Jean Carl, ’68
The late Jean Carl had a special way of seeking justice for the most vulnerable, especially children. Since her graduation from the Detroit College of Law (now MSU College of Law) in 1968, she helped create a better future for children who were victims of abuse and neglect.
Jean’s twin sister, Joan Kalustian, sought to create a permanent tribute to her beloved sister, who died from pneumonia on Dec. 11, 2006, after battling cancer. She did so by establishing the Jean P. Carl Endowed Scholarship at MSU College of Law with more than $100,000 raised from her own generous contributions and gifts from family, friends, and other supporters.
The scholarship for MSU College of Law students continues the cycle of giving and providing opportunities that was characteristic of Jean. “She would have wanted this,” Joan says. “My sister was a gem. She did things for people, often did legal work without charging and gave money to those in need.”
Each year, one law student who has aspirations to help the underserved and requires tuition assistance receives funds based on interest earned from the principal of this endowed scholarship.
While the scholarship keeps Jean’s memory alive, the story behind her education, career and values provides insight into the ways of a winning attorney. Jean built a practice based on her strengths and interests. After earning a B.A. in secondary education from Western Michigan University and an M.A. from Eastern Michigan University in guidance counseling, she worked full-time as a counselor while attending DCL in the evenings.
In 1968, after securing her J.D. degree and passing the bar exam, Jean became a Genesee County assistant prosecutor. She soon became chief of the Civil Division, a position she held until 1985. During her final year there, she was president of the DCL Alumni Association.
One of her earliest volunteer achievements was to help establish a Safe House for women in Genesee County, while she served on the YWCA Foundation Board.
An avid volunteer in the legal community and a resident of Grand Blanc, Jean became the second female president of the Genesee County Bar Association in 1992. She was a panelist on the Attorney Discipline Board and a mediator for the district court in Genesee County. She also served on the Genesee County Council of Strong Family, Safe Children.
She made an impact while serving on the Michigan Foster Care Review Board, especially during the 10 years that she was chairperson. It was Jean who designed the protocol used for children’s testimony in Michigan courts and proceedings.
“When she went into the courtroom, she had the respect of the judges,” Joan says. “She was well prepared and made sound decisions that had the children’s best interests at heart.”
Her next career move was to UAW-GM Legal Services, where she became the managing attorney and worked for nine years. She later worked part-time as an attorney while continuing to volunteer in a variety of legal venues, including serving on the Governor’s Task Force on Children’s Justice (since 1995), and as a trustee at MSU College of Law (since 2001).
“As a trustee, Jean was very active on several board committees, including faculty selection, finance, and curriculum,” MSU College of Law President Clifton E. Haley says. “This scholarship reflects her desire to help law school students excel academically and maintain high ethical standards when they graduate.”
Jean and Joan are daughters of the late Dorothy and Joseph Carl, of Bay City, Michigan.
“She was the kind of person who made the world a better place,” Joan explains. “Our parents brought us up the right way. We had a beautiful relationship.”
A version of this profile originally appeared in the fall 2009 issue of Amicus, published by the MSU College of Law.