A leading law graduate and lecturer from The University of Western Australia plans to repay his good fortune in winning a prestigious scholarship to Harvard University by teaching what he learns to others.
Leon Firios, who graduated with a combined Bachelor of Laws (with first class Honours) and Bachelor of Commerce in March 2010, is one of only six Australians to be awarded a Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship this year to study at the prestigious Ivy League university in Boston.
The highly competitive fellowship is awarded annually to a limited number of graduates from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom who demonstrate ‘future promise of leadership, strength of character, keen mind, balanced judgement and a devotion to the democratic ideal.'
Law School Associate Dean Natalie Skead, who supervised Mr Firios's thesis, said Mr Firios was an outstanding student, well suited both to legal practice and academia and with an admirable commitment to community welfare.
"So many of our graduates are just trying to get out there and make money and climb the corporate ladder," Associate Professor Skead said. "It's refreshing to see a super-capable graduate really wanting to make a contribution to their community more generally, and I think that's all part of why he was successful in his application."
Since graduating Mr Firios, 26, has worked as an associate to WA Supreme Court Justice Ken Martin and as a lawyer in the litigation department of global law firm Ashurst, as well as tutoring and, more recently, lecturing UWA law students.
He has also spent time teaching law on a voluntary basis to Burmese refugees in Thailand - a contribution he plans to continue making once he's finished his year-long Masters of Law at Harvard Law School and travelled and worked in Asia. He also helped coordinate a conference on long-term contracts at UWA, culminating in a book due to be published next month.
"Harvard is a great centre of leaning and few get the chance to experience all it has to offer," Mr Firios said. "I am truly grateful for this opportunity and I see what I will be able to do, with the benefit of this extraordinary experience, in the fields of education, social justice, and legal practice."
Mr Firios will leave for Harvard in August.
*Frank Knox was an American newspaper publisher, soldier, vice-presidential candidate and secretary of the navy during World War II who championed the concept of democracy as a government of the people. His wife established the fellowship after his death, with the aim of promoting educational exchange between the US and British Commonwealth counties. About 15 fellowships are awarded each year through in-country competitions.