, as they prepare a new constitution, refreshes her memories of Drew.  She is finding Prof. Smith’s courses in constitutional history invaluable.

Outside her teaching, Dorothea has been active in professional service and volunteer work in numerous associations, both in Florida and elsewhere. Although she has little time to spend that is not law-related, she is close to her father, now retired in Florida, and connects whenever possible with her brother in Bolivia.