The Practice of Helping People
Villanova Law class of 1985 graduate Michael Pansini has always been in the business of helping people. Whether it’s lifelong philanthropic efforts or running one of the most successful Philadelphia-based law firms over the course of the last three and a half decades, he strives to put others first—including the Villanova Law community.
“At the back of your mind you always think about the ‘why’, what’s the reason behind all of this,” says Pansini. “Luke 12:48; it’s always been at my core—to whom much is given, much is required.’”
Pansini, a member of the Law School’s Board of Consultors, recently established a gift for students that he can relate to on a personal level: The Michael Pansini Family Endowed Scholarship. The $1 million gift is the largest need-based scholarship of its kind at the Law School, supporting first-generation and historically underrepresented students.
Born and raised in New York, Pansini was the firstborn in his family’s Italian American household after his parents emigrated from Italy to Montreal, Canada in 1952. Despite growing up in a household where Italian was predominantly spoken, he found success in his early education and became the first person from his family to attend college. He received his undergraduate degree from The Johns Hopkins University in 1982.
But even before higher education was an option, Pansini learned from others.
“A mentor from Iona Prep, a Catholic high school in New Rochelle, New York, really instilled in me the idea that your goal in life should always be to help others and to make a difference in other people’s lives.”
With that goal always in mind, Pansini founded a law firm just one year after graduating from law school. Today, Pansini, Mezrow & Davis is one of the most prominent firms in Philadelphia; Pansini currently serves as the managing partner and lead counsel.
Throughout his career, Pansini has remained committed to Villanova Law. He hopes that the endowed scholarship will help others realize the dream of attending law school.
“I made a decision in my mid-20s to start my firm and go in the direction of helping people,” he said. “Now I can have a significant impact on people’s lives and offer an opportunity to someone who may have never had it. It changes their lives, it changes their families’ lives —and that is the most fulfilling feeling.”
The first scholarship recipient, Alyssa Rodarte ’25, joined Villanova Law in 2022.
“The Pansini family has blessed me with a life-changing opportunity that makes me feel not only did I choose Villanova Law, but Villanova Law chose me. I always knew that Villanova Law was my top choice for law school and this scholarship shapes my journey here every single day,” explains Alyssa. “Although I am the recipient of the scholarship, as a first-generation college graduate, it’s as if this was a gift to my entire family.”
Pansini was touched upon hearing Alyssa was selected for the scholarship.
“I got an email, and it moved me to tears,” he said. “It just made me feel so good to know that this young lady was going to attend Villanova Law and that my family and I had something to do with it.”
Further, he adds: “I think a gift like this is exactly what Villanova stands for: helping lift someone to higher levels, giving an opportunity to someone that might not have had it. I am hopeful that the wider Villanova community sees this as an example and is inspired that this is something you can do because giving back is a phenomenal thing.”
Pansini hopes that students like Alyssa will have the same lifelong connection to Villanova that he and his family have experienced. His family’s ties within the community continue with his daughter, Laura, who is currently enrolled as a 2L student.
Pansini also has a message for current students, no matter their backgrounds or journey to law school.
“Villanova Law really made me feel like the sky was the limit, and you are very blessed if you can get that feeling from an institution. I never thought I was going to be able to do anything like this in my life, to help others to this degree. Never sell yourself short and really know that you can do anything you set your mind to.”