Steve Oleskey '64, P'00 Establishes Endowed Public Service Internship

July 20, 2016

Orientation to public service and social justice came early to Steve Oleskey ’64, P’00.

“My mother worked in the New Hampshire court system in the 1950s,” he explained. “She would come home and tell me about grand juries interrogating local citizens about their political activities in the 1930s and 1940s, which some of those summoned refused to answer, with the result that they were held in contempt and jailed.” Oleskey also avidly watched the dramatic Army-McCarthy hearings on television and recalled, “From the age of thirteen, I wanted to be a trial lawyer.”

After high school, “by virtue of a generous scholarship,” Oleskey was able to enroll at Wesleyan. He noted, “The Eisenhower generation was giving way to the Kennedy generation. There was a lot of social ferment—especially about civil rights—on campus and in Middletown.” Oleskey  joined EQV (“Esse quam videri”: To be, not to seem), a renamed fraternity that had broken away in the late 1950s from a national which refused to accept black or Jewish members. On the academic front, the small, intense, writing-heavy classes of his CSS (College of Social Studies) major, Oleskey said, were “great training for a trial lawyer.” With the help of a summer internship grant, he researched and wrote a senior thesis and went on to earn a JD at NYU Law School.

Oleskey’s first job out of law school was at Hale and Dorr—fittingly, the law firm of Joseph Welch, who, representing the Army pro bono, was famed for facing down Senator McCarthy.  Hale and Dorr (later, WilmerHale) encouraged its attorneys to pursue pro bono work, which led Steve Oleskey to an appearance at the age of twenty-nine before the U.S. Supreme Court testing the Massachusetts employees’ loyalty oath. He has been dedicated to legal work for the public good throughout his career, including a successful ten-year effort on behalf of a group of six prisoners confined at Guantánamo that also was heard at the Supreme Court.     

Steve Oleskey has maintained close relationships with Wesleyan—serving as an alumni-elected trustee, WESeminar speaker, and reunion volunteer and receiving in 2014 the Outstanding Service Award—and with his fellow EQVs.  In 2005 Oleskey helped spearhead an EQV initiative to fund annual student summer internships related to social, political, or educational interests. Each year since then he and other former EQV brothers have met with the EQV Interns in the fall to learn about their summer experiences.    

Anticipating his 50th Reunion last spring, Oleskey wanted to assure “a larger impact” into the future.  For this purpose, he made a bequest intention to Wesleyan and also created a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT), which will provide supplementary income for his wife Judith and himself, while conferring tax benefits. After their deaths, these two planned gifts will fund an endowed internship in public service toward social and political change that will exist in perpetuity.

Over his lifetime Steve Oleskey’s priorities have not changed, and neither, he noted, have Wesleyan’s. “The students now are even better and more socially conscious,” he said, continuing, “I’m even prouder of Wesleyan today than fifty years ago.”