Sheldon Smith

Honoring Community Trailblazers

In 1999, Sheldon Smith was a law student at the University of Buffalo, participating as a juror in a mock trial for a trial technique class. It was then that he met the Honorable Hugh B. Scott, a United States magistrate judge for the Western District of New York, as well as a law professor at UB.

“I was blown away by his charisma, intelligence and good nature,” recalled Sheldon, now a partner at Harter Secrest & Emery LLP (HSE). “He seemingly bonded with everybody, at all times, and everyone walked away from interactions with him saying, ‘Oh, he likes me. He’s my mentor.’ And that never stopped.”

Over the next two decades, Judge Scott continued to be a North Star for Sheldon, encouraging him to connect with the community in an authentic way, guiding him in his own legal career and as a husband and father, and all the while keeping him humble. They served on multiple boards together, and their families enjoyed each other’s company at numerous community events.

“Hugh was always giving back and sincerely focused on community and mentorships, exemplifying genuineness, and we owe a lot to his family – Trudy; Hugh, Jr.; and Everet – for sharing such a treasure with us,” Sheldon said.

After Judge Scott passed away in 2021, Sheldon and others at HSE wanted to find ways to help honor the judge’s legacy. They discovered and learned about the Communities of Giving Legacy Initiative’s (CGLI’s) Hugh B. Scott Awards, which were established that year to do just that – recognize individuals who exemplify Judge Scott’s spirit of community. The recipient of the Hugh B. Scott Community Service Award is also given $2,500 to award to a local nonprofit of their choice.

“I was happy to see that the awards are given in his name to well-rounded, leading by example, caring and naturally gifted young people in our communities of color. That is a wonderful way to honor a legacy that transcends almost everything,” Sheldon said. HSE reached out to the Community Foundation to establish a fund that supports the perpetuity of the awards, and Sheldon and his wife, Jonelle, provided the establishing gift to launch the fund. HSE leadership appreciates the longevity of the Community Foundation and its leadership roles in the region and trusts it to carry out its charitable wishes forever.

As it so happens, Judge Scott was a former Community Foundation Board member and founding member of both the CGLI and the Racial Equity Roundtable.

HSE leadership hopes that others whose lives were positively impacted by Judge Scott will contribute to the fund so that it can create an even bigger ripple effect in Western New York.

“The ‘mentor of mentors,’ Judge Scott was a beacon for this community for decades, and this is just one important way to recognize and thank him and his family,” Sheldon said.

This story is featured in our 2023 Annual Report.