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August 25, 2022

OSBF Announces Statewide Award Honorees!

Columbus, OH (August 2022) - The Ohio State Bar Foundation (OSBF) is pleased to announce this year’s statewide honorees recognized for leadership in their communities through volunteer service both in and outside of the legal profession. This year’s award winners will be honored on October 7, 2022 at the 2022 All Rise Annual Awards Celebration at The Exchange at Bridge Park in Dublin, Ohio.

“Our honorees have made extraordinary contributions in changing lives, while furthering the Foundation’s mission of teaching the public about the rule of law and building a better justice system,” said Lori L. Keating, OSBF Executive Director. “They exemplify the best volunteer attorneys and organizations that Ohio has to offer, and we are proud to celebrate them for their achievements.”

This year’s honorees include:

Judge Annalisa S. Williams, Akron | The Ritter Award

With a lifetime of service within the Akron community, the larger public, and the legal profession, Judge Williams exemplifies every aspect of the Ritter Award, the highest honor awarded by the Foundation. The OSBF’s Ritter Award recognizes the accomplishments of the honoree in attaining and promoting the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and ethics in the practice of law.

“Judge Annalisa Williams is well-respected, smart, kind, generous and trustworthy. Simply stated, she is an amazing, unique individual with a remarkable professional demeanor who plays an important role in our community,” stated Judge Williams' nominator in a letter to the awards committee. “I can think of no one more deserving to be considered for the Ritter Award than Judge Williams.”

A judge at the Akron Municipal Court, Judge Williams is passionate about helping persons suffering from mental illness face their unique challenges within the criminal justice system. Her work presiding over the Mental Health Court has led to its designation as one of five original learning sites by the Bureau of Justice and Assistance and the Council of State Governments. Judge Williams has also developed additional programs within the Akron Municipal Court, including the Reading Advancement Program and the Peace of Mind Program, which earned the Ohio State Bar Association's 2018 Innovative Court Programs and Practices Award.

Judge Williams is as committed to the community as she is to work on the bench. She serves on non-profit boards, judicial task forces, professional organizations, and community and civic boards. She has been honored with numerous humanitarian and community service awards for her service to the legal profession. Judge Williams is a founding member of the Ohio Black Judges' Association. In addition, Judge Williams was selected as the Kent State University Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipient in 2020 and received the Centennial Akron Law Outstanding Alumni Distinction Award in 2022.

Judge Williams graduated with honors from Kent State University with a B.A. in Political Science. She received her M.A. from The University of Akron in Urban Studies and her law degree from The University of Akron School of Law.

Inajo Davis Chappell, Solon | The Ramey Award for Distinguished Community Service

Inajo Davis Chappell is a civic leader, volunteer, and champion of causes to advance change in the legal system for historically marginalized communities of color in Ohio. Through her service in numerous community organizations, most often in leadership roles, she has had a transformative impact on the Cleveland community. She is being honored with the OSBF’s Ramey Award for Distinguished Community Service, given annually to an Ohio attorney whose career has been exemplified by a lifetime of service to the public and the community.

“Inajo is a remarkable leader, not only in her field but also in Cleveland’s civic circles. I, along with her board colleagues at the Cleveland Foundation and the Say Yes to Education Scholarship Board, have always valued Inajo’s heart, integrity, professionalism, and sharp legal mind,” said Ronald B. Richard, President & CEO of the Cleveland Foundation.

Chappell worked for 25 years as an attorney at the law firm Ulmer & Berne and is a retired partner. She formerly served as the Group Leader of the firm’s Nonprofit Group, representing nonprofit organizations and public institutions. She also served as the Chair of Ulmer’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which works to recruit, retain, and advance attorneys from diverse backgrounds and promote inclusivity inside and outside the firm.

Chappell has served on the boards of several nonprofits, foundations, and professional groups, including the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, the Cleveland Foundation, Say Yes Cleveland Scholarship Inc., Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, American Red Cross Greater Cleveland Chapter, and the Cleveland Leadership Center, among others.

“Whether serving as a volunteer leader, an expert presenter or an advocate for change, Inajo Davis Chappell is truly an exemplary member of Ohio’s bar,” said Rebecca McMahon, Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association. “Her integrity, candor, and passion for opening doors for those who are often left on the sideline are second to none.”

Chappell is a graduate of Yale University and received her law degree from Columbia Law School.

Carl Smallwood, Columbus | Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award

Carl Smallwood has been a leader in diversity, equality, and inclusion efforts throughout his distinguished career. Smallwood is being honored with the OSBF’s Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award, a new award this year which celebrates an attorney who has envisioned and cultivated diversity, equality, and inclusion in the legal system.

Smallwood is the Director of the Divided Community Project (DCP) at the Moritz College of Law where he leads DCP’s efforts to aid practitioners, policymakers and scholars strengthen and expand capacity and resiliency in communities facing challenges stemming from tensions, unrest, and civil discord. Smallwood teaches Resolving Community Civil Rights Disputes at Moritz as a Distinguished Practitioners in Residence.

He has moderated and facilitated programs for large audiences engaged in transformational solution-oriented discussions on topics such as convening groups across division in troubled times, access to legal services, threats to self-regulation of the legal profession, and diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, among others.

“I can think of no one in the legal profession who has spent more of his career advancing change in the legal system in the interests of fostering diversity/inclusion for historically marginalized communities in Ohio and throughout the country,” said attorney and OSBF Past President Carol Marx. “Carl is so deserving of this honor.”

Smallwood is a retired partner of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, where his practice focused on the litigation, arbitration and mediation of employment-related injury and toxic exposure disputes. He was selected by his peers for inclusion in the 2019 edition of The Best Lawyers in America. He is a past president of the Columbus Bar Association. Smallwood previously received The Ohio State’s University’s Distinguished Service Award. Smallwood’s national leadership includes service on American Bar Association Standing Committees and its House of Delegates, as well as Past President of the National Conference of Bar Presidents.

Smallwood graduated from the Ohio State University with a B.S. in International Business/Economics and received his law degree from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Building Bridges, Dayton | Outstanding Program or Organization Award

Since its founding in 1974, Building Bridges has grown into a multi-faceted organization providing early intervention and intensive rehabilitation programming for court involved, at-risk youth. Building Bridges is this year’s recipient of the OSBF’s Outstanding Program or Organization Award, given annually to a program or organization that promotes the dissemination of information about, increases access to, and/or generates improvements in the Ohio justice system.

Each year, Building Bridges provides services to over 200 at-risk youth and their families, acting as a safety net for youth that are involved in the Montgomery County Juvenile Court. By intervening and redirecting their lives through innovative programming, Building Bridges is making a dramatic difference in the lives of young people.

“For many of these misguided youth, Building Bridges is their last chance for success in life,” said Judge Gerald E. Parker of the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. “This organization serves the children who are routinely forgotten. Most, if not all of them come from difficult backgrounds and upbringings. I was proud to nominate Building Bridges for the significant impact they make daily by providing discipline, structure, and opportunity in a compassionate and supportive environment.”

Through their foundational Work Therapy Groups, Building Bridges provides at-risk youth an opportunity to develop social skills, time management and prioritization skills. These groups also help youth improve communication, problem solving, and team-building skills. This hands-on approach accounts for the program’s unmatched success rate: 7.5 out of 10 program participants will not incur any new charges or become involved in the juvenile justice system again.

Valissa Howard, Cleveland | Community Service Award for Attorneys 40 and under

Valissa Howard is this year’s recipient of the OSBF’s Community Service Award for Attorneys 40 and under, presented to an attorney who contributes substantial time and effort in service to a local social service, or a local civic, artistic, or cultural organization.

Howard demonstrates the positive influence attorneys can have in their communities, as her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is making a demonstrable impact. As a leader of Inclusion and Diversity at the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association (CMBA), she has been instrumental in leading the CMBA’s Racial Equity and the Law Workgroup efforts, which brings together members across the Greater Cleveland community in conversations regarding the need for ongoing reform in the justice system.

“Valissa is incredibly engaged in a myriad of community organizations, not just as a participant but more often in a leadership role, very often championing the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Ronald L. Kahn, OSBF Trustee. “In addition to her devotion to her family and her career, Valissa devotes a substantial amount of time to immersing herself in organizations that seek to better the lives of those within her local and statewide communities.”

Howard is a Past President of the Norman S. Minor Bar Association and former Parliamentarian of the Top Ladies of Distinction Greater Cleveland Chapter. She is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association Advisory Council on Diversity Initiatives and the Case Western Reserve University School of Law Dean’s Diversity Cabinet. In addition, Howard serves on numerous community organizations including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the Lakeland Foundation, and the Junior League of Cleveland. She has been acknowledged for her work with numerous awards, including the 2021 President’s Award from the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association. She was also recognized in Crain’s Cleveland Business “Forty Under 40” as a rising star.

Howard is Vice President of Talent and Legal Affairs at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank (GCFB), where she leads the GCFB’s talent development, human resources, volunteer engagement, and organizational culture-building work. Prior to this role, she was the First Assistant Deputy Inspector General and Chief Diversity Officer at the Cuyahoga County Agency of the Inspector General.

Howard graduated from the University of California at Irvine and received an M.A. and Certification in Diversity Management from Cleveland State University. She earned her law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

2022 OSBF All Rise Annual Awards Celebration

Members of the public are invited to celebrate these honorees and others at the OSBF All Rise Annual Awards Celebration on October 7, 2022 at The Exchange at Bridge Park in Dublin, OH. For more information and to register, visit

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