Law Professor Receives National Award
May 7, 2009Jackson attorney Rick Courtney, an adjunct professor at the Mississippi College School of Law, has built a practice devoted to the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities.
For his tireless efforts, Courtney recently received a national award from the New York-based Theresa Foundation. Established in 1992, its mission is to improve the quality of life of children with disabilities. The Mississippian was given the 15th annual Theresa Award for community and professional service to persons with special needs.
"I was humbled and honored to receive the Theresa Award for our work on behalf of persons with disabilities," Courtney said Thursday. He received the award from foundations leaders at their annual dinner on Long Island, N.Y. on May 1.
Courtney said he is designating the $2,500 Theresa Award grant to the Mustard Seed, a Christian organization in Flowood "for their outstanding work with young people with special abilities. I have enjoyed their bell choir and beautiful ceramics."
An attorney in Jackson since 1978, Courtney has chaired the Elder Law, Estate and Special Needs Planning Group of the Frascogna Courtney, PLLC law firm since 1985. He and Mike Frascogna formed the law firm 24 years ago and remain partners today.
A Madison resident, Courtney received his bachelor's degree at Mississippi College in 1975 and a law degree at the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1978. Over the years, he's advocated successfully against Medicaid limitations for persons with disabilities. Starting with his own daughter with special needs, he's built a practice focused on serving others in the special needs and elder law arenas.
The Jackson native is a member of the Board of Directors and Special Needs Section Steering Committee of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He is an expert in the areas of public disability benefits and financial and estate planning for persons with special needs.
"Dad was destined to become a good attorney because he is, quite simply, a good man," says Melissa Courtney McCleese in the Theresa Foundation newsletter announcing this year's honoree. "His love for God translates to a love for people and a desire to help enhance their lives."
His career began to focus on the lives of the elderly and children with disabilities in 1979 after Melissa and her twin sister, Melanie were born. It was soon discovered that Melanie had cerebral palsy. Rick Courtney found Medicaid, public benefits and special needs programs were difficult to find, she said. But her father figured these things out and worked to pass along his knowledge to other families impacted by disabilities, she wrote in the newsletter.
Melissa, who is an MC graduate in communications, now works as public relations director at her father's law firm. Her 29-year-old twin sister, Melanie, was mainstreamed in middle school and graduated from a community college with a degree in paralegal studies. Melanie now works at her parents' church.
Rick Courtney, who has served as president of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, has taught at MC's law school as an adjunct professor since 1991. There are other MC connections in the family. The attorney's wife, Ruthie, is a 1975 Mississippi College graduate.
PHOTO: Rick Courtney (left) receives Theresa Award from Vincent Russo, founder of the Theresa Foundation in New York.