WSU Law School honors Huntington Woods’ Michael Pitt

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published October 9, 2013

 Wayne State University Law School Dean Jocelyn Benson, right, presents Huntington Woods resident and lawyer Michael Pitt, left, with an award Sept. 28 during the 2013 Treasure of Detroit Gala.

Wayne State University Law School Dean Jocelyn Benson, right, presents Huntington Woods resident and lawyer Michael Pitt, left, with an award Sept. 28 during the 2013 Treasure of Detroit Gala.

Photo submitted by Shawn Starkey


HUNTINGTON WOODS — In the 1960s and ’70s, America was taking part in the Vietnam War, a battle that may be the most internally contested war in the country’s history.

On the home front, going to college meant a way to stay out of the war, and for Michael Pitt, it meant a way for him to continue to be part of the counterculture movement that was occurring. People all across the country stood up for several different rights, including civil rights and free speech.

“There were turbulent times in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and part of going to college was to avoid the draft and getting out of the war,” Pitt, 64, said. “There was a counterculture movement that was transforming American society, something you had to be there to appreciate, and I became part of the movement. I saw going to law school as a way to help continue the process of democratizing the society and creating access to financial and governmental benefits a lot of people back in the early ’60s didn’t have.

“The middle class was kind of stuck, and people weren’t advancing, and I thought going to law school could help me do that.”

Eventually, Pitt, a Huntington Woods resident of 30 years, earned his law degree from Wayne State University Law School in 1974. On Sept. 28, Pitt was one of four alumni who the school honored for their achievements in the field and contributions to the school.

The Treasure of Detroit Gala has helped Wayne State honor the legal profession since 1998, as well as celebrate the growth of the law school.

“Of course I am very honored, and I have been active with the law school, so it wasn’t something that had come at me out of the blue,” Pitt said. “I worked really hard for the law school, and I was honored that they recognized my hard work.”

Wayne State is the path Pitt took almost four decades ago because the school was easier for him to afford without his parents’ help. Still, with almost 40 years of experience under his belt, he could not be happier he chose Wayne State.

“Wayne State’s tuition was half that of the other law schools, and I think it is still reasonable in light of the other tuitions, so finances had a big role in that Wayne State was accessible to me because of the low tuition,” Pitt said. “Wayne State definitely has an approach where they encourage you to take on the problems of the everyday person, and so when I got out, I associated with a firm that did just that, and I have been doing that same type of work ever since.

“Wayne State really opened up pathways for me and helped define me, and I give tremendous credit to them because they allowed me to become a lawyer and, I think, steered me in the right direction.”

Jocelyn Benson, dean of the Wayne State Law School, said the school is lucky to have many alumni to honor who have helped people and communities in the state.

“We are lucky to be a real institution in the state of Michigan and to have trained a majority of lawyers and judges, and we are proud to play a role in training Michigan’s current leaders,” Benson said. “Michael has worked hard in and out of the courtroom and has advanced causes we feel are important to highlight. He has been such a great advocate for the law school.”

While Pitt went on to open his own law firm in 1992, named Pitt McGehee Palmer Rivers and Golden, he has continued to allot time for his alma mater.

Pitt and his wife, Peggy Goldberg Pitt, set up the Michael L. and Peggy Goldberg Pitt Endowed Award Scholarship to provide financial assistance and improved access to Wayne law students with physical disabilities.

Pitt has also served on the Wayne Law Board of Visitors, helping the school by giving feedback on how the reputation of the school and graduates are faring in the local communities.

“I do quite a bit in discrimination work, and I am very familiar with the challenges people with disabilities face,” Pitt said. “When (my wife and I) had the opportunity to set up the fund, Wayne State had nothing comparable, so we wanted to focus on students with disabilities, and we hope it continues for many decades.”