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Published: Saturday, 6/29/2002

New role is a family tradition

BY RHONDA B. SEWELL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Marsha Manahan, new Toledo Bar Association president, holds a portrait of her father, Thomas Manahan, a past president of the group. Marsha Manahan, new Toledo Bar Association president, holds a portrait of her father, Thomas Manahan, a past president of the group.
ALLAN DETRICH Enlarge

When Marsha Manahan finished her speech at the ceremony naming her the 102nd president of the Toledo Bar Association, she pulled out a tiara and placed it on her head.

The humorous gesture, symbolizing her ability to wear many hats - or juggle many positions, brought the house down with laughter.

Ms. Manahan, 47, is only the third woman to hold the title of president of the Toledo Bar Association. The first was the late Mary K. Hamilton in 1977-78, and the second was Beverly McBride, in 1990-91.

For Ms. Manahan, the presidency is a family affair. She is following in the footsteps of her late father, attorney Thomas James Manahan, who served as president in 1974-75. In so doing, she is also the first child of a Toledo Bar president to hold the office.

The Toledo Bar Association is a voluntary professional association of almost 1,800 attorneys who practice largely in Northwest Ohio. Ms. Manahan, a vice president of Fifth Third Bank, officially begins her one-year term tomorrow.

A few days before starting her new role, at the association headquarters on Superior Street, she was deciding which color photograph she will hang on the wall to the right of the first floor elevator, where the current president's portrait is traditionally hung. Then she was handed a black-and-white portrait of her late father.

She gently wiped off any remnants of dust on the glass with her hand and looked at her father as if recalling some fond, private memory.

“He was very pleased when I went to law school,” said Ms. Manahan, recalling when she told her family in the late 1970s of her decision to follow her father's path.

She graduated in 1977 from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and French, and with the idea of becoming a writer. But coming from several generations of lawyers, law school seemed a natural choice for her. She graduated from the University of Toledo's college of law in 1980.

She moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., and passed the Michigan Bar. Later, she moved back to Toledo, passed the Ohio Bar, and started to work for her father's firm in the area of personal injury defense.

“I didn't like [personal injury defense] so I decided to leave and go out on my own,” she said. In 1982, she had a private law practice and acted as a co-counsel for local lawyers who needed cases filed in Michigan.

“I didn't have any clients of my own and it wasn't going well, and that's when Mary Hamilton called to offer me a job in the bank's trust department in January of '83. I told her I would take the job, and then I hung up the phone and cried,” she recalled, adding that she was not sure if she was making the right move for her career.

That was then, and Ms. Manahan hasn't looked back. At Fifth Third, she is a vice president responsible for the personal trust, foundation, and endowment areas of a $1.6 billion trust department, and credits the late Ms. Hamilton as a significant role model.

But it was her father who gave her the spirit to accomplish the highest of goals.

The late Thomas Manahan moved to Toledo in the mid-1940s from his hometown of Rochester, Minn., to attend UT's night law school program, where he graduated in 1949. Before UT, he attended the College of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minn., and the University of Minnesota.

Here, Mr. Manahan worked largely in the area of medical malpractice defense and went into practice with several other lawyers, making up the former firm, Finn, Manahan & Pietrykowski. Today, that firm is known as Manahan, Pietrykowski, Bamman & DeLaney, where Ms. Manahan's older brother Michael, 48, who also chose law as a career, is a partner.

Ms. Manahan's family also includes mother, Carol Marie (Diethelm) Manahan, who is a homemaker, and other siblings, sister Megan Manahan, 43, regional administrative director of communications and marketing for Mercy Health Partners, and younger brother Tom, 42, president of the Maumee construction firm, the Lathrop Co.

Some of Ms. Manahan's fondest memories of her father include attending an American Bar Association conference in Hawaii with him and the family at the time when Richard Nixon resigned as President; going to her father's office on Saturdays with her brother and pounding away on his typewriter as Mr. Manahan finished up his work, and her father's Irish wit and easy nature.

“What upsets me the most is that he never saw my daughter. That's my biggest regret,” said Ms. Manahan, fighting back tears.

Ms. Manahan is married to Thomas Killam, an attorney, and the two have a 7-year-old daughter, Dana. Ms. Manahan's stepchildren and Mr. Killam's additional children are Matt Killam, 23, and Martha, 17.

Judy Accettola, assistant Lucas County prosecuting attorney, who met Ms. Manahan when the two attended UT's law school, said the late Mr. Manahan would be proud of his oldest daughter for all of her career accomplishments.

“He was intelligent, kind, respectful, very ethical, and I think Marsha really looked up to him and aspires to be like him and better,” said Ms. Accettola.

Ms. Manahan's sister, Megan, said while the two were vastly different growing up - Megan was the social one and Ms. Manahan the studious child - it's her sister's organization, drive, focus, and dedication which she admires.

“She has always marched to the beat of her own drum. She is strong-willed and does not let anything hold her back,” said Megan Manahan.

Attorney Catherine Hoolahan, who met Ms. Manahan in the late 1980s during participation in the Toledo Junior Bar Association's annual Gridiron Show, said, “She was always very supportive of other women, and one of the earliest people to form the Toledo Women's Bar Association and very instrumental in trying to form a network among women lawyers . . . she is a real coalition-builder,” said Ms. Hoolahan.

“I always saw her as a champion of causes she believed in and I know that she is an ambassador for her employees at the bank. It didn't come as a surprise that she was elected president of the Toledo Bar Association.

“During her foundation years, there were some difficult and trying times, and she stepped up and was truly our leader,” said Mr. Burns.

Toledo Bar executive director Trish Branam agrees:

“She's not afraid to take a tough stand; what we will all learn is her humility.”

Ms. Manahan said her biggest challenge as the new president of the Toledo Bar Association will be to attract younger lawyers to join and participate in the organization.



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