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Olender Foundation Honors Washington Informer Publisher

12/15/2011, 12:34 p.m.
Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes is the 2012 recipient of the Olender Foundation's Generous...

Olender, a noted malpractice lawyer, reflected on the arc of growth from the first Olender Award ceremony 30 years ago to the most recent ones which routinely bring together throngs of people.

"My mentor Earl Davis died and I wanted to commemorate his name so I gave an award to one law student," he said. "Twenty-six years ago, I made it into a formal Olender Foundation event."

"It grew from a small memorial party in my office to a large event involving hundreds of people," Olender said with a laugh. "Larry King MC'd the first one and did it for about a dozen years at the Willard Hotel Ballroom. One of the two awardees was Dr. Calvin Rolark."

The Olender Foundation's mission is to counter poverty and violence and to promote education and equal justice. The foundation awards student scholarships and supports an array of organizations that serve the public, especially the citizens of the District of Columbia. Each year, the Foundation honors public figures and ordinary citizens for their contributions to society.

This year's honorees were Ms. Rolark Barnes; Janette Hoston Harris, Ph.D., a Civil Rights pioneer and activist, founder of the D.C. Hall of Fame and D.C. city historian; and the Hon. Thomas Buergenthal, a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, retired judge to the United Nations' International Court of Justice and an international human rights advocate. Harris received the Peacemaker Award and Buergenthal was awarded the foundation's Advocate for Justice 2012 Award.

In honor of the award recipients, the foundation gave grants to the D.C. Hook-Up of Black Women; Howard University Law School; Ivy Foundation; John Wesley AME Scholarship Fund; the Mulambda Foundation; Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; the Thomas Buergenthal Scholarship at George Washington University Law School; United Black Fund; University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law Foundation; Washington D.C. Hall of Fame Society, Inc., and Washington Informer Charities. In addition, scholarships will go to outstanding students attending Howard University Law School and the David A. Clarke School of Law.

Olender, a Pennsylvania native, was born in McKeesport, Penn., a once-booming steel town. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a law degree in 1960 and came to the District to study Forensic Medicine at George Washington University's law and medical schools. While there, he earned a Master of Laws degree in legal medicine.

"I have been practicing law more or less since 1961 and the first few years really was practice, learning. Fortunately, I didn't do anyone any harm," Olender said with a chuckle. "I can't say particularly that (studying law) was to help the underdog. In law school I clerked and they had all kinds of cases. I wanted to help people. I liked injury cases and I didn't like the business end of law. I knew this was what I wanted to do."

Olender has received widespread recognition and countless awards for his legal achievements and service to the community and is a much-sought after legal commentator. Recently, he was named medical malpractice Lawyer of the Year 2012 by Best Lawyers, the oldest peer-review publication in the legal profession.