The Connecticut Bar Association has announced that Karen DeMeola, assistant dean of diversity, belonging and community engagement at the UConn School of Law, will receive the 2023 John Eldred Shields Distinguished Professional Service Award.
The bar association established the award in 1981 in honor of a former association president. It is given each year to a member who has performed outstanding service to the legal community and the community at large through or on behalf of the bar association.
DeMeola served as president of the Connecticut Bar Association in 2017-2018, the first person of color elected to that role. At the bar association, she created many diversity and pipeline projects, including the Pathways to Legal Careers Pipeline Program. In 2020, the association established the Karen Lynn DeMeola Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fund in her honor.
She is currently chair of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project Board of Directors and serves on the boards of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association, and the emeritus board of Family Equality. She is also co-chair of the Constance Baker Motley Speaker Series on Racial Inequality, sponsored by the Connecticut Bar Association and Connecticut Bar Foundation. In addition, she serves on the Connecticut Access to Justice Commission and the Governor’s Commission on Women and Girls STEAM Subcommittee.
DeMeola, a 1996 graduate of the UConn School of Law, has worked at the law school since 2000 and has served as director of admissions and assistant dean for finance and administration. In October 2022, she was named the law school’s inaugural assistant dean for diversity, belonging and community engagement.
Among the many honors she has received are: the Lawyers Collaborative for Diversity Edwin Archer Randolph Diversity Award, the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund Maria Miller Stewart Award, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities Constance Baker Motley Award for Business and Law, the Connecticut Law Tribune’s Attorney of the Year award, the University of Connecticut Law School Alumni Association Medal of Excellence Award, and the University of Connecticut Spirit Award.
“It has been one of my greatest privileges to serve as the CBA president and to continue working with amazing attorneys and colleagues at the bar to advance initiatives impacting the organization and the profession,” DeMeola said. “It is an honor to be recognized by an organization that I love for doing work that I love.”
“On behalf of UConn Law, I congratulate Dean DeMeola on this well-deserved honor,” UConn Law Dean Eboni S. Nelson said. “Dean DeMeola is a compassionate trailblazer who uses her considerable talents in service of others. The CBA holds a special place in her heart, and we have all benefited greatly from her commitment to advancing justice and the legal profession in Connecticut and beyond.”
The Connecticut Bar Association will present the award at its Celebrate With the Stars awards dinner on May 3, 2023.