Donors Make a Difference: Cynthia Katkish


Photo­graphy by
Jeff Watts

Cynthia Katkish

Receiving her acceptance letter to the Washington College of Law was “one of the best days of my life,” says Cynthia Katkish, WCL/JD '88. “My law school education prepared me for a wonderful profession.” 

Katkish found her calling as a trial attorney while attending WCL part-time and clerking for plaintiff and defense firms. “I didn’t want to be in an office—I wanted be an advocate at trials, presenting the best case for a client in court,” she says. During her 30-year career spanning Maryland, North Carolina, and Washington, DC, Katkish has represented clients in more than 800 cases. 

As a child in Pittsburgh, Katkish would hide her eyes when her family drove past the foreboding concrete walls of a local prison. But soon after law school graduation, she found herself within jail walls to meet with clients accused of major crimes. “Here I was in jail representing a guy arrested on a fugitive warrant for a murder elsewhere,” she says. “From felonies to serious civil cases, I safeguarded clients’ legal rights. I never walked away feeling that I didn’t help them 100 percent, and my clients knew that.”

Looking back on her time at WCL, which came after a decade working at the Library of Congress, Katkish says she appreciated the diversity of the student body and the engaged faculty. As a nontraditional student attending classes at night, Katkish also valued the wealth of real-world experience that her professors and fellow students brought to the classroom. 

To reflect her gratitude for the career WCL made possible, Katkish named the school in her estate plans, supporting need-based scholarships, legal research, and information technology. “I want to give back to AU. Being admitted to the Washington College of Law was a gift—I want to pass it on.”

For information on how your charitable estate planning can create a legacy at American University, contact Seth Speyer, executive director of planned giving, at 202-885-3411 or; or visit