In devastation left in the wake of 175-mph, hurricane-force winds, a Fenwick junior found his purpose 900 miles away from home.
By Mark Vruno
Ten years ago in your life, where were you? If 50 is the new 40, then 40 is the new 30. A lot can happen in the span of a decade: Young alumni finish college, some attend graduate school, then begin to establish themselves in their professional careers; others contemplate marriage, perhaps. Slightly older alumni may have had children and started families. Older children in junior high school, hopefully, are considering taking the admissions test at Fenwick this coming December.
In the late winter of 2009, now 28-year-old Kenneth “Kenny” Matuszewski ’09 had a typical case of “senioritis” at Fenwick, counting the weeks until graduation and finalizing his plans to attend the University of Notre Dame. (In South Bend, he would major in biological sciences and Spanish.) But something profound happened during Christmas break of his junior year that, literally, changed the course of Matuszewski’s life, he says.
After the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Matuszewski and 37 of his classmates traveled to New Orleans to help people rebuild their homes. He vividly recalls “seeing the devastation, three years later.” More than 1,835 people died in the Category 5 hurricane and its subsequent floods, making it the deadliest storm in U.S. history.
“We went … as a part of the Mission New Orleans trip, a Fenwick organization,” Matuszewski explains. Their three chaperones were teachers Mr. Paulett, Mr. Ruffino and Ms. Logas, he notes. “While I had little experience with power tools or construction, I was still able to do something and help a family move into a home. That experience motivated me to find ways I could help people with my strengths; through my pro bono work, I realize I have found such opportunities.”
Fast-forward 11 years: “I have always felt it was my duty to use my talents as an attorney to give back to the community around me,” says Matuszewski, who grew up in La Grange Park and now resides in Westchester, IL. “That is why I have developed a commitment to pro bono work over the years. While this desire was instilled in me by my parents, who were and still are involved in the local library board and Special Religious Education (SPRED), Fenwick further honed it through the [Christian] Service Project.”
Latin students at Fenwick know that pro bono publico is a phrase used to describe professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment. Unlike volunteerism, it is service that uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them.
Matuszewski at a Glance
- Graduated from Fenwick High School, 2009 (Kairos leader, Friar Mentor, JETS, Scholastic Bowl, NHS, football, band)
- University of Notre Dame, B.S. in Biological Sciences and Spanish, 2013
- Chicago-Kent College of Law, J.D., 2016 (Managing Editor of the Chicago-Kent Journal of Intellectual Property, 2015-16)
- Presently an Associate at Rabicoff Law LLC in Chicago, where he specializes in intellectual property (IP).
- On March 21st will be honored by United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with the 2018 Pro Bono Service Certificate for the second consecutive year.
- Family of Friars: Kenny’s three younger siblings also are Fenwick alumni: Kevin ’10, Carly ’15 and Jasmine ’17.
Pro Bono and More
Today, Matuszewski serves the community in several ways. His pro-bono activities include work for the Chicago-Kent Patent Hub. “The patent process can be expensive, confusing and inaccessible to inventors. However, the barriers to entry for low-income inventors are even greater,” he explains. “As a volunteer attorney, I help low-income inventors obtain patents for their inventions. Over the past couple of years, I have worked with inventors who have invented devices ranging from simple footstools all the way to computer applications.” As a result of his efforts, Matuszewski earned the Patent Pro Bono Service Certificate from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for 2018 and 2017.
Lawyers for the Creative Arts (LCA) is another organization to which Matuszewski donates his time and energy — helping to provide free legal services to artists in dance, music, visual, literary works, digital media and arts education. “LCA has allowed me to grow as an attorney, not only by helping those in need,” he says, “but also by allowing me to go outside my comfort zone as a patent attorney. For example, I have drafted film agreements, copyright ownership agreements, registered copyrights for a musician and even advised on the type of business entity an arts-education group for underrepresented groups should use.” He also serves on the organization’s Associate Board, where he has helped to expand people’s definition of art by giving presentations on the artistic merits of video games, “and how video games intersect with intellectual property.”
And at the Settlement Assistance Program for the Northern District of Illinois, Matuszewski helps people navigate the federal court system, which can be “daunting, complex and unforgiving of indigent people who try to navigate it themselves,” he notes. “In this program, I represent prisoners and pro se litigants in civil-rights and employment-discrimination cases for the limited purpose of helping them navigate the settlement conference process. By doing so, I not only provide access to justice but also give my clients a chance to tell their story to an empathetic audience.”
Over the past few years, he also has served as the Philanthropy Chair for the Fenwick Young Alumni Association as a more traditional volunteer. In this role, Matuszewski organizes trips to the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s Hospital with other Fenwick Young Alumni. “What we do is simple,” he says modestly. “We play games with the residents and help them forget their worries, pain and trouble briefly. After several rounds of Jenga, everyone leaves with a smile on their face, and eager anticipation for the next trip.”
“It also brings to mind the fact that acts of service do not need to be large or grand, sweeping gestures,” Matuszewski concludes. “Service can be as small as making a child smile, or simply being present in someone else’s life.”
Kenny Matuszewski is an associate at Rabicoff Law LLC, Chicago, who concentrates his law practice in the area of intellectual property (IP), with a particular emphasis on patent litigation. Matuszewski has extensive experience litigating patents in the software, electrical and mechanical arts in several federal courts and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. He also advises clients on design patent and trademark protection. Further, Mr. Matuszewski currently represents international technology companies, small businesses, individual inventors, novelists and artists.
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