Honoring a dedicated woman J. Lynne Wood gets credit for developing college paralegal program

February 29, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Between 1987 and 1993, J. Lynne Wood turned a couple of nonaccredited paralegal courses at Anne Arundel Community College into a degree-conferring program fully accredited by the American Bar Association.

Tomorrow, the student Paralegal Association at the school will honor her work by dedicating a collection of law books in Mrs. Wood's name. Mrs. Wood has cancer.

"She's the kind of person who I can say that when I grow up, I want to be like her," said Peggy Bronstein, an association member who will graduate this summer with an associate's degree in paralegal studies. "She's a combination of teacher, mother, counselor and surrogate all wrapped into one."

Students, teaching colleagues and members of the law community will congregate at 1 p.m. in the first-floor lecture hall of the Florestano Building on West Campus Drive to dedicate more than 500 case-law volumes, law encyclopedias and a set of the Maryland Annotated Code, in Mrs. Wood's name.

Mrs. Wood declined to be interviewed.

The dedication was organized to recognize a woman people say single-handedly built the paralegal program at the Arnold school.

"She's a vibrant, dynamic, wonderful person who would do anything and everything for students," said Michael O'Rourke, an associate professor and a private attorney. "She is truly one of the best things to happen to the community college."

Mr. O'Rourke was on the search committee that hired Mrs. Wood in 1987 to start the paralegal program.

By 1993, the school became only the third in the state to secure American Bar Association accreditation, and the first with an ABA-accredited certificate program.

But Mrs. Wood didn't stop there. She worked to move the paralegal studies department to the new Florestano Building and have space set aside for a paralegal library, Mr. O'Rourke said.

The department didn't have enough funds to stock the library, so Mrs. Wood persuaded private law firms in Annapolis and Baltimore to donate used materials, Mr. O'Rourke said.

Perhaps Mrs. Wood's greatest achievements are her students, who say she has inspired them.

"I was questioning whether the program was for me," said Terry Russatto, a 45-year-old retired Air Force intelligence analyst who will graduate in May with an associate degree in paralegal studies. "After talking to her and getting encouragement from her, she developed my natural curiosity. She sort of guided me into this."

Lara King, a 27-year-old graduate, said no one deserves the honor more than Mrs. Wood, who appeared at a paralegal reception in December to assure students she was in good health.

"She was the type who didn't want you to worry about her," Ms. King said. "I wish there was something more we could do for her."

The Paralegal Association is selling raffle tickets to help pay for an oil portrait of Mrs. Wood. The grand prize is a Saturday night stay at one of the Historic Inns of Annapolis and a Sunday brunch at the Treaty of Paris Restaurant. To buy a ticket for the April 3 raffle, call 315-7432.

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