Spirit of Quinney: Award recipient and alum Kelley Gale discusses his commitment to mentorship

May 23, 2024 | Alumni

by Lindsay Wilcox

Brian Katz, left, Pat Leith, George Petrow, Dean Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Kelley Gale, and Lexie Kite stand together at the Alumni Awards celebration at the College of Law
Brian Katz, left, Pat Leith, George Petrow, Dean Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Kelley Gale, and Lexie Kite stand together at the Alumni Awards celebration at the College of Law

Kelley Gale completed his undergraduate degree at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. When it was time to attend law school, the Intermountain West appealed to him—and the S.J. Quinney College of Law held other benefits as well.

“I liked the fact that there was a great student-to-faculty ratio,” Gale recalls. “I enjoyed getting to know quite well Professor Jerry Andersen, who taught real property and labor. I was in the very first environmental law class, and I actually did make use of what I learned in that class.”

In fact, the class inspired Gale’s career trajectory. He retired in 2016 after working nearly 38 years as an associate and partner at Latham & Watkins’ San Diego, Calif., office, where he specialized in the development and financing of renewable energy projects and also took on pro bono work.

“As a young lawyer, I worked in a program known as the volunteer in parole program. I worked with young men who were just released from juvenile hall and needed some mentoring and enjoyed that experience,” Gale recalls. “I was also involved in the formation and the board of an organization known as Clean Tech San Diego, which was formed to try to encourage renewable energy technologies, especially startup companies.”

In retirement, Gale began working for the San Diego Rescue Mission, an organization that provides a home for those experiencing homelessness.

“The rescue mission brings people in for a 10-month Bible-based program so they can take the skills they have and get new jobs and to connect them with housing,” Gale explains. “I continue to mentor a couple of the people who’ve come through the program. A Navy veteran who works there with me and I take folks from the rescue mission on day-long tours of the U.S.S. Midway aircraft carrier, a museum housed in San Diego Bay. We’ve found that it’s a real highlight for these students.”

Gale also volunteers with Prison Fellowship, which mentors inmates in California prisons, and is excited to continue after an interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Retirement is a situation I was quite anxious about. I thought, ‘What am I supposed to do now that I’m retired?'” Gale says. “My interest is always in mentoring younger people to help them grow and succeed. I find that to be a way to be less anxious about what I’m doing and joyful in what they are doing.”

At the Alumni Awards ceremony held April 12, Gale reconnected with three lifelong friends and classmates—Brian Katz, Pat Leith and George Petrow—whose friendship has continued since their graduation from Utah Law in 1979. He also received the Spirit of Quinney Award, which recognizes alums with a commitment to community and public service like College of Law namesake S.J. “Joe” Quinney.

“It was a complete surprise and a joyful experience to receive the Spirit of Quinney award. I will continue to maintain my view that there are many others whose efforts would merit having received the award well before my efforts,” Gale says. “My friend Brian Katz was very familiar with Joe Quinney and confirmed his level of community and public service, which confirmed for me that I am definitely not in Joe’s league. But I am delighted to share what I have done.”

Gale plans to continue his work with the San Diego Rescue Mission and Prison Fellowship and wants to expand his service.

“I will look for other similar opportunities to give back to those who are experiencing challenging life situations and to intersperse that with some amount of traveling and spending time at a lakeview house in Minnesota,” he says. “I am delighted to have watched, and continue to watch and mentor, younger lawyers whom I had the pleasure to work with and encourage.”

Learn more about Kelley Gale in the video below.