Winter 2020

Beauty image of the azaleas in bloom in the Law School Courtyard


Cause and Effect: A Donor and His Scholarship Recipient Reflect on Their Connection to Michigan Law

Bob Currie, LLM ’63,  lives in The Woodlands, Texas, practiced international tax law at Exxon Mobil Corporation for 39 years before retiring as general tax counsel of ExxonMobil Coal and Minerals Co. in 2002. He contrasted his legal work with performing at his local community theater, of which he also was president, and recently served as a member of the Central Texas Campaign Leadership Committee for the University’s Victors for Michigan campaign.

Throughout his career, Currie took advantage of Exxon’s generous matching gift program to build his philanthropy at Michigan Law, which included creating the Robert J. Currie Scholarship Fund in 2005; today, it prioritizes students who are veterans. Matthew Sierawski, ’18, was the first recipient under this new designation; now, that list also includes 2Ls Walter Allison and Jonathan Blaha.

Matthew Sierawaski, '18  is from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Following high school, he spent seven years as an intelligence analyst in the Air National Guard, serving in Texas, New York, California, and Afghanistan. 

After graduating from Michigan State University in 2013, he came to Michigan Law and quickly developed an interest in litigation. He served as an associate and contributing editor of the Michigan Law Review, and was a member of the America-Israel Friendship League’s 2017 Law Review Editors Delegation to Israel, representing the Law Review abroad. 

He spent his 1L summer interning for The Hon. Helene N. White of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and his second summer working at the Detroit office of Foley & Lardner LLP. As a 2L, he also completed an externship in the Violent and Organized Crime Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. Last August, he finished a one-year clerkship with The Hon. M. Casey Rodgers of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida before returning to Foley & Lardner as a litigation associate.

What has your Michigan Law education meant to you? How has your degree opened doors for you?

Bob: I did a lot of exploring as an undergraduate at Michigan. A big part of that was spending a year in Denmark. As someone born and raised in Detroit, it opened up the world for me. I was exposed to all these different ideas, people, and art. It was wonderful and exactly what I wanted in life. However, the only way I could think to achieve that was by joining a global firm or corporation, and to do that I needed a quality law degree from a prestigious institution. The Master of Laws degree that I attained at Michigan is how I got my start at Exxon, where I spent my career living in New York, Venezuela, Miami, and Hong Kong before settling in Houston.

Matthew: I’m so grateful for my Michigan Law degree, which carries with it an incredible responsibility that is not lost on me. This past year, I was able to work as a federal law clerk in an amazing beach community, with a group of unparalleled lawyers. I have drafted numerous orders resolving a variety of civil and criminal matters, and I also have been exposed to the fascinating world of multidistrict litigation. The decision to attend Michigan Law remains one of my best.

What makes the Law School a special place?

Bob: The combination of brilliant and committed faculty, dedicated students, wonderful facilities, and unparalleled recognition around the world makes the Law School a perfect place to prepare for one’s career.

Matthew: To me, it’s the caliber of people it attracts—they are brilliant, compassionate, and dedicated. As a result, the alumni network is composed of people that genuinely care, and there are thousands of alumni across the world only an email away. During my time in law school, I reached out to innumerable alumni in search of career advice, and all of these interactions resulted in fruitful advice.

Where was the best place to study when you were in law school?

Bob: The stacks was the perfect studying spot. It was great having all my books, silence, and the privacy that I needed to focus.

Matthew: During the day, I loved the tables scattered around Sub-2 of the Law Library. It was my absolute favorite place to study, though I spent plenty of time in the Reading Room early in the morning or late at night.

What does the Robert J. Currie Scholarship Fund mean to you?

Bob: I’ve given to the Law School every year since graduating. If you’re lucky enough to be able to assist in some small way, then you need to do it. It doesn’t have to be a lot, it can be $20 or $50 a year, but give something back.

Because I believe in education and what the Law School does, I set up this scholarship. Today, it supports students who served in the military because they have given a year or more of their lives to protect our nation and preserve our rights. Patriotism today is not what it once was or should be, so I’m doing my part to give these deserving students recognition and opportunity.

Matthew: I met Bob and his family during the week of the 2017 Michigan vs. Ohio State football game. I left with a deep appreciation for the man who meant so much to my success over the prior three years. To be sure, the Robert J. Currie Scholarship gave me financial stability throughout law school and alleviated much of my stress. I have worked in some capacity since the age of 15, even as an undergrad, so the idea of dropping everything for three years was daunting. But due to Bob’s generosity, rather than agonize over monthly finances, I was able to focus on my studies. It was truly a blessing, and I will be forever thankful. I look forward to carrying his legacy forward as a proud recipient.