By Dean Nell Jessup Newton
Notre Dame Law Association board member, Anne Marie Finch, ’86 B.A., ’89 J.D., died in a tragic accident on Aug. 28, 2015. She was 51 years old. Anne Marie’s beloved husband, Lloyd Schwing, has asked me to speak at her memorial service, which will be held on November 7, 2015, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Omni Houston Galleria Hotel, Regency Ball Room, Four Riverway, Houston, Texas. All are welcome to attend.
In her short lifetime, Anne Marie accomplished a great deal. The daughter of an Air Force officer, Finch grew up all over the world but eventually settled in Mississippi. She received her bachelor’s degree, with honors, from the University of Notre Dame in 1986 before graduating from the Law School in 1989.
Finch practiced labor and employment law for many years in the Houston area, and was named a Texas Super Lawyer by H Texas Magazine. She was director and shareholder at Zimmerman, Axelrad, Meyer, Stern & Wise, P.C. and was experienced in state and federal trial practice and arbitration. She took a particular interest in counseling clients with regards to litigation avoidance and developed significant experience advising and representing clients in complex commercial disputes, including labor and employment matters, construction disputes, intellectual property litigation, and energy matters.
“Anne Marie was almost too good to be true,” wrote Albert Hiller, president and shareholder of Zimmerman, Axelrad, Meyer, Stern & Wise, P.C. “Tough-minded but fair; earnest but fun-loving; calm under pressure but passionate when relaxed; a good partner, and an even better friend. She trash-talked about college football since Notre Dame was usually winning, took pride in the knowledge that six of the sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices were Catholic, and pinched with demonic delight any person who failed to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.
“Anne Marie was the ‘go-to’ person to handle anything related to employment law, real estate or business disputes, or most any commercial litigation matter. Anne Marie was a great asset to this firm, to Notre Dame Law, and to the legal profession.”
A classmate, George Bernhardt, ’89 J.D., noted that Anne Marie “was always involved with something here in Houston, whether it was related to the bar or to the community as a whole. She did so much good during her time here.”
Indeed, her good works extended deep into the greater community. She was an advocate for the rights of girls and women, and served on the board of directors for Girls Inc. of Greater Houston. The organization’s CEO, Rita Kirkup, described Finch as “enthusiastic, bright, passionate [and a person] who did everything with a great deal of finesse and zeal.”
She was also known for her love for dogs, horses, and the great outdoors. She and her husband raised Spanish Mustangs, an endangered species of horse, and regularly rescued and found homes for stray dogs. Rebecca Williams, the executive director of Habitat for Horses, where Finch was a board member, praised her community service: “Her values were reflected in our actions and her moral strength gave weight to our decisions,” said, “She questioned, as excellent attorneys and great board members should do, and she gave of herself with a rare and unique level of love and compassion.”
Finch recently joined the Notre Dame Law School Association Board for Regions 13 and 14, and while only on the board for a short period of time, she still managed to make a significant impact. She had a sunny demeanor and a can-do attitude, and I enjoyed talking to her about her practice in Houston and her strong support for creating a committee of Notre Dame Lawyers in Houston to help mentor our students and help them secure jobs in the area.
“She had the gift of making you feel appreciated and your opinions valued, and she was able to converse on any subject matter,” said fellow board member and friend Nancy Gargula, ’81 J.D. “Anne Marie was one of those rare people who led quietly and inspired others with her actions, obvious love for life, and passion.”
Her quiet intellect and confidence were also among the many things Schwing said he admired about his wife. He described accompanying Finch to Notre Dame Law School last November for a board meeting, where he attended an evening mass and dinner with other alumni and faculty. Lloyd, an LSU grad, sent me a touching description of his feelings of awe during the visit to campus, which he then hoped would be the first of many such trips accompanying Anne Marie to board meetings.
Finch’s classmates described being charmed by her welcoming spirit and warm smile. Peter Noone, ’89 J.D., remembers her tutoring classmates in the Notre Dame Fight Song ahead of the 1986 season’s home opener against the University of Michigan. “We all knew the ‘Cheer Cheer for Old Notre Dame’ part but she filled in the blanks for us.”
In honor of her life and career, the Anne Marie Finch Memorial Fund has been established to benefit the Notre Dame Law School.