Cutler Lessons for Life

by Matthew Wisecup, Hughes-Cutler Scholar ‘05

I still remember the first time I heard about the Manasseh Cutler Scholarship.  My English teacher passed me in the hall and made mention of a scholarship that offered great opportunities.  At the time, the Cutler Scholarship was a mystery, but I recalled being excited at the vague prospect of having all my college expenses paid and being able to travel abroad.  At the conclusion of that brief conversation, my teacher encouraged me to apply.  Fortunately for me, I listened.  Now, years later, as I look back on my time as a Cutler Scholar, I have come to realize more than ever what a tremendous opportunity it was.

Matthew WisecupOver my four years at Ohio University, my understanding of what it meant to be a Cutler Scholar took shape.  It meant lack of financial worry, the chance to interact with interesting and intelligent people, and the chance for travel and discovery.  But it also meant responsibility.  As Cutler Scholars, we had a responsibility to increase our knowledge and understanding, even under the strain of busy schedules and heavy class loads.  I came to realize that the point of the Cutler Scholarship is not just to reward academic achievement, but rather to equip promising individuals with the skills to improve the world around them.

I only had to look to my benefactor, Leona Hughes, to see a shining example of the Cutler philosophy.  I was extremely fortunate to know Mrs. Hughes during my time as a Scholar.  She was a very charitable and community-minded person, freely giving of her wealth and her time to countless causes.  While Mrs. Hughes is now gone, her example lives on in my memory and the memory of so many others that she touched during her long and philanthropic life.

Thanks to the Cutler Program and Mrs. Hughes, I have tried to apply the ideals of self-improvement, personal responsibility, and community-mindedness to my own life and profession.  Indeed, because of the Cutler Scholars Program, I had the opportunity to go on to law school at the University of Cincinnati College of Law without the worry of pre-existing student loans.

After a rewarding three years of law school, I now have been practicing law for more than two years with a nonprofit legal aid organization.  My office consists of four other attorneys, all providing free legal representation in a wide range of civil cases to mostly low-income clients.  The cases I regularly litigate include defending clients in foreclosures and evictions, representing victims of domestic violence, representing clients in divorce and custody cases, defending against debt collectors, and fighting for unemployment benefits. The work I do is rarely easy, either in its complexity or in the emotional toll it can take.  But when I look back on the experiences I had as a Cutler Scholar, I can see that I was well prepared for the challenges that I am regularly confronted with, both as an attorney and as a citizen of a broader world.

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