Skip to content

First in the Family

Paul J. Yesawich Jr., B.A.’48, M.A.’50 (third from right) with members of his family during a golf outing in 2016: son Paul Yesawich III; grandson John Yesawich; son Christopher Yesawich; daughter-in-law Paris Pyne Yesawich; grandson Peter Yesawich Jr.; and son Peter Yesawich.

The Hon. Paul J. Yesawich Jr.’s father, who emigrated from Lithuania to Queens, N.Y., instilled in his only child the importance of an education, because he lacked a formal one himself. Yesawich took this encouragement to heart and became the first in his family to receive a degree in higher education. He went onto become an accomplished athlete, lawyer, judge, and legal scholar.

“The Judge,” by which he was affectionately referred by those close to him, was an accomplished student at New York’s highly regarded Brooklyn Technical High School who “bootstrapped” his way through college and law school, doing whatever it took to attain his degrees. He attended Niagara University on a full athletic scholarship to play basketball (and was inducted into the Niagara University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1966), graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1948 and his master’s degree in 1950. He went on to play professional basketball for the Syracuse Nationals in the National Basketball Association before electing to attend Cornell Law School. He graduated in 1951 and was admitted to the New York bar. He was appointed to the New York State Supreme Court by Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1971; that same year, he was elected to serve a full 14-year term on that court. In 1974, he was appointed to serve on the Appellate Division, First Department, in Manhattan, and remained there for seven years, simultaneously serving as a trial judge in the Sixth Judicial Department. During this time, he also served as a member of the Advisory Panel on the Proposed Code of Evidence for the State of New York. He was subsequently appointed to the Appellate Division, Third Department, in Albany, where he served until his retirement in 1999.

Undoubtedly, Judge Yesawich’s education served him well, and throughout his life, he continued to pass down his belief in education as the catalyst for self-improvement and personal fulfillment to his own three children, Paul III, Peter, and Christopher, emphasizing the value and importance of higher learning.

When Peter and his wife, Paris, wanted to honor the Judge for his impressive accomplishments and profound appreciation for the education he received at Niagara University, they decided to make an estate gift to endow a scholarship in Paul’s name. The Paul J. Yesawich, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Endowment will support undergraduate students who are the first in their family to attend college or university and require financial assistance to pursue and/or to complete their education.

Is there someone in your life whom you would like to honor or remember in perpetuity with an outright or estate gift? It begins with a phone call or an email to the Office of Planned Giving, Marilyn Koren, 716.286.8791.