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Cathy Bissoon ’90, groundbreaking federal judge, to deliver keynote at Alfred University


Convocation ceremony is August 25th

ALFRED, NY – Alfred University alumna Cathy Bissoon ’90, who as U.S. District Judge for the District of Western Pennsylvania broke ground as the first woman of color to sit on the federal bench in Pittsburgh, will deliver the keynote address at the University’s Opening Convocation on Friday, Aug. 25.

Opening Convocation, set for 2:30 p.m. in Galanis Family Arena, will mark the beginning of Alfred University’s 188th year. An estimated 566 new students (472 first-year and 94 transfers) are expected to arrive on campus the week of Aug. 21. Classes for the 2022-23 academic year begin on Monday, Aug. 28.

Judge Bissoon, who was appointed by President Barack Obama as U.S. District Judge for the District of Western Pennsylvania in 2011, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Alfred University in 1990, graduating summa cum laude. The Brooklyn, NY, native went on to earn her law degree from Harvard in 1993.

After graduation from law school, Judge Bissoon worked for 15 years in private practice, but for a year-long sabbatical in 1994 to work as a law clerk on the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.  Judge Bissoon started her legal career at Reed Smith, where she would go on to become a partner and the firm-wide head of the Employment Group.  She also served as Reed Smith’s Director of Diversity for six years, earning various accolades for her efforts to increase diversity within the legal profession. In 2007, she joined the Pittsburgh law firm of Cohen & Grigsby (now Dentons Cohen & Grigsby), where she was a director and served as head of the Labor & Employment Group.

During her time in private practice, Judge Bissoon was named a Fellow of the Litigation Council of America; listed multiple years in the Best Lawyers in America; named a “Pennsylvania Super Lawyer” by Philadelphia Magazine; listed in Chambers USA America’s Leading Lawyers; and was recognized as one of the top 50 lawyers in Pennsylvania under the age of 40 by Pennsylvania Law Weekly.  Additionally, she was honored for her many efforts in the area of diversity with the Honorable Thurgood Marshall Award from Minorities in Business Magazine

Judge Bissoon also was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as an original member of Pennsylvania’s Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness. The Commission is charged with promoting the equal application of the law for all citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and increasing public confidence in the fairness of all three branches of state government.

In 2008, Judge Bissoon was chosen as a United States Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.  Three years later, President Barack Obama appointed Judge Bissoon as a United States District Judge for that same court. Following her confirmation, Judge Bissoon — who is both Indian and Latina — became the first Latina Article III judge in Pennsylvania and the first Asian American Article III judge in Pennsylvania.

Judge Bissoon has been honored numerous times during her judicial career and has distinguished herself as a leader in the Pittsburgh region.  She also has been recognized on multiple occasions for her work in paving the way to a more inclusive bench and legal profession through her advocacy on behalf of and mentoring of historically underrepresented attorneys.

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