Lives of Service Influence Law Gift From Isabel M. Garcia 99L
Service comes naturally to Isabel M. Garcia 99L, who recognized Emory two decades ago as a place where her desire to serve would matter in the long run. Her planned gift—designating Emory School of Law among her life insurance beneficiaries—reflects family roots in the military and the influence of mentors including Paul McLarty 63C 66L.
“My husband and I believe in philanthropy,” says Garcia. “We have an ability to have a good life, and from that, we want there to be good for others. Because he is active duty military, we designated a portion of our life insurance to a beneficiary outside our family. It was important for us to do that now in our 40s, and there was no question that we would choose Emory Law to receive this gift.”
Two decades ago, as she prepared to graduate from University of Florida and enter law school, Garcia fell in love with the beautiful images of campus showcased on Emory’s promotional materials. Her father mentioned that Emory used Army barracks to house veterans who enrolled by the hundreds after World War II. By fall 1947, half of Emory’s 3,583 students were veterans. That history made Emory feel welcoming.
Garcia describes herself as an Air Force brat who moved every few years. Being “the new kid” so frequently made her stronger and more extroverted. Her husband is a Navy commander who has served multiple tours in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
“In 15 years, the longest we have been under one roof together was four weeks in 2009, and we’ve probably been physically together in the same place about 18 to 20 months total,” says Garcia, who is raising their two young sons almost singlehandedly. “One year, we couldn’t even Skype or email him. Any time our servicemen and women are operating in combat zones, it’s incredibly difficult for those family members left behind. The feelings of disconnection, worry and loneliness can sometimes be overwhelming.”
At Emory Law, Garcia bonded with an alumni network that became a family for her. She landed her first job with a commercial real estate firm—McLarty, Robinson & Van Voorhies, LLP—where senior partner Paul McLarty became her mentor. “Paul and his wife Ruth are my fairy godparents,” she says. “They spend Thanksgiving with me every year, and that is a very special bond for me.”
A decade after Garcia graduated, McLarty retired from the firm and she took over his practice. Today she is a founding partner of the Piedmont Law Group, a boutique law firm in Atlanta specializing in commercial real estate.
Garcia also followed McLarty’s lead as an enthusiastic ambassador for Emory. A tireless volunteer with the Emory Alumni Association, Garcia served an eight-year term with the Emory Alumni Board, including one year as president. “Probably the best years of my life,” she says. “I loved it, because I felt so connected to something outside my family.”
In 2017, Emory recognized Garcia with the 2017 J. Pollard Turman Alumni Service Award.
“There have been very few alumni volunteer leaders as dedicated and as productive as Isabel,” says Cecily Craighill, former director of alumni relations with Emory School of Law. “Isabel’s modesty, quiet, calm and lively good humor were greatly appreciated, as was her willingness to be the face and voice of the Emory Alumni Board.”
In addition to practicing law, Garcia has been on the faculty of continuing legal education seminars and served on the Executive Committee for the Real Property Law Section and the Executive Committee of Military and Veterans Law Section of the Georgia Bar Association.
“Serving others has been ingrained in me throughout my life,” she says. “I’ve had tremendous role models who have taught me the importance of service. Paul deserves a lot of credit because he encouraged my engagement with Emory. Through him I saw the amazing things happening here, and if not for him, I would not have been so involved. He inspired me, and I want to make him proud.”
Emory has offered diverse ways for Garcia to remain involved. Today she mentors eight first-generation Emory undergraduates who are part of the 1915 Scholars Program. This means a lot to her because education is so important to her. Her family tree of educated women includes Mary Lyon, founder of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.
Emory’s Office of Gift Planning supported Garcia as she completed her planned gift, which will benefit scholarships for law students and the Emory Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans. She also aspires to endow a scholarship at Emory Law for a veteran or the child of a veteran.
“I know it will do good there,” she says of her planned gift for Emory Law. “The programs are stronger, and the quality of students is higher than when I went to Emory. That makes me look good, frankly. I want Emory to know that I support it and that I am proud of my degree.”