2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

2016-2017 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

The University of Pittsburgh Law Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 1973 to recognize graduates of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who, through the accomplishments in their careers and contributions to their profession and/or their communities, have exhibited outstanding leadership qualities and enhanced the reputation of the Law School.

James E. Kopelman is a New Kensington man through and through. From the time he was a small child, his mother and his physician father, assumed and ordained that he would grow up to be a doctor.  Upon graduation from the University of Pittsburgh's College of Arts and Sciences, he entered the Pitt Medical School. After six weeks of dissecting corpses, visiting patients at Western Psych, and wearing suits that reeked of formaldehyde, he quit.

His Uncle Sherman Siegel (order of the coif 1936, Pitt Law) encouraged him to enter law school the following year. He received his JD in 1966. From that time until he became Of Counsel to Jacques and Jacques in Natrona Heights in 2012, Mr. Kopelman enjoyed a private and municipal practice that included thirty years as Solicitor of the Westmoreland County Housing Authority, forty years as Solicitor for the City of New Kensington, and stints as Solicitor of the New Kensington Industrial Development Authority, the New Kensington Sanitary Authority, Assistant Solicitor for the City of New Kensington, and Solicitor for the New Kensington Redevelopment Authority where he served a term as Board Chairman.  His private practice consists of estates and trusts, real estate, and eminent domain.  He now practices law as a hobby taking cases and clients that interest him. Currently, as an adjunct professor, he teaches third year law students at Pitt the Real Estate Transactions course.  Martindale Hubble has given him an "A" rating for more than twenty-five years.

Mr. Kopelman is a member of the Pennsylvania Society, the law school Board of Visitors, and the Brackenridge Circle and the 1787 Society of the University of Pittsburgh. He served as a Board Member of the Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital for fourteen years until it was sold to HealthSouth and was Vice-Chairman of the Board during the last year of his tenure.

He has been Vice President of Harmarville Community Outreach, a member of the American Bar Association, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers, Westmoreland Bar Association and the Ned J. Nakles Inns of Court where he served on the Executive committee.  He is admitted to the Supreme Court, Superior Court, and Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Mr. Kopelman is a life member of the Salvation Army Board, a member of the Duquesne Club, the University Club, and Oakmont Country Club, and Adat Shalom Synagogue.  He is a 32nd degree Mason, a member of Tyrian Lodge No. 644, Free and Accepted Masons and is a Shriner.  He has devoted his adult life to the practice of law for the benefit of the citizens and community of New Kensington in Western Pennsylvania. 

The Honorable David J. Hickton was nominated for United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania by President Barack Obama on May 20, 2010, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 5, 2010. He was sworn in as the District's 57th U.S. Attorney on Aug.12, 2010.

Prior to becoming U.S. Attorney, Mr. Hickton engaged in the private practice of law, specifically in the areas of transportation, litigation, commercial and white collar crime. Mr. Hickton began his legal career serving as a Law Clerk for the Honorable United States District Judge Gustave Diamond from 1981 to 1983. For more than a decade, Mr. Hickton was an Adjunct Professor of Law at Duquesne University School of Law where he taught antitrust.

Mr. Hickton is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and a Fellow of the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County. Mr. Hickton has been admitted before the United States Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and several of the U.S. Circuit Courts.

Previously, Mr. Hickton was involved in a wide range of community activities, and has long been an active supporter of and participant in organizations which benefit children and the arts. He is a past Executive Board Member of the Pittsburgh Public Theater, and served as its President. Mr. Hickton also was a longtime member of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a non-profit organization that uses arts and culture to reinvigorate the Downtown.

His nomination as United States Attorney marks Mr. Hickton’s second Presidential appointment. From 1999 to 2001, Mr. Hickton served on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at the request of then-President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Hickton is a 1978 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and a 1981 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Dawne S. Hickton is the former Vice Chair, President and Chief Executive Officer of RTI International Metals, Inc. (RTI), where she was employed for over 18 years. RTI was a global supplier of advanced titanium and specialty metals products and services in commercial aerospace, defense, propulsion, medical device, energy and other markets. Ms. Hickton served as CEO from April 2007 until July 2015, when Alcoa acquired RTI.

For the past two years, Ms. Hickton has been recognized as one of the top 100 global leaders in STEM by STEMconnector. Most recently, she was elected to the Board of Directors at Norsk Titanium AS, the world’s pioneering supplier of aerospace-grade, additive manufactured, structural titanium components. Ms. Hickton serves as chair of the Pittsburgh branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. In addition, she is a member of the Board of Directors of Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., one of the world’s largest and most diverse providers of technical professional and construction services, serving on the audit committee. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of Triumph Group, Inc., a global leader in manufacturing and overhauling aerospace structures, systems and components, and serves on that board’s audit and nominating and corporate governance committees. Ms. Hickton is a member of the Board of Directors of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and a director of The Wings Club. She is a member of the University of Pittsburgh's Board of Trustees, serving on the student affairs and property and facilities committees, as well as chairing the School of Law's Board of Visitors.

Ms. Hickton is a 1979 graduate of the University of Rochester and received her law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Law in 1983. She resides in Pittsburgh with her husband, The Honorable David J. Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and their children.