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Law School News

Houston Businesswoman and Style Icon Donates High-End Wardrobe to Law Students in Need

While Houston businesswoman, beloved matriarch, and noted style icon Marcela Duffy passed away in June 2020, her impeccable elegance and commitment to service long will outlive her 82-year life.

Duffy’s daughters, Jackie Sitton and Chris Henrichsen, recognized the treasure they owned in their mother’s immaculately kept wardrobe. Sharing their mother’s passion for service to the community, they sought a worthy charity that would appreciate Duffy’s well-cared-for clothing. Sitton initially contacted Dress for Success, but the nonprofit was not collecting donations at the time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Soon thereafter, South Texas College of Law Houston (STCL Houston) Professor Katherine Vukadin shared a Facebook post about the law school’s “Law Suits” program, which provides well-maintained professional clothing to students unable to invest in work attire. Sitton and Vukadin connected through social media — leading to STCL Houston’s largest, highest-quality donation to the Law Suits program to date.

Launched in 2015, the Law Suits program is the innovative brainchild of Professors Amanda Peters and Shelby Moore, who aimed to provide qualifying students with much-needed suits and accessories. Gena Singleton, assistant dean of Student Academic Affairs, also played a pivotal role in establishing Law Suits at Houston’s oldest law school, and Vukadin has supported the program since 2019. Recognizing the students’ need for well-fitting suits, Peters and Moore invested in a sampling of court-appropriate attire for the program. Since that time, as news of the program spread, the school has received donations from professionals both inside and outside of the school.

“My mother had a fantastic sense of style, much finer than my own!” said Sitton. “She kept her clothes and shoes in perfect condition, and she always looked perfectly put together. Rather than giving her wardrobe to a thrift store, my sister and I wanted to donate her belongings to individuals who would appreciate and take care of them.

“If it hadn’t been for Professor Vukadin’s Facebook post about the Law Suits program, we never would have known of this wonderful opportunity to give back.”

Duffy, originally from Mexico City, worked as a hearing instrument specialist for 43 years — up until a few months shy of her death — at Bisel Hearing Aids in Houston. According to Sitton, the devoted businesswoman enjoyed “dressing to the nines,” and felt that her professional appearance showed respect, both to her employer and to the clients she served.

“I learned from Marcela’s family about the pride she took in her work, and her clothes are a reflection of that,” said Vukadin. “Our law students will carry Marcela’s professional pride forward as they begin their careers. We are grateful for the family’s generosity and their thoughtfulness in allowing Marcela’s special clothes to help students secure their place in the legal profession.”

Peters also expressed gratitude for the gift: “The donation that Jackie and Chris gave was perhaps the most generous Law Suits has received to date. Marcela had gorgeous clothing that she lovingly took care of — beautiful blouses, scarves, jackets, separates, and most importantly, pant and skirt suits. Her clothing came in beautiful colors and more than one size; I know that many of our students will confidently wear her professional attire to interviews, law offices, and courts. We are truly grateful for this family’s generosity.”

South Texas College of Law Houston welcomes all professional clothing donations — from suits and separates to ties, jewelry, and other accessories — to its Law Suits program, and donors do not need an affiliation with the law school to contribute. Those wishing to give gently worn professional clothing or to make monetary donations to the program are encouraged to contact the law school at 713.646.2975 or send an email to studentacademicaffairs@stcl.edu for more information.

“I know my mother would be so pleased that we donated her clothing to such a worthy, beneficial cause,” said Henrichsen. “She always sought to do good for others and taught Jackie, my brother, Steve, and I the importance of volunteerism.

“She also loved adventure, leading to her ice trek on an Alaskan glacier and camel rides in the Holy Land in her late 70s! I’m happy that her clothing will see many additional adventures on the backs of hardworking law students in the future.”