How a Westminster Education is Helping Alumna Gracie Koonce Make an Impact

Westminster alumna Gracie Koonce, ’19 ΚΑΘ, is on a winning streak. In just one week, the former soccer player passed the bar exam for the District of Columbia and was formally inducted on Oct. 28 into the 2023 Blue Jays Hall of Fame.

The Norman, Oklahoma, native attributes her success to a mantra she learned from her mother ― “Attitude and effort!” ― which she repeats often to herself. Koonce also attributes much of the impact she is making in her blossoming legal career in Washington, DC, to Westminster’s small environment that allowed her to be involved in varsity sports, sorority life, and everything in between.

Westminster recently caught up with Koonce to learn how the College continues to impact her life today. Read further to learn more.

What made you choose Westminster College? 

I chose Westminster because I wanted to have the opportunity to do it all. I was able to continue playing the sport I love at a competitive level, have a leadership role in a sorority, serve the community and campus through organizations such as Student Ambassadors and the Blue Blazers Investment Committee, and benefit from its excellent academics and liberal arts curriculum.

Westminster College also provided a strong and loyal alumni network that afforded me the opportunity to meet future mentors and gain a lifelong professional support system. On top of everything already mentioned, the cherry on top was being able to play soccer and participate in sorority life with my sister Katie Koonce, ’16 ΚΑΘ, who was a senior at Westminster when I was a freshman.

What was your major?

Biochemistry with a minor in Spanish.

How did your Westminster education influence your life after college? 

The tremendous, personalized education that I received from Westminster set me apart as an applicant for law school, especially the biochemistry program and Dr. Dawn Holliday’s incomparable cadaver program. The education coupled with my extracurricular involvement enabled me to earn multiple full scholarship offers to law schools across the country and made law school financially possible. The well-rounded liberal arts curriculum, including the great Dr. John Langton’s political science class, further prepared me for success in law school. Westminster’s small class sizes with professors who truly care as well as its amazing alumni network opened the door to endless possibilities. Their support and guidance helped develop me into who I am today and inspired me to pursue patent law.

Where did you attend law school?

I received my law degree from the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law in 2023.

Did Westminster impact your future in other ways?

Westminster provided a strong and loyal alumni network that afforded me the opportunity to meet future mentors and gain a lifelong professional support system. I would like to give a special thank you to alumni Bob Muehlhauser, Brock Ayers, and Greg Richard. I value Mr. Muehlhauser’s endless support and mentorship, as he has made such a wonderful difference in my life. Also, without Mr. Ayers introducing me to Mr. Richard during our Blue Blazers trip to NYC, I would not have had the opportunity to work for a summer at a cancer diagnostic test company and discover the importance of intellectual property to the development of emerging lifesaving science and technology. Therefore, I believe that Westminster’s education heavily influenced my life after college, which ultimately led to my dream job.

Please tell about your current profession.

Since September 2023, I have worked as a patent litigation law clerk for Fish & Richardson, PC, in their Washington, DC, office. Now that I have passed the bar exam, I will transition into an associate position.

What was your favorite place on campus? 

The Iconic Columns.

Who were your favorite faculty members? 

Enrique Salas-Durazo, Dawn Holliday, and Bernie Hansert.

What is your favorite Westminster memory? 

My favorite memory is winning the SLIAC tournament against all odds for the first time in Westminster’s history my freshman year alongside my sister who was senior captain. My second favorite memory is winning the SLIAC tournament and advancing to the NCAA tournament for the second time in school history my senior year, when I was the captain.

What do you consider your greatest success? 

Surviving my second year of law school when I was balancing classes, Pepperdine Law Review, Pepperdine Moot Court, and interning for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the federal circuit.

What is the last book you read?

Last book I read was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I am now in the middle of reading the Lord of the Rings’ first volume, Fellowship of the Ring.

What do you do in your free time? 

Explore Washington, DC, museums, play in a recreational adult soccer league, and attend D.C. sporting events!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you? 

Probably the three Lord of the Rings books because I must know how it all ends.

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.