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Law graduate paves the way for future Drake law scholars

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Philip De Koster

While many law graduates nationwide may be looking to recoup what they’ve spent to earn their degree, one Drake law student is already creating an opportunity through which he can give back.

Before he even graduated, Philip De Koster, an Opperman Scholar, began endowing a scholarship for third-year Drake law students who are actively involved in mentoring fellow students.

“The purpose is to encourage law students to mentor other law students, which is something that has been important to me in my time at Drake,” De Koster said. “Law school can be such an overwhelming experience, and having someone who can give honest advice and who cares about you as a person is really beneficial.”

De Koster hopes to award the first scholarship, which will be named after his own mentor, Dr. Kathleen M. Waggoner, who earned her law degree from Drake in 1987, on the next Supreme Court Day in March 2011. Drake law faculty members will select the recipient, based on the activities nominees have undertaken to mentor other students.

As a recipient of the Dwight D. Opperman Scholarship, De Koster received full-tuition as well as $10,000 per year to finance his Drake Law School education. Rather than keep all he earned for himself, De Koster is using part of his gifts to create the new award.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have received an Opperman Scholarship, which led to a clerkship at a firm, which led to a job,” said De Koster, who will be working for LaMarca and Landry P.C. practicing in business litigation and estate planning. “Recognizing what Mr. Opperman did made me conscious of the importance of giving back, and I thought, ‘I can always use cash, but I can do something better with this.'”

De Koster’s inspiration also comes from his family roots. A third-generation lawyer of Hull, Iowa, he was taught the value of paying forward what he’s been given to move others to do the same.

“One vivid memory I have is my father coming home with cookies from a client, because the client couldn’t afford to pay him but wanted to give something,” De Koster said. “My father would’ve done it without the cookies, because he recognized that while we weren’t rich, we had enough, and other people didn’t have as much.

“Both my father and grandfather helped me recognize the difference a good lawyer can make in people’s lives. Giving back to the community, the school and other things that have provided opportunities is just something you do. In my mind, it’s not optional.”