Ryan Odenwalder (JD '09) was known throughout Chapman's law school for his willingness to help anyone in need, no matter what. He consistently made himself available to first year law students—day and night—and patiently answered their plethora of questions as they tried to navigate the muddy waters of law school.
Ryan had just begun his legal career when a car accident swiftly ended his life in April 2010—just a year after he graduated. He was only 27 years old. Ryan's death was a tremendous loss felt by the entire Chapman Family. He left behind a deeply felt impact on law students, especially those who were personally mentored by him.
"Ryan was a dedicated student who demonstrated a passion for helping others," said Jayne Kacer, associate dean for student affairs and administration at Chapman's Fowler School of Law.
To honor Ryan's legacy, his parents, Darlene and Gary Odenwalder, established a legacy scholarship in their son's name to help aid and inspire future law students at Chapman—just as Ryan did. The Ryan L. Odenwalder Endowed Memorial Scholarship will be awarded annually to qualifying students at the Fowler School of Law.
"Generations of students will benefit from Ryan having been with us," said Tom Campbell, dean of the Fowler School of Law. "Student scholarships are so needed in today's tough economic circumstances. For many, being able to pursue a career dream of being an attorney depends on whether they can obtain a scholarship or not."
When Ryan attended Chapman, he received merit-based scholarships that he worked hard to maintain. Ryan's scholarly accomplishments and commitment to academic integrity quickly made him one of the school's top students. Even though he was accepted to many other law schools throughout the country, Ryan felt that he belonged at Chapman. It was this deep connection to the law school that inspired Darlene and Gary to establish a scholarship in Ryan's honor. "Ryan served as an Academic Fellow, assisting first year law students make the difficult transition from undergraduate school to law school," said Kacer. "Outside of law school, Ryan actively supported the Make a Wish Foundation."
In addition to regularly helping law students and supporting charitable organizations, Ryan was the Chapman Law Review notes editor and obtained the highest grades in Land Use Regulation, Water Law and Civil Rights Law. After he graduated cum laude in 2009, Ryan passed the California State Bar on his first attempt and was employed as legal counsel for Morgan Drexen, a company known for giving back to the Orange County community.
After initially endowing a scholarship to ensure that Ryan's passion for helping law students will be perpetual, the Odenwalders revisited their estate plan and made the Fowler School of Law one of the beneficiaries of their estate. This generous bequest means Ryan's scholarship will be one of the largest within the Fowler School of Law. The Odenwalders are also bequeathing part of their estate to Make-a-Wish Foundation of America and to Operation Smile, two extraordinary non-profits that share a mission to improve quality of life.
"Because of Ryan's love for Chapman's law school and his academic accomplishments, we wanted him remembered for what he represented: honesty, integrity, hard work, and his willingness to help others," said Darlene. "Gary and I hope that this scholarship will help others fulfill their dream, since Ryan's dream and full potential was cut short."
To learn how you can endow a scholarship at Chapman University through your estate, contact David B. Moore (M.A. '09), assistant vice president for legacy planning, at (714) 516-4590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.